Tag Archives: domination

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.

The Uphill Battle

Uphill1I am constantly amazes by the uphill battle that our species must take in order to manifest our greatness. I believe most people are good-hearted, yet we are constantly engaged in activist work, usually as a result of the power dynamics that drive our civilization.

I’ve previously written on the nature of power, and how I believe it to be the underlying characteristic for the development of civilization. Because our major relationship with power has been that of domination by a small minority, thereby imposing onerous consequences on the majority, we are constantly in this uphill battle. I wonder when we will learn, as a species, that it is not a very productive way to be.

For me, the most recent example of this is the interplay between the Trump administration and the leadership of North Korea, an interplay that brings us close to nuclear war. At some level, the issue is very simple — if North Korea attacks another country, it will be destroyed; it is simply too small a player to avoid this consequence. As such, instead of imposing more sanctions (which thus far have been ineffective), I would advocate for removing all sanctions, demonstrating that the rest of the world wants peace.

The current nature of nationalism does not allow a powerful international body, if there was one, to impose control on any nation, including North Korea (or for that matter, the United States), and as such, negotiation and threat are the only tools available.

Threat does not lead to peace; only peace leads to peace.

Power as a dynamic is no longer a useful phenomena in civilization; the world is too integrated, and the dynamics of power leads too much inequality. However, the world currently runs on power, and thus we must come to terms with having power over power.

The message can be very simple. If you attack another country, we will destroy you. Then, remove all sanctions; demonstrate that we want peace.

Even with this, defensive policies are still necessary. I would thus advocate for an international policy of forestalling the launching of any nuclear missiles by any country, while allowing for counter-measures by other countries. Such a policy might be that of destroying any missiles propelled (by any country) outside of national air space (12 km high), even those sent directly upwards into supposedly international space. This would allow maximal time for counter-measures to block the consequences of such missiles where it is feared that the missiles carry a destructive payload. (An exception would be the launching of single missiles following announcement of the intention to establish a  satellite for scientific purposes.)

In the following links, I suggest that this management of power is underlies what Naomi Klein and others are attempting in nonviolent resolutions.

Harvey Didn’t Come Out of the Blue. Now is the Time to Talk About Climate Change. (20170829)

Naomi Klein, as usual, speaks clearly concerning the issues that become hidden when we are in high anxiety mode responding to catastrophe. The usual stall is “We’ll talk about it later; right now, there is too much pain.” But amidst the next source of anxiety, later never seems to come.

Video: How to Resist Trump’s Shock Doctrine (20170613)

Some very good ideas on the politics of catastrophe, and of how to respond, but as a populus, we are not yet ready. I wonder when and how … (In the light of recent events in Korea, I also find it fascinating that she even names the possibility of war as a pretext for societal injustice, our current dilemma.)

Disturbing New Evidence of How the Trump Era Is Boosting Misinformation and Propaganda (20170907)

We must also come to terms with the age of disinformation.

Dolores Huerta is done being edited out of her own history (20170905)

A more classic way in which disinformation has functioned — ignore the contributions of minorities and women.

So Much Pain

Insanity2
Said by many in many ways.

In my readings this week, I have not found anything that I can really focus on as important and worth recommending, yet I am also aware of how much pain is being expressed, ranging from  apparent police violations of the right of individuals to the incredible destruction of Hurricane Harvey (and its significance to climate change) and anxiety regarding the development of Hurricane Irma.

There are also developments in the Trump-Russia story, but quite frankly I have lost interest in attempting to follow its complexity. Every little nuisance gets dissected, and speculated upon, such that it becomes (for me) impossible to sort what is factual from what is speculation. Sooner or later it will be resolved, especially in the slow but steady processing of Mueller.

But I would summarize the basic issue as that of our culture increasingly becoming a pressure cooker, and the pressure is rising. The temperature of the pot is rising, not just as global warming, but also as an indicator of our culture.

My biggest concern is the instability of the American political scene. If this instability is deliberate, as has been intimated earlier, it does not bode well for the survival of democracy, or even the planet in regards to global warming. Alternatively, if the instability truly represents the personal chaos of the President, the danger is two-fold: that of nuclear war versus what sustains the chaos.

Nuclear War

The nature of Kim Jong Un seems to be that of wanting to wave a big stick, but I doubt if he is really wanting nuclear war, especially one that would lead to total destruction of his country (even if he did manage to damage the USA). However, he is butting heads with someone whose ego is sensitive to confrontation, and who has essentially unlimited discretion to initiate agamemnon. Not a pretty scene.

Donald Trump asked whether he’d attack North Korea, says: ‘We’ll see’ (20170903)

Such posturing is frightening.

In latest test, North Korea detonates its most powerful nuclear device yet (20170903)

The rapidity of scientific development is impressive, even if the posturing is frightening.

Don’t be surprised by North Korea’s missiles. Kim Jong Un is doing what he said he would. (20170831)

Another link as to North Korea’s potential.

Kim Jong Un’s rockets are getting an important boost — from China (20170413)

Money talks, and unfortunately, is the face of power. Despite years of diplomacy and major sanctions imposed at the UN level, money still talks, and generates ways to by-pass sanctions.

Those Who Support Trump

The basic theme appears to be that Trump’s advocates can seletively find a piece (or peace) within the multiple messages generated. After all, Trump’s most important skill has been that of being a salesman.

Two top Trump advisers were asked why they don’t quit. Their answers speak volumes. (20170902)

They seem to think that they can work their own political agendas within the confusion, and some kind of blind acceptance of the authority of the “office of the President.”

Why most evangelicals don’t condemn Trump (20170901)

Trump lives into the belief systems that they value: conservatism, challenge to science, “a fellow sinner willing to fight the forces of the establishment on their behalf.”

On The Lighter Side

Humor: The Clown Chakra (20131217)

Amidst the insanity, I fall back on an important maxim:

There is extensive evidence that life is painful;

there is no evidence that it is serious.

As such, I remind myself frequently that I am powerless to impact the larger picture; I only have the power to influence myself, and that which I can touch. This may be enough (or not) — ripple effects can have immense influence.

The Healing Of Wounds

Wound2
A minor wound; others are major.

For about 25 years, my career was that of a physician, principally as a specialist anesthetist. As such, I was frequently exposed to the consequences of trauma, and the healing of wounds.

The ideal example, for me, of healing would be that of elective surgery in a healthy patient, say someone coming for knee surgery. There are not major compromises of health; the skin is prepped and draped to optimize sterility; a clean incision is made with a scalpel; the tissues are gently handled; the necessary corrections are made; bleeding is controlled; the tissues layers are repaired; and the skin is closed with minimal trauma. A bandage keeps the area clean (although it is mainly to keep blood off the clothing). The area is rested, and gently exercised in progressive manner.

Time passes; a scar result as the tissues heal. In many respects, the scar is stronger than the original tissue, although usually not as flexible.

Contrast this with a wound in an elderly diabetic, say a car accident where the patient has a broken leg with bone protruding through skin and the wound is contaminated with dirt and clothing. The healing will not be nearly as simple, and it is entirely possible that such a patient would require amputation; the patient might even die of complications.

Question: If you think of these two examples as two ends of a metaphoric spectrum, a spectrum of societal healing from trauma, where on the spectrum is the current emotional climate of healing after Charlottesville or the pardoning of the sheriff in Arizona? The following links speak to this for me.

When times get dark, we must shine brighter (20170824)

A good message, but lacking definition as to who and how. Unfortunately, it is simply an admonition of what we should be doing. And readers of this blog likely know how I feel about shoulds. We must come together for something other than more of the same ills of our civilization (my admonition).

The message is also based on the assumption that the alt-right is a last-ditch effort, and will die out soon: “the last desperate efforts of a minority of small-minded people to hold onto ideas and perspectives that history has proven wrong many times.“ I wonder. Our civilization has become so complicated and so dis-empowering that the alt-right may well represent a significant gap in the character of our civilization without a clear alternative. The following links are in keeping with this.

A black man went undercover online as a white supremacist. This is what he learned. (20170824)

An excellent investigation into the milieu of the far-right culture, reflecting with compassion on the struggles that have led individuals into these stances. For me, the investigator recognizes that compassion does not mean acceptance; it means emotional acknowledgment as the beginning of resolution.

He also identifies the very real issue of the moderate’s message that we are all in this together, “and if only you people (the alt-right, for example) will get that, we will all be fine.” We must limit the violations (as unacceptable), and still include the validity of the needs of all parties (meeting in compassion).

A black man undercover in the alt-right | Theo E.J. Wilson | TEDxMileHigh (20170814)

An excellent TED talk by the same individual, emphasizing the need for human connection. Humorous at times, and very succinct as to need. Unfortunately, my usual concern is that we are on the knife edge of danger, and must resolve immense issues simultaneously and with only limited time — the usual super-wicked difficulty of our species.

On American Politics

Roger Stone promises a violent response if Trump is impeached (20170824)

On the flip side of healing, given the increasing appearance of the alt-right, is the risk of major escalation, entirely possible in that the situation is so polarized. It is so difficult to make sense of the confusion, … and life will be what it will be.

I was not around during the rise of Hitler in pre-war Germany, but I imagine such threats were common in that situation also. Potentially we are moving to dark times; it will not be fun.

Trump doesn’t seem to like being president. So why not quit? (20170818)

An interesting commentary of the skills required of a president, and the current mismatch. What it does not disclose is what would be required for him to quit by choice, rather than by threatened impeachment.

On Climate Change

The Trump administration just disbanded a federal advisory committee on climate change (20170820)

A major set-back in American policy, easily lost amongst the hype and anxiety created by the emotional turmoil of the Trump administration. It may well be that such turmoil is deliberate to defuse responsiveness to more important issues such as this.

What Exxon Mobil Didn’t Say About Climate Change (20170822)

The duplicity of Exxon Mobil is now well-documented. I wonder if the consequences will be more than a slap on the wrist.

The Insanity Continues

Insanity Sanity Signpost Shows Crazy Or Psychologically SoundLast week I thought the world was fairly stable; immature, yes; moving in the direction of catastrophe, yes; but in immediate danger, no. This week I am not so certain — truly the insanity continues. Especially with:

  • the threat of nuclear war markedly increasing, in theatrical fashion
  • the slowly tightening net on the legal entanglement of the Trump administration, as well as politics in general
  • and at least one bright spot highlighting the move to better advertising (such a contrast to the above two)

Meanwhile I have spent the week at a training school for contemplative practice, and the need to maturity in action within our civilization. The contrast is staggering; I’ll add more in another post.

And adding to my media comment of last week, especially in regard to Al Gore, Cineplex Theatres are apparently only showing Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power in three cinemas across Canada, a sad reflection on the [media] interest in global warming.

Enjoy — although I do not think that is the best word to describe these links.

On the risk of nuclear war

Are we on the brink of nuclear war with North Korea? Probably not. (20170811)

Interesting statements from many knowledgeable sources, the major danger being misinterpretation of posturing, certainly be possible given the emotional maturity of the principal actors.

If Trump wants a nuclear attack against North Korea, his military advisers have few other options (20170810)

Such power in the hands of one man reflects the immaturity of culture and the posturing of the individual tribes (read ‘nations’) as well as the potential consequences of the system that must deal with such tribes.

Does Donald Trump Believe Nuclear War Is Inevitable? (20161208)

An older article outlining the media releases of Donald Trump prior to becoming president. I hope he is less fatalistic now that he is in power, but the adage is “power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

On the legal issues and the possible complexities

White House as crime scene: how Robert Mueller is closing in on Trump (20170805)

This is a fairly clear description of the current situation in Washington, a situation which will have great impact on our world regardless of the final outcome. “The wheels of justice grind finely and slow but this is a wood chipper, and all these various items and  [sic] going to get fed into it.”

As Mueller closes in, Trump prepares his base for the worst (20170807)

A fairly good summary of how the Trump administration is doing, and what they are doing, “a volatile, combustible combination.”

On politics in general

Sorry, but I don’t care how you felt on election night. Not anymore. (20170803)

A very good review of the heavy emotions, and lack of concrete resolutions in this new world in which we live. The author stresses that doubt and reflection time can be powerful tools into the future, and that certainty (especially self-righteous certainty) will be the path to societal doom

In a new poll, half of Republicans say they would support postponing the 2020 election if Trump proposed it (20170810)

Very scary that if Trump were to bypass US democratic rule, “half of Republicans” would support him.

On global warming (more bad news)

We only have a 5 percent chance of avoiding ‘dangerous’ global warming, a study finds (20170731)

It is difficult to know what to say about this. The study recognizes that new technology, as yet unknown, may occur. At the same time, I see no indication that the study takes into account “tipping points” that may worsen the scenarios. To quote a link in the article, [These experts say we have three years to get climate change under control. And they’re the optimists].  Fundamentally, if we are to survive, we need drastic (and decisive) action, not fatalism, not denial.

On a delightful advertisement — strongly recommended that you watch it.

This Controversial Beer Ad Is Going Viral And It’ll Leave You Questioning Everything! (20170428?)

A phenomenal ad. If all advertising was like this, I would actually be engaged in seeking the products offered.

What To Do? (Part 2)

Suicide3This is the second post as I reflect on the issues of what to do about the complexity of global warming and the insanity of our culture, especially the increasing incidence of suicide in our culture. It is in response to two articles sent to me by a friend:

I strongly advocate that we are capable of greatness as a species, but we have much growth to do before that will occur — and since culture/society are simply a group of individuals, the change must begin at the individual level. So, in the meanwhile, here are my thoughts.

  • First of all, I applaud Goutham Kumar of Hyderabad for quitting his corporate job to use his skills to develop a series of organizations to provide for the needy. He has truly learned that the nature of service is joy, both for the receiver and for the giver.
    • However, I believe that there is a trap in this story. We have created a cultural myth of heroes who do the hard work of change in our culture, and while to a major extent, we applaud such action, we do not do the much harder work of correcting the systemic issues that necessitate the hero in the first place. It is like attempting to fill a bucket with water, meanwhile failing to repair the large hole in the bottom.
    • And for the many who do not find the resources within ourselves to initiate such change, either the stance of the hero or the underlying work, it can be a major place of discouragement. I suggest that such discouragement is a significant factor in the actions of those who choose suicide.
  • Second, we need a narrative that allows meaning and purpose. Ideally we need a cultural narrative that fuels our maturity as a species, one that will allow us to move towards a civilization that honors humanity (not power), while utilizing technology to supplement our needs, rather than dictate to our needs.
    • As we listen to one another, perhaps we can get beyond the fractious argument between science and religion, hopefully to recognize that both scientific materialism (SM) and religion have growth to do, that both contain truth, and we must learn to have power over power, not just talk about the issues. Commitment to authentic action is needed.
    • Unfortunately our fractiousness fuels much, if not all, of our difficulty to love our enemies.
  • Third, our culture of SM has placed us in untenable positions. We must give up this paradigm. There are other paradigms.
    • Most of us know that there is a problem with our civilization; however, The Climate Lie (that all is well) is active in many ways. It is very difficult to find honesty in the face of our cultural acedia and the duplicity of many political systems. Undoubtedly this fuels the despair that underlies much of the suicides encountered by my friend.
    • At the same time, the paradigm of meaningless requires that we, as individuals and as a species, must do something about the issue, when we have almost no power to initiate change. This imbalance of responsibility, accountability, and authority is very destructive to who we are as individuals.
  • At this point, I run into my own limitations, previously written about in a series of posts: Being a resource looking for a need. I have spent my entire therapy career attempting to influence the growth of others. I have learned some things thereby.
    • The most important stance is that of high intentional; low attachment. I can only do so much, and even there I need a supportive community to achieve change. I do what I can, and trust the process (im my case, I turn it over to StarMaker, my word for creator or God).
      • To the best of my ability, I learn from the outcomes I encounter.
    • I begin somewhere. We need to work our way into any problem — wherever is relevant. Again, I trust synchronicity will define where I need to go.
      • I accept that there is only so much I can do; I have my limitations, and I know when and how to say No.
    • I attend to my own self-care (this requires two-three hours per day usually). I often appreciate the caring of others, but if I do not care for myself, I am unable to care for others.
      • I do a daily exercise program (my yoga practice).
      • I meditate daily (mindfulness is an essential tool on life journey).
      • I write often (my blog is my major place for reflection).
    • To the best of my ability, I am a good follower. If I can support and contribute to the growth of others, I do so willingly.

 

What To Do? (Part 1)

Suicide2I have not made any entries for a while (aside from the anger emails); overall, I have been busy reading about the complexity of global warming and the insanity of our culture, and reflecting on the issues of what to do. I’m prompted to write now because of two emails from a friend who works for a university health service. In each, he provided an interesting reference, and also asks questions about what to do. I’m writing this post as a response to his questions, because I believe the questions (and my responses) need to be distributed to a larger forum.

In the first, He Quit His Corporate Job To Help His City’s Needy, my friend asks how do we get the message of community service across to our sleepy culture, mainly to the student population who will have to carry the work forward. Especially he is concerned with the increasing incidence of suicide within the student population. In the second, Love Your Enemies. What Does It Mean? Can It Be Done?, he reflects on the need to leave bitterness and hatred behind, wherein the author (Brother David Steindl-Rast) suggests a number of practical steps to circumvent entrapment in pain. In particular, the author notes that the opposite of love is not hatred, but indifference (acedia in my language).

From my perspective, both enquiries are major comments on the immense immaturity of our species. Together we have created a civilization of vast technological brilliance, and one that is also intensely dehumanizing. As I have said on a number of occasions, “as individuals we are capable of immense greatness, but as a species we are psychotic.”

Two maxims stand out for me as to their importance.

  1. The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable (James A. Garfield), and then it will trap you our tendency to self-righteousness).
  2. We have found the enemy, and he is us. (Pogo, Walt Kelly).

I also fall back on a set of premises I learned when first at univerity:

  • If your conclusions are wrong, examine your premises.
  • If your conclusions are right, don’t trust your premises. They can still be inaccurate.

One of my truths is that we are a contentious species — we love to argue! (Frequently we call it discussion.) Sometimes, if we listen to each other, it leads to major advances. But most of the time it leads nowhere.

So a second truth for me is that we must learn to listen to each other. We all have a small part of the truth. And especially if we do not listen to each other, we often end up miserable. So my first response to my friend’s questions is that we need to develop systems of authentic listening — likely small groups meeting frequently where we learn to trust each other (Kumar notes that it was “not uncommon for him and his team to bond with those they rescue”). This requires some skill, offering a combination of listening and short-term resolution that satisfies the need for purpose — not an easy combination to develop in our fractured litiginous world. We must develop mechanisms for providing authentic hope.

As I have noted in previous posts, we have made power as the basis of civilization (two posts), not human needs. This has culminated in a society currently based on consumerism and neoliberal politics. Our paradigm of Scientific Materialism (SM) has identified a universe of incomparable beauty, but labelled it meaningless. From my perspective, it is no wonder that those who become lost between the cracks then commit suicide as an escape.

We have also created a world currently on the brink of disaster, including the possible extinction of the human species. We are engaged in a super-wicked problem of global warming and over-population, and as such, our engagement will often seem like two steps forward, and three steps back. We need to support each other in moving forward, not argue about moving back.

Can we recognize that paradigms are belief systems that coalesce to provide a vantage point for understanding reality? (Note: belief systems are not provable — they can be proven false, but never proven correct.) SM is not the only possible paradigm. It arose largely because the scientific method, principally initiated in the 13th century, proved more effective in explaining the mechanics of the universe than did the Ptolemaic methods of earlier days. More importantly, scientific materialism likely developed from the work of Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626), who dreamt of the “scientific conquest of nature for man’s welfare.”[1] (Note the theme of power!) But neither science nor scientific materialism disproved older belief systems; it merely provided better explanations, and unfortunately paved the way for the ill features of our modern civilization.

I am a strong advocate of the scientific method; I also strongly disagree with the assumptions of scientific materialism. In order to function well, human beings need to have a sense of meaning that gives them purpose. I have previously noted that my preferred paradigm is Panpsychism, but I cannot prove that it is a better paradigm — however, it does give me a vastly more comprehensive understanding of the nature of the universe. I have also noted that panpsychism suggests that:

God exists (as the totality of sentient beings), and that (as a component of this totality) each individual sentient being possesses free will. We each makes choices about how we live. In addition, God provides the opportunity (e.g., possibilities) for us to live well. Even if God does not exist or even if the universe is eventually found to be meaningless, each individual still has the option to act as if it is meaningful, and to create a myth that will allow him or her to live within what life offers—in a stance of love, in contrast to acedia.

So my second suggestion for my friend is that these small groups must also tell the truth — not that God exists, not that SM is wrong, but that SM is only a belief system, one that is currently trapping us on a path to extinction. That we must find ways to support people as they struggle to develop their own belief systems, ways that validate their ability to support themselves and each other while challenging the powerful forces that sustain SM and its consequences (and meanwhile stepping out of bitterness and anger at how our civilization has developed). Again, not an easy task.

To be continued.

[1] Tarnas, R. (1991, p. 275). The passion of the Western mind: Understanding the ideas that have  shaped our world view. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.

Civil Disobedience

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One of the issues I am pondering these days is that of civil disobedience. The central issue is that of how to respond to a breach of law when the law goes along with the breach. As such, if we are to resolve our cultural dilemma of climate disruption, we must deal with the negative forces that are leading to global warming. In particular, we must recognize that these negative forces are currently poised in the dominator roles of our culture. These powers are in the position to mandate the continuance of:

  1. consumerism,
  2. the military-industrial complex, and
  3. the fossil fuel industry

via legal means, imposed by government forces which are in alignment with these forces; it also means that to resist these forces often requires stepping outside the bounds of legality. To oppose these forces thus requires some form of civil disobedience.

Such disobedience can be placed on a spectrum between sabotage and non-violent civil disobedience (NVCD). Much has been written on NVCD, the earliest being the play Antigone by Sophocles (5th century BCE). The modern writings on NVCD have mainly begun with Thoreau in [On the Duty of] Civil Disobedience, 1848. Thoreau was essentially questioning the distinction between legality and justice, wherein:

It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do what I think right. . . . Law never made men a whit more just; and by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice.

There is much to be explored in Thoreau’s writing, but essentially he was an advocate of NVCD when government and legal systems were acting in ways that are unjust. His primary suggestions, as elucidated by Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr, were to:

  • use only moral or legal means to oppose unjust law
    • boycotting, picketing, blocking traffic, non-violent resistance, non-payment of taxes
  • first make an effort to bring about change through legal means
    • work within the system before and during
  • be open and public about actions
    • the disobedience must be fully revealed and public
  • be willing to accept the consequences of such actions
    • prison, fines, deportation, loss of job, social disapproval

The intention behind NVCD is to induce shame in the dominator by highlighting the discordance between legality and justice. The difficulty is that these processes are slow to induce social change: witness the years required before the British Empire released India from colonialization (Gandhi), or the years of societal demonstration before significant reduction of racial inequality (Martin Luther King Jr). The major difficulty with NVCD in regard to global warming is that we probably do not have time for slow resolution; we are too close to the edge of irreversible global catastrophe.

Sabotage, on the other hand, is usually illegal, likely violent or violating, action engaged in secretly, and often such that the perpetrators attempt to avoid the personal consequences of their actions. While sabotage might be somewhat satisfying to the perpetrators, I am not sure it does anything other than anger the recipients, and provide a justification on the part of the dominator for the suppression of any kind of civil disobedience.

In this regard, I have been networking with a group of individuals who seek to offer protection services for groups that engage in civil demonstration, with the purpose being to maintain the principles of NVCD wherein these protest rallies occur. I believe that such protection service is very important, providing safety for all — but it is very easy for individuals to become provocative, or for spectators to provoke, which then leads to antagonistic responses. In particular in the Vancouver area, it appears that a number of neo-Nazi groups are now attempting to be provocative in just this fashion.

Even for the people who offer such protection services, there is a range of responses. Some say that actions such as sabotage can be done without danger to those who simply practice of NVCD. I totally disagree with this — I doubt that the dominator society makes this distinction, and it is likely that if sabotage occurs at the same time as NVCD, repressive responses will be imposed on all, not just the saboteurs.

So, what to do? I do not know. What is fundamentally needed is a massive mobilization of the general populous towards all types of civil disobedience, but forty years of attempting this on the part of many parties has been largely unsuccessful. Sooner or later, enough angst from environmental devastation will occur, but likely it will then be too late.

Sad!