Category Archives: Our Present Culture

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.

Cognitive Dissonance

CogDiss02
Unfortunately not a metaphor

At present, I am experiencing cognitive dissonance as I survey various internet sources after the weekend. As I have previously mentioned I am enrolled in a two-year program of contemplative practice, attempting to access a deeper wisdom on the nature of the universe — you could call it seeking God, but for me, it is seeking a worldview that allows me to be at peace. Not easy!

First, I’ve had a great weekend with a men’s group, each of us (at various levels of maturity) seeking that sense of purpose; it was part of the illuman.org program for those who might be interested. Then I come home to the escalating rhetoric between dangerous opponents. Then I note some good news on the climate front — not great news, but news that might give us a slight delay in the tipping points of climate catastrophe. But hurricanes are obviously not waiting for us to sort our differences. Finally a link of how powerful our technology is, in that we might be able to feed the world via biologic manipulation (if we can overcome our reticence — and our immaturity — to be Gods).

How to make sense of all this, and how to respond to it, is beyond me at present. My best case scenario is that mankind be removed from the equation asap — I don’t like this option, but I don’t foresee cultural maturity on the sounding board. What is needed is to take power over power for the greater good (and the resolution of what is the “greater good”).

My next post will likely be on the need to stage a coup.

North Korea accuses Trump of declaring war (20170925)

The escalation of rhetoric is a sad reflection of our immaturity as a species, and in that immaturity, the risk of irreversible consequences is high. My fear is that even if only one side believes their rhetoric, we are in grave danger.

New climate change calculations could buy the Earth some time — if they’re right (20170918)

Potentially good news (if correct), but so different from other models that it will require careful study to determine how well these calculations fit experience. The danger is that a) a more generous margin of safety may be used to justify additional delay, and b) the changing landscape will be used to discount the clarity of scientific consensus (especially as to the significance of man’s technology). Science is never able to prove anything; it can only test for the best and simplest explanation of experience.

This Is the Hurricane Season Scientists Tried to Warn Us About (20170921)

To quote: “Hurricanes are built to convert heat energy into wind energy, and seawater’s available energy rises exponentially as it warms.” This says it all — the more energy, the more damage when released.

Could lab-grown fish and meat feed the world – without killing a single animal? (20170920)

If we persist in moving to 10 billion people, we need technology like this. The quality is improving markedly. Now the cost needs to go down, and the acceptance go up.

Are We F–ked?

Danger2As I have noted previously, I am engaged in a two-year study program in contemplative practice, the ultimate aim for me being to find a satisfying balance between my hermit nature and my desire to contribute, especially regarding my sadness at how our species functions. Given the ineffective political responses to the multiple cultural traumas of recent times (terrorists, alt-right, hurricanes) and the worsening climate, I truly must wonder: Are we f–ked? (See the two good podcasts below.)

The big issue, the immediate one, is how we are responding to global warming. But this is only one component of the complex issues which need to be resolved. I recall a comment in Collapse: How Societies Choose To Fail Or Succeed (Diamond, 2005) in which the author was repeatedly being asked what is the single most important issue we need to resolve. His answer: All of them. Fundamentally all these issues interlink and represent the immaturity of our species, especially our simplistic approach to issues. One link below (Can emissions shrink . . .?) comments on this.

Frequently I don’t know what to do, and I fall back on continuing my own personal journey, given that if I do not support myself, I cannot support others. I have just this week started the study component of the program I’m doing, and will have more to say about it as the course develops. For now, amongst others, I simply reference two links I have found on the need for discipline (of which I am generally very disciplined). I do not know to what extent, if any, I will encounter any change in my outlook, but giving up is not a viable option for me. In any event, I expect that through my study program, I will deepen my sense of compassion and trust in the ultimate outcome.

Global Warming

Are We F–ked? Decoding the resistance to climate change (20170907)

Paul Kennedy, a highly respected Canadian broadcaster, speaks to the resistence to discussion of global warming. Gradually the conversation evolves. This particular conversation is not nice; it is however necessary. This link references Part One of a podcast as follows; Part Two aired on September 14th.

Ideas: Are We F–ked? Decoding the resistance to climate change (20170907)

The program as aired.

Decoding the resistance to climate change: Are we doomed? (20170914)

Part Two of this program.

Can emissions shrink while the economy grows? (20170914)

The absurdity of politics (Canadian this time), promising that we can have everything.

Pope says humanity will ‘go down’ if it does not address climate change (20170911)

Another fascinating individual speaking to the insanity of our species.

Politics

“A Duty to Warn” and the Dangerous Case of Donald Trump (20170915)

In general, psychiatrists and other mental health issues do not comment on the mental health of those whom they have not directly examined, especially public figures. However, in The Dangerous Case Of Donald Trump (in publication), 27 leading individuals have chosen to do so, given that they have concluded that he presents a clear and present danger to society.

RT, Sputnik and Russia’s New Theory of War (20170913)

Long and detailed, this is an interesting study of the age of dysinformation. If accurate, it contributes in a major way to the difficulty of managing global warming. particularly how internectine conflict distracts from effective action.

Miscellaneous

An Introduction to the Spiritual Disciplines (20170904)

Two links that discuss the need for discipline, and its impacts.

The Way of the Monastic Warrior: Lessons from Major Dick Winters (201506005)

An interesting model of an individual being highly disciplined, perhaps in too serious a fashion; I wonder to what extent he was playful. For me, playfulness is a major component of maturity.

The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura (20170916)

In contrast, another spiritual discipline, one of great beauty.

This Tiny Country Feeds The World (20109)

Amazing use of technology by the Netherlands has allowed them to be the second largest exporter of food in the world, second only to the USA (the US having a land mass 270 times greater than the Netherlands!).