Category Archives: Our Present Culture

The Sustainability Of Injustice

Acedia3

In this post I reflect on the sustainability of injustice, especially our inability to resolve the many issues that are destroying our species and our Gaian world. All of the links that follow represent our failure to come to terms with the consequences of global warming.

As I have previously suggested (especially in my book Acedia, The Darkness Within, and the darkness of Climate Change), I believe this is due to the huge cultural issue of acedia (especially our laziness and fearfulness) and the smaller issue of evil (especially the augmentation of our cultural self-righteousness). And I hate harping on the issues, part of my own acedia. Yet I am committed to raising awareness in whatever way I can.

A comment from Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations of yesterday (20180412) is especially pertinent for me. His concern in this particular meditation is the issue of racial discrimination, but it applies the whole of our civilization, a civilization based on power dynamics. As usual, Richard formulates it in a Christian framework, yet I suggest the message is independent of culture.

[quoting from Holmes, Joy Unspeakable, 2017] One cannot help but wonder why the same battles for justice must be fought by every generation? Certainly, there were enough sacrifices, martyrs, and legislation during the ’60s to ensure justice for all. Yet . . . “we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities and the rulers of darkness in high places” [Ephesians 6:12]. The powers or systems do everything they can to resist change. In response to the demand for justice, systems morph and adjust while maintaining the status quo.

So public hangings end and the murders of unarmed black folk rise. Slavery ends, but the mass incarceration of minority populations increases. Jim Crow practices are no longer openly discriminatory; they reappear as educational and economic disparities, voter suppression, and aggressive police actions against people of color.

[Richard’s commentary] Power never surrenders without a fight. If your response to today’s meditation is to retort, “All lives matter!” I invite you to take a closer look at your own fears and biases. Of course, all lives matter! Yet until black and brown lives matter, no lives truly matter. Jesus spoke into specific lives, into particular circumstances of oppression, saying, “You, an outcast Samaritan woman, you matter. You, a leper rejected by society, you matter.”

Until we choose to have power over power and live into true justice, it is likely that our time on this planet is severely limited. We will move to extinction — the end-points indicated by Malthus[1] (starvation, plague, and war) are on the horizon.

Significant Links

Lessons from Cape Town’s water crisis (20180315)

Cape Town is the harbinger of what may happen to many modern cities, the issues being “related to climate change, population growth, waste and mismanagement. Depleted supply is only one result” (see also What You Need to Know About the World’s Water Wars)

We’re drowning in seas of plastic (20180329)

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is estimated to be sixteen times larger than previously assessed.

The Great Lakes Are Filling Up With Giant Green Blobs (20180403)

Harmful algae blooms occur mainly because of nutrient run-off from land usage (fertilizer), resulting in toxic water as well as high methane production (a major greenhouse gas).

Can the Paris Agreement save us from a climate catastrophe? (201804)

An editorial in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet does not say much, but the title in itself is significant of questioning what we are doing as a culture.

Audit exposes Canadian climate failures (20180405)

As someone living in the British Columbia Lower Mainland, I am very aware of the duplicity of the Canadian government, especially in its support of the tar sands and the Kinder-Morgan expansion.

The oceans’ circulation hasn’t been this sluggish in 1,000 years. That’s bad news. (20180411)

A good article on the nature of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) and its possible implications.

Reports emphasize urgent need to reverse biodiversity decline (20180412)

Yet more warning of how serious the issues are!

[1] Malthus, T. (1798). An essay on the principle of population. London, England: J. Johnson, in St. Paul’s Churchyard.

What Are We Thinking?

DroughtSeveral articles have recently struck me as indicators of where we currently are with respect to global warming. Some of the articles focus on the impact; two focus on the insanity that drives us. What are we thinking!?

I remain convinced that the major issues underlying global warming are those of:

  • acedia — our laziness, fearfulness and self-righteousness that prevents us from engaging in the most important issue of our species. There are, of course, reasons (good reasons, many of which were addressed in my earlier blogs), but reasons don’t count! Results count.
    • it is our acedia that stops our cooperation, the attitude that: “I’m willing to work hard on these issues if to my advantage, or if you are!” We see this with our international agreements — Russian, Turkey, and the United States (accounting for about 30% of the greenhouse effect) not engaged in the Paris Agreement. And the Paris Agreement is only an agreement to do something about the problem; if Canada’s duplicity is any example, we are a long way from actual results.
  • evil — this is not a topic we as a culture want to address, yet it is undeniable to me that evil exists. It shows up in greed and in the disinformation processes that feed our inactivity.

Many small positive actions occur, many, but we still have not reached our own tipping point as to when we will move rapidly to resolution. Perhaps we will do so in time to prevent catastrophe for our civilization, perhaps for our species. Perhaps not.

I almost need to laugh, perhaps cry!

Cape Town water supply near ‘point of no return’ as reservoirs run dry (20180118)

A number of articles within this link point to the impact of global warming. Cape Town (South Africa) is considering mandatory limitation of water usage. China is refusing to be the dumping ground for plastic waste, especially plastic bottles, thereby forcing other countries to deal with their recycling products.

Who is Guilty of Climate Crimes? (20180216)

The basis answer is that we are all guilty. However, some aspects stand out: the extreme right, the fossil fuel industry, the media, and the major industrial countries (Canada, my country, included).

Arctic temperatures soar 45 degrees above normal, flooded by extremely mild air on all sides (20180222)

The highest weather station in the world, about 400 miles for the North Pole, has warmed to 43°F in the dead of winter! In addition to feedback loops that further increase Arctic warming (and loss of more ice), thus impacting the entire weather system of the northern hemisphere (the jet-stream impact), there is also the massive release of methane from permafrost and seabed melting, the rise of sea level (as the Greenland ice field melts), and the slowdown of the global ocean conveyor belt effect. These are just some of the effects; we simply do not know what tipping points will be reached and when.

Coral reefs will transition to net dissolving before end of century (20180223)

Another factor in loss of both beauty and a basic food chain component — in addition to warming being destructive of coral, the acidification also is weakening the underlying sedimentary structure of the reefs. Our world food supply is thus at risk.

Climate science deniers’ credibility tested (20180301)

This is the greatest crime — the controversy created by the massive disinformation processes we have unleashed in the past 50 years!

The Issues Of The Day

Trauma2As noted previously, I am not posting a lot, but it seems time. So, some posts on what I think are the issues of the day: political insanity, the impact of consumerism and neo-liberalism, and the fears (generally hidden) concerning the coming trauma to our planet.

One definition of trauma is “a deeply distressing or disturbing experience.” I often think of trauma as physical injury, yet if I reflect on one of the most common expressions of the day — post-traumatic stress disorder — the trauma is more often not the direct result of injury; rather it is the psychic impact of impending injury. I suggest that these three issues are sign-posts of the impending injury.

They are the unnamed indicators of distress. I have yet to see significant advances that will shift the issues of the day.

The presidency survived the Watergate, Iran-contra and Clinton scandals. Trump will exact a higher toll. (20171221)

The article is for me a good summary of the similarities and differences amongst various presidencies. To quote the article, “The expectation of integrity has given way to a cynical acceptance of deceit. As much as anything Mueller uncovers, this is the scandal of our time.”

Consumer society no longer serves our needs (20180111)

As usual, David Suzuki presents a reasoned argument, in this case, “How can we have serious discussions about the ecological costs and limits to growth or the need to degrow economies when consumption is seen as the very reason the economy and society exist?”

How Do I Reassure My Children About the Future When the Future Is Terrifying? (20180113)

An excellent summary of the fears of a parent, reflecting my own fears for my grand-children, and the many children of this planet. I am currently working part-time in a homeless shelter, and thereby see the cost of what we have already created on our planet — the coming costs will be immensely greater.

The Emerging Church

Lucy3

Another post because I think the topic/link is significant. I do not strictly regard myself as a Christian, although I am deeply spiritual — I do believe that there is an underlying meaning to the universe, and that this meaning is friendly. I also recognize that the Christian Church is the dominant religious force in our Western World, and acknowledge that its history of intolerance and bigotry, sadly, is extensive. Yet it has the possibility of greatness, and thus the concept of the emerging church, the evolving church, is important to me, and I believe, to the world.

Lucy2I suggest that all of us search for meaning, including those of us who regard ourselves as a-theistic. As part of that search, we search for authentic relationship and community. And if we are to do so, we much give up our dualistic criticisms of each other, recognizing that we all search. Unfortunately, some of us, perhaps most of us, have been so damaged by the system that we do not know how to bridge these differences.

For me, the work of Richard Rohr and the Center for Action and Contemplation does much in this bridging. I routinely receive his daily meditations, and value them deeply. Sometimes the language is a little too churchy, but the basic message is deeply inclusive, asking us to move to acknowledgement of the fundamental mystery of our universe, and especially the profundity of love (for me, best described as the will to extend oneself for spiritual growth).

This past week, Richard’s writings have centered on the profound changes that are taking place in the entire field of spirituality and religion, specifically but not exclusively to the Christian faith. I therefore offer this link (and its embedded links) as a source of exploration. If you wish to follow Richard’s Daily Meditations, you can subscribe at: https://cac.org/sign-up/.

The Emerging Church: Weekly Summary (20171126-20171201)

 

An Economy That Works

Economy1I mentioned last post that I am no longer posting. However, every once and a while I come across a link that I think is so important that I believe it needs to be acknowledged (and disseminated) — this one is: an economy that works.

We are badly in need of a way to understand the nature of modern economy such that we develop a maturing of our culture. I think this is: it explains the impact of neoliberalism and the changing nature of our economy, especially the rise of gross dissatisfaction in how we live our lives. It also strongly advocates, amongst other suggestions, the need for a guaranteed basic income, a concept and process that is gradually being shown to markedly improve living conditions, despite the fears that it will encourage people to become lazy.

Having researched laziness as part of my PhD, I strongly believe that people are not naturally lazy, that they only move in this direction when they become overwhelmed with their lives and give up, conditions that are being augmented in major ways by our current economy. What is suggested here is actually a prescription to reduce laziness while improving human lives in many ways, perhaps ending the insane ways in which we create poverty and dissatisfaction in our lives, even reducing global warming via an effective stance to our culture.

Guy Standing on an Economy that Works for Everyone (20161126)

It is a long article, and well worth reading.

Witnessing The Process

nvcd2I’ve just returned from a planning session on how to resist the Kinder-Morgan pipeline expansion in the Vancouver area; typical of me, in my uncertainty as to how to contribute, I was mainly witnessing the process.

For those unfamiliar with the Kinder-Morgan project, it is a $7.4-billion construction project of pipeline expansion over a 1,100-kilometer route, and will increase pipeline capacity from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels of oil per day. It will end at Burrard Inlet at the northern edge of Burnaby and Vancouver, and will require construction through both cities. The fuel will then be transported internationally via the Salish Sea between Vancouver Island and the BC mainland (an environmentally sensitive area). It also represents a major addition to the fossil fuel load created by Canada, although that carbon source will then be transported to other Pacific countries, and thus does not appear as a direct load on Canada.

The pipeline passes through many indigenous lands (actually unceeded territories since for the most part no “treaties” have ever been signed) — many or all of which communities object to the project. The cities of Burnaby and Vancouver also object. To my knowledge, the federal and provincial governments have approved the projects despite these objections, and many court challenges are current. For my part, I was deeply disappointed by the duplicity of the Liberal government which initially promised major revision of the issues of global warming — as such there has been far more talk than action.

I believe that there is a huge need for non-violent civil disobedience in these kinds of issues, but I am also somewhat discouraged by this. For the most part, although we have advanced in many ways as to how we value human beings (feminism, racism, education, et cetera), most of the advances have only been on the surface — we have not done the deeper shift in maturity that will be necessary to overcome our latest challenge, that of world degradation as manifest by global warming, let alone the other issues. I have long been impressed by David Suzuki’s honesty in naming the fundamental failure of environmentalism, although I imagine others have written equally honestly about our other failures.

In my discouragement, I believe that much of non-violent civil disobedience merely serves to provide a mechanism to release the emotional tension felt by the oppressed. For the most part, the interplay between oppressed and oppressors simply becomes a game of chess as each party maneuvers to achieve advantage in a never-ending game of duplicity. Certainly on the part of the oppressed, there are many well-intentioned and intelligent persons, but I am not convinced that we achieve a great deal. Meanwhile the bulk of people stand back in apparent apathy. Sad.

Carlos Castaneda, a “cult” writer of the 70s, once presented a great concept (amongst others) for me: A warrior stands in the middle of the road, waiting. By that, I believe he meant that we each must do our personal best, and then let life do what it will. I’m learning to just trust that — in my language, if Creator wants me to do other than Witness, the opportunity will come. Despair, for me, then becomes a waste of energy, attempting to push the river – it flows by itself.

Some interesting links for the week:

The Transformative Power of Climate Truth (201710)

A comprehensive and important document from the only organization (to my knowledge) truly committed to cooperative mobilization on the scale necessary to resolve the issues of global warming.

U.S. climate report leaves little room for doubt (20171109)

As David Suzuki points out, the report did not receive much attention — presumably, simply another report as to the state of the disaster — a non-issue in the current political scene. Sad.

America is facing an epistemic crisis (20171002)

Initially this article is confusing, but it then presents a fascinating study of the question: “What if Mueller proves his case, and it doesn’t matter?” Another suggestion in support of the theme that civilization is about power, and who wields it.

100% renewable electricity in reach by 2050 (20171108)

We are capable of resolving the issues. Will we?

Paleo Politics (20171101)

An interesting link supporting the contention that “civilization” is fundamentally an issue of power dynamics, something I have written about in other posts.

The Clock Is Ticking

CO2Clock2What to say this week? The clock is ticking, in many ways. Certainly the news is dominated by the political scene in Washington DC, with the criminal allegations associated with the Trump-Russia morass. It seems that Mueller is operating with very sophisticated skill, creating massive anxiety. Essentially this is as it should be — an ineffective investigation would do more harm than good. But it is certainly complex.

The major difficulty is that such an investigation is slow, and the climate clock continues to tick. The report by Dahr Jamail is excellent and comprehensive (as usual), documenting the many ways, the increasing ways, in which we are in trouble. Meanwhile the Trump administration continues to dismantle the efforts to respond — sad. And all the more reason to sort the Trump-Russia muddle.

And on the lighter side, some interesting links concerning the complexity of our culture.

All of the this complexity would be fascinating, if the consequences were not so painful.

Global Warming

Dahr Jamail – Scientists Warn of “Ecological Armageddon” Amid Waves of Heat and Climate Refugees (20171030)

Jamail is a very reliable source, and here provides a summary of the current status of our planet. It is not good news.

New science suggests the ocean could rise more — and faster — than we thought (20171026)

Three new studies that indicate the dangers of continued fossil fuel usage, more and faster if we continue our present course. As usual, each report portrays more and more danger as we get better and better data.

The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: from 25 years of inaction to a global transformation for public health (20171030)

Global warming is having major impact now, as well as in the future.

Trump to auction off a vast swath of the Gulf of Mexico to oil companies (20171024)

Continuing our present course, and a reminder of the BP disaster.

The Political Scene

The Daily 202: 10 takeaways from Mueller’s shock-and-awe gambit (20171031)

A comprehensive summary of the revolving issues as of 20171031. Overall, I find the issues difficult to follow, but this is fairly good in keeping me up to date.

Manafort and the Dominoes: Here’s Why Donald Trump Is Losing Sleep (20171031)

Fascinating the ways of shifting evidence and the intricacies of investigation.

Miscellaneous

Rabbi Sacks on Leonard Cohen and parsha Vayera (20161118)

Fascinating description of the last song by Leonard Cohen, and the search for love and peace.

The Improbable Origins of PowerPoint (20171031)

A fascinating history. I was very surprised to learn that PowerPoint was originally an Apple product.

A Very Old Man for a Wolf (20171030)

The complex story of mankind and wolves; sadly the wolves usually lose.

The Pain Of The World

Not a lot to report this week — just the usual pain of the world.

Global Warming

Scientists mapping Greenland have produced some surprising – and worrying – results (20171004)

Even more risk of sea level rise!

Federal government failing to put climate plan into action, environmental watchdog finds (20171003)

The Canadian government this time. Trudeau (like Obama) offered such hope, and such disappointment. I wonder what it will take for governments to do more than talk.

One Way To Respond

As Overdose Deaths Pile Up, a Medical Examiner Quits the Morgue (20171007)

Fentanyl overdose is so common now, and like all addictions and overdoses represents the attempt to get away from the pain of living. And Fentanyl is so appealing! As a retired anesthetist, I was very aware of its potency, but it was not until I had an anesthetic myself that I appreciated its appeal. I was given Fentanyl as part of the induction and had about a minute of pure bliss before being unconscious — if I were to become addicted to anything, I would certainly choose Fentanyl.

The Need For A Coup, Part 2

Complexity3This is my second and concluding post on the need for a coup. Earlier I noted Schmookler, in The Parable Of The Tribes, suggesting that a civilization based on power (the original basis by which civilizations emerge) is not sustainable: it demonstrates neither synergy, enhancing the welfare or all, nor viability, sustainable in its continuing existence.

Schmookler also notes that justice could be the antidote of power, thereby underscoring both synergy and viability. Justice requires:

  • “where power is exercised . . . it should not be used to benefit the wielder of power at the expense of the health of the system as a whole” and
  • “where different parts of the system have conflicts of interest, the conflicts should be resolved not by their differences in power but by some moral principle which, if always followed, would ultimately be to the benefit of all in the system.”

As a species, we have not yet demonstrated the capability of synergy and viability — world governance, such as it is, is by tenuous cooperative agreement, the limits of which have been demonstrated by Trump’s threat to withdraw from the Paris agreement. Again, simply as one example of the many instances of inequitable dynamics, Trump’s stance is that of power; it is not that of justice. Nor is power a stance of cooperation; it is a stance of domination! And it is not sustainable: either it is stopped, or the system itself will deteriorate to the point of collapse (e.g., the predictable outcome of global warming).

So how then does one deal with such insanity, in which it is necessary to develop power over power, and yet act justly. I have seen nothing in the past years to suggest an effective outcome. All of the efforts of the social movements of the past century (including feminism, racial discrimination, the environmental movement, et cetera) have been the attempt of the “people” to get the “1%” to cooperate, and have had only limited success.

Much of what has been suggested thus far is in the nature of civil disobedience. And whereas I believe it is an important tool is opposing power, it is the attempt of the weak to convince the strong to desist certain actions. It does not seem to offer any significant shift in the maturity of the strong, certainly not those who function from the power of domination.

Thus my suggestion that we need a coup! But in contrast to most coups where one form of domination simply replaces another form of domination, we need a coup in which justice replaces domination. And the coup needs to be international, including all of the major powers of the world. Although I often use the USA as an example, I am not naïve in believing that it is the only source of difficulties on this planet.

Furthermore, the only examples of sustainable justice of which I am aware have been within indigenous cultures — cultures that have resisted civilization, albeit without great success up to this point. Our track record of “civilized” process has not been very successful otherwise.

And hence, my best guess is that such a coup must come from indigenous sources, as the power to resist domination and act justly. Again in my limited exposure to cultural issues, it is the native people of North America who seem most apt to engage in sustained resistance (witness Standing Rock and Kinder-Morgan). They also have a cultural heritage that honored justice in much richer fashion than has European-based culture.

Thus my hope . . .

Links Of Note

Two Dark American Truths From Las Vegas (20171002)

Gun violence in America, explained in 17 maps and charts (20171002)

These two links discuss the ineffectiveness of modern attempts to limit the use of power, both in preventing individual tragedies and in developing just resolutions to such forces that underlie these tragedies.

U.S. Climate Change Policy: Made in California (20170927)

An interesting example of how the interplay of legality and power work in our culture. To quote the lead-in: “A peculiar confluence of history, legal precedent and defiance has set the stage for a regulatory mutiny in California that would reverberate throughout the country.” Legally, California can regulate independently of national concerns, and controls at least a third of the auto industry, with a sizable impact on how industry must react. I am reminded of a statement that our culture has a legal system, perhaps sometimes a justice system.

The Need For A Coup, Part 1

Complexity3I said in my last post that I would consider the possibility of a coup. At some level, I truly accept that the need for a coup is the only way in which humanity will survive. I’m not a historian, nor a philosopher, nor do I have a military background, so what follows will simply be my random thoughts regarding the issues that confront us as a civilization.

First, as noted in my original first post of this blog (see my home page), Laszlo (in Evolution: The General Theory, 1996) wrote that we are in a cascade of crises, and that we must extend ourselves into a new maturity, else we will likely perish as a species (or at least as a civilization). I also recall from my PhD research, Toynbee in A Study Of History (1946) considered that in the failing of civilizations, new ones arise at the periphery (of the old collapsing civilization) wherein a small group arises who both represents a new energy of purpose while espousing a new religion, meanwhile opposed by the old tyranny. In my dissertation, I suggested that the small group was the Cultural Creatives and the new religion was our maturing relationship with ecology. The current difficulty with both the Cultural Creatives and the ecology movement, though, is that they are disorganized, and do not present a coordinated front to oppose the oppressive forces of our current civilization. Furthermore, this past century is the first occurrence in which we as a species have come to be both a global village and a power dynamic capable of altering the dynamics of the entire ecosystem of our world; there is essentially no periphery for a new civilization — we must confront the center of the old.

I also noted in my posts about power (beginning 2016-08-16) that civilization(s) arose because the human species came into relationship with power, a relationship different from that of all other previous species. Schmookler in The Parable Of The Tribes[1] indicated that “our destructiveness as a species and of our current culture . . . is a simple consequence of our creativity, a tragedy representative of the inevitable options for power” — and that there is “no way to return the dangerous djinni of human power back into the bottle.” In addition, “The laws of man require power, for power can [only] be controlled with power. The challenge is to design systems that use power to disarm power. Only in such an order can mankind be free.” Perhaps mankind will evolve to “control the actions of all to the degree needed to protect the well-being of the whole.”

Schmookler mentions a number of relevant definitions:

  • system: an aggregate the elements of which interact (and therefore no element of the system can be understood in isolation)
  • synergy: a pattern whereby each part functions in a way that enhances the welfare of the other parts as well as its own
  • viability: the ability to maintain without diminution whatever it is upon which its continued existence depends

Our civilization is definitely a system, yet it is neither synergistic nor viable. Our civilization is based on power, not synergy and viability. We compete rather than cooperate. We control by short-term domination rather than by consideration of the long-term. We demonstrate immense creativity, but we do not consider the impact of our creativity on future generations (in either our consumerism or our technological advances).

To be continued

Links suggestive of our cultural insanity

Heartless world watches while Rohingya nightmare continues (20170928)

An example of the inability of our species to deal with power.

Trump doesn’t get it on Puerto Rico. He just proved it by lashing out at San Juan’s mayor. (20170930)

I am suggesting this link, not as a critique of Trump (which it is), but as an indication of the need for definitive action in stopping this kind of tribalism, a stance that likely results in major deterioration of justice and viability. The current system is not healthy.

Homeland Security to monitor social media accounts of immigrants and citizens (20170926)

Where does surveillance stop? When is it effective? Here we seem to be moving to a police state, again with a major deterioration of justice and vitality.

Even This Data Guru Is Creeped Out By What Anonymous Location Data Reveals About Us (20170926)

So easy, and with enough computer power, likely also easy to cross-map details of how groups of people interact. Truly, Big Brother is watching.

[1] Schmookler, A. B. (1995). Parable of the tribes: The Problem of Power in Social Evolution. New York, NY: State University of New York.