Slowly our culture is responding yet we are at a knife’s edge, balanced between the collapse of civilization and the transformation to a more healthy society. It is not yet clear what we shall be. An interesting reflection of a significant day in our modern culture.
Gradually society mobilizes with regard to climate disruption; I only hope for action rather than words. On note, of the 7000 institutions, there is this comment on who is engaged: “The individual institutions that have joined the declaration include five in the continental U.S” — a paltry five from the country which likely has the greatest influence!
The suggestion is to lower the voting age to eight. Given that many children have significant wisdom, and that they will need to deal with the inefficiencies of the adults of our current society, it may well be a good suggestion.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. (Santayana, 1905)” Jim Garrison is President of Ubiquity University and a brilliant historian as well as public speaker. In these two videos, he compares our present culture as reflected in the Presidency of Donald Trump with the lives of Alcibiades (Greek) and Sulla (Roman), two individuals who respectfully precipitated the ending of Athenian democracy and the Roman Republic though their hubris and aggressiveness.
Resilience.org has recently presented an excellent forum entitled Uncertain Future Forum (20190715-20190726) highlighting “If collapse is imminent, how do we respond? Each is short, succinct, and pertinent to the issues.
We need new practices: the practice of grieving so as to make space within, the practice of holding painful paradox, the practice of effective hope (somewhere between idealism and pragmatism where what we do might matter).
What follows are a multitude of links to the many aspects of how we are failing as a culture. Each is well written from my perspective.
I am aware that more and more we are talking about the climate crisis, yet we are still mainly at the stage of talking; we still fail to come together in collaborative ways, and as has been said many times, the window of opportunity is closing.
The first notes we have only 14 months to respond! The 2018 UN IPCC Panel indicated (in its highly conservative mode) what we must respond within 12 years; however, if the US does not get on board within the next election period, that window is likely not achievable, thus we only have 14 months to respond.
Leadership from the United States is required if the crisis of climate disruption is to be challenged — and this depends on the political state of the next presidential election, with all its consequences of dissension. What a mess!
An excellent article on the survival of democracy: a leader above the law, the abrogation of political access, the development of a pariah state all point to a potential tipping point in the continuing existence of political freedom for all.
An excellent article — if we are to heal as a species, we must begin to address the overwhelming discordances created by capitalism, especially neoliberalism. Amongst other issues, the inequity of poverty fuels the many problems related to mental health.
An interesting attempt by the Washington Post to identify and categorize the sophistication of modern misinformation. Technically I find the article difficult to follow (I would need much more detail and time) but I applaud the intention to clarify the many ways of distortion.
CBC News in Canada is gradually identifying features of climate disruption, often with a positive spin. There is certainly some benefit to this. However I have been deeply influenced by what I call The Force Field of Change, wherein change takes into account both positive features that move us toward a vision and negative forces that stop us. Unfortunately, until we deal with the negatives (our profound fear of climate disruption and our unwillingness to identify it), the impact of the negatives generally blocks the effect of the positives. I also believe that it is truly disrespectful of the vast majority of human beings to “protect” them from the painful truth that is climate disruption, on the assumption that it will overwhelm them — we need to deal with our grief!
Finally, I am aware of a number of significant forums in the past few months, forums that are willing to name the hard truths of what we face. I will be summarizing these in the next few weeks. I have had my own struggles with the painful truths over the past month or so.
This 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.
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.
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.
I 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 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I 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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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 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.
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.
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.
Last 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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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