Tag Archives: governance

The Deed Is Done; Now The Blowback

The maze of world politics, especially that generated by Donald Trump.
It does not yet appear what we shall be.

There is not a lot I can add about Trump’s decision to exit from the Paris Accord; the deed is done, and assuming Trump survives in his Presidency, it will be likely be accomplished. In the interim however, the world-wide reaction is likely to be profound, and the cost to the US immense.

There is, however, still some continuing argument to be made for the advantages of the withdrawal. It potentially promotes much greater cooperation on the part of the other countries, and it further justifies a continuing anti-Trump movement, hopefully (and perhaps quickly) leading to empeachment.

As well, the Paris Accord per se was not a particularly good agreement, with too many loopholes and too little action. It is perhaps possible that the rest of the world will now take a stronger stand, and be more committed to urgent action. But it is a wait-and-see process; I will not hold my breath waiting.

And it also demonstrates the sad state of our culture that what was almost inconceivable has now occurred, both the election of Donald Trump itself, and the ensuing decisions that will shake the American and the world economy in major ways.

Other interesting links follow:

More on Donald Trump

Why Orwell’s ‘1984’ matters so much now (20170125)

Turns out the Trump era isn’t ‘1984.’ It’s ‘King Lear.’ (20170528)

Likely an accurate metaphor for the Trump era.

President Trump’s Epic Fail on Paris (20170601)

The deed is done; now we see the blowback.

Our Failing Ecology

Oil and plastic are choking the planet (20170525).

Excellent article on renewable alternatives.

Miscellaneous

Mark Zuckerberg joins Silicon Valley bigwigs in calling for government to give everybody free money (20170525)

What is Universal Basic Income? A brief history. (20170525).

Having attended a TED talk on the advantages of Guaranteed Income, I have become a strong advocate. It potentially have major benefits in eliminating poverty, and promoting much better health and education as well as significant reduction of crime.

Ancestry.com is a scary thing (20170517.

Like many aspects of modern technology, the dark side is significant. There are many legal ramifactions, especially in the use of gene pools for further technological advances.

Reflections On Life

Complexity3Such a fascinating week, with many reflections. I mentioned last post a number of books I am currently reading. They tend to be rather heavy, and periodically I need something lighter. On this occasion, I found Stories and Legends[1] by Leo Tolstoy. Apparently Tolstoy, after he had written his major novels (War and Peace, Anna Karenina, et cetera), started writing short stories — as a master of literary skill, his style is delightful (clear, concise, sensory-based), well worth reading.

The Failing State of the World

Most notably for this week, my reflections have been on the failing state of the world. Jack Kornfield sums it up for me in his blog Living Mindfully in Modern Society (2017), which I assume is recent but he does not give a specific date.

The world is spending its wealth in the trillion-dollar arms market, yet only 10 percent of what’s spent annually could feed all our children—every hungry person on earth. We have seen that our growing groundwater pollution affects every one of us. Indeed, with care and attention we recognize that some of the riches we enjoy in modern Western society come at great costs, which include the exploitation of other cultures, the economic colonization of much of the world, the ecological devastation of habitats and species. Every time we drive, we contribute to worldwide pollution and global warming. Every time we fly, our jet fuel is secured through the politics of power in the Middle East. Our desire to eat imported food as inexpensively as possible can have terrible consequences for the environment as well. Human and natural realms are not separate. Whether in contemplating the responsibility of our lifestyle for global warming or the pollution of our rivers or in considering the sources of our food, our eyes must open to this interdependence.

In particular, I was astounded by an Oxfam report I found from 2016: Richest 62 people as wealthy as half of world’s population, says Oxfam (20160118); at the annual World Economic Forum, Oxfam called for action to reverse the trend in inequality, but said “words had not been translated into action.” It also reminded me of a recent TED talk (2017, viewed live, not yet available for the internet) indicating that likely the most effective way to irradicate the complexity of poverty would simply be a guaranteed income for everyone. My belief is that people want authentic work, and in today’s high tech world, it would be possible to do so; meanwhile a guaranteed income would eliminate much of the education and health care issues that also sustain poverty. This economic discrepancy is not only sad; it is criminal.

Normally I do not pay a lot of attention to the media buzz around American politics, but this week in particular has been astonishing, what with the firing of James Comey as FBI Director. I find it very difficult to sort out the details of what is happening, but regard it as very important, possibly the beginning of a process that may lead to the impeachment of Trump as President. The following stand out for me as useful:

Two comments on global warming indicate the complexity of what is happening:

Two other reports feed into this concern of the deterioration in appropriate investigation:

Finally, women’s reproductive rights, in particular, are a disaster in the states. Check out To Understand the Cost of the War on Women, Look to Mississippi (20170505). I know many mature men and I know many more mature women. I truly believe that the next century belongs to women — if we ever actually do something about our failing civilization.

Such an interesting world, interesting in the sense of the Chinese curse.

[1] Tolstoy, L. (1943) Stories and legends. Trans. L & A.Maude,  New York, NY: Pantheon.

The Developing Madness

Possibly crumbling.
Our crippled culture!

Over the past few weeks, I have been noting my reaction to a number of sources (below), some political, some ecological. As a result, I am again in a place of sadness at the immensity of the task facing us as a species if we are to survive the coming century. All are worth reading from my perspective; my title The Developing Madness comes from the combination of these sources.

First has been my reading of a free downloadable pdf copy of the book Rethinking Madness: Towards a Paradigm Shift In Our Understanding and Treatment Of Psychosis  (2012) by Paris Williams. As a physician-psychotherapist and a mystic, I have always been interested in the nature of psychosis, especially since I strongly disagree with the medical profession that psychosis is a biochemical disease (although there may be some biochemical based aspects to the disorder). For me, William’s book is superb: well-written and well-researched, persenting a very convincing argument for both mystical experience and psychosis as being responses in which the normal egoic defences of the psyche are overwhelmed by the vastness of unity experience, the mystic having a successful outcome and the psychotic having a less successful response. But the frame provided by this paradigm potentially asks the medical profession to be humanly authentic with patients, rather than technocrats administering medications while focussed on disease as the problem. The issues are complex, but to become humane would require a major revision of our entire society in its valuing of “experts.” At some level that would be both more expensive and very threatening in the age of scientific materialism.

Another source has been a CBC news article ‘It scares me’: Permafrost thaw in Canadian Arctic sign of global trend (2017 April 17) on the melting of the permafrost infrastructure that supports building in the Arctic town of Inuvik, NWT. As a physician, I worked in Inuvik (1971-1972) just after graduation from medical school, so I have some nostalgia and familiarity with the town of Inuvik, and the nature of permafrost; moreover, in 2009, my precipitation into despair came when I recognized the danger of melting permafrost and the developing release of methane (which, compared to CO2, is a more powerful greenhouse gas) — the CBC article gave me a immediate sensory-emotional link to the concept of permafrost melting. As a result also, I checked with a friend who has been part of the United Nations IPCC team who, over the years, has been documenting the risks of global warming via several different models. He notes:

The IPCC AR5 does not include carbon feedback emissions from forest fires, warming peatlands, or thawing permafrost (NOAA Arctic Report Card 2016). . . . The Amazon carbon sink is declining. World wide,there is increasing tree mortality and die back affecting all world forests (IPCC AR5).

All of this means that we are in even more danger of run-away climate disruption, and the multiple tipping points associated with elevating global temperature. We are easily heading for 2°C warming, at which point the developing madness of global warming becomes profoundly serious to the survival of our civilization, let alone our species.

Third has been As coral reefs die, huge swaths of the seafloor are deteriorating along with them (2017 Apri 20). Coral reefs are the breeding grounds of much of ocean life, and also provide breakwaters for many coastal shores — their loss has major impact on food supplies of the world as well as coastal community.

Fourth: Climate Change As Genocide: Inaction Equals Annihilation (2017 April 20). Famine is an old idea for our world, but now we risk planetary famine as failed states accumulate. As a “civilized people,” we are failing to respond, both in the provision of resources to those who need them, and in our response to the systemic forces wherein failed states become the domain of brutal armed combat, providing further blockage of our responses. Such insanity is our future as we continue to ignore the impact of global warming.

Finally I have been impacted by two posts by an activist-artist Ricardo Levins Morales whom I have recently found. The posts I find to be thoughtful, but complex, beyond my knowledge of the political situations of the United States — yet the ideas seem valid in my limited understanding. I recommend them:

· The Broken Mirror, a Fractured Movement and the 2016 Elections (2016 November 6)

· A Future to Fight For: A Conversation with Frederick Douglass in the Shadow of Trump (2017 April 21)

The two posts present a detailed analysis of the many forces that sustain neoliberalism and the failure of American democracy, thoughtfully written.

Most important for me has been what Morales, in the Broken Mirror, calls the Titanic  Compact — it provides a possible frame for understanding the inability of NGOs to cooperate with each other. It sets the bounds of “permitted struggle” — it notes:

The destruction of the mid-century mass movements through repression and funding, smashed the mirror in which peoples’ struggles could see themselves as parts of a common movement. In its place narrowly focused non-profits, licensed by the state, are permitted to each carry a single shard of the broken mirror. . . .  Under its terms we get to fight to improve conditions on the Titanic as long as we do not ask about the direction, speed or ownership of the ship itself. As long as we comply, we can solicit funding from the 1% and enjoy protection from state violence.

Much of this contract is undoubtedly unconscious, but consistent with what I perceive to be happening in many areas. We are so busy defending our small patches to truth that we do not want to see the overwhelming truth of where we are headed, in the developing madness. And we are so busy designing our protests that we fail to identify that we must mature as a species.

Our options are:

  • extinction
  • spontaneous emergence from the chaos (wherever this leads), and
  • deliverated emergence from the chaos (choosing a path of progressive psycho-spiritual evolution, wherever this leads).

At the risk of hubris, only the latter option is likely to resolve our difficulties. Culturally, we must come to terms with power over power, and we must come to terms with our desire for greatness.

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.

Post-Truth and The Pre/Trans Fallacy

PostTruth2

I have been busy the past few weeks writing a new workshop on Authenticity; hence my contributions have been limited recently to the email anger program. however, a few days ago, I encountered a new word (for me): post-truth, the word of the year (2016) as selected by the Oxford World Dictionary of English. They note[1] it to be: “an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief [emphasis added]’”.

PostTruth1They further note:

The concept of post-truth has been in existence for the past decade, but Oxford Dictionaries has seen a spike in frequency this year in the context of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom and the presidential election in the United States. It has also become associated with a particular noun, in the phrase post-truth politics.

and

The compound word post-truth exemplifies an expansion in the meaning of the prefix post- that has become increasingly prominent in recent years. Rather than simply referring to the time after a specified situation or event – as in post-war or post-match – the prefix  in post-truth has a meaning more like ‘belonging to a time in which the specified concept has become unimportant or irrelevant [emphasis added]’.

I am fascinated by this topic for two essential reasons. First, if the political system of democracy is to exist at all, it is mandatory that truth be the basis of negotiation. If truth is unimportant or irrelevant, then the entire basis of what we claim to value collapses. Unfortunately, that seems to be the case.

The second reason is equally important: the language of post-truth, as presented, posits only two states: truth and post-truth. The presumptions seems to be that truth is rational and post-truth is emotional. As such there is a profound misunderstanding of the nature of emotionality, one that is of major importance to cultural maturity.

The complexity of emotionality can be considered either paradoxical, or prone to confusion, due to the nature of what integral theorist Ken Wilber (1995) called the pre/trans fallacy[2], where we confuse unreflective emotionality with a deep integration of emotion and rationality. In the pre-rational state, emotionality drives behavior; in the trans-rational state, intention drives behavior; emotionality is essential to the trans-rational state, but it is not the driver. In this context, what we need is trans-truth!

In previous posts, I’ve written about how we access information that we trust (the TIC process) and the distinction between ethical approaches to information and emotional approaches. I’ve also written extensively about why we ignore global warming.

It seems that post-truth is another nail in our coffin, influencing from acedia and apathy to the values of democracy.

[1]Oxford Living Dictionaries. Word of the Year 2016 Is . . . Retrieved March 21, 2017, from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/word-of-the-year/word-of-the-year-2016.

[2] Wilber, K. (n.d.). The Pre/trans fallacy. Retrieved November 12, 2009, from  http://www.praetrans.com/en/ptf.html (this page is no longer available, but there are many other references available with a Google search).

The (Mis)Information Age, Part 2

misinformation1

In Part 1, I indicated my interest in the Netflix series: The Untold History of the United States (Oliver Stone, 2012), and my own issues with trust. Here, I continue with commentary on the underlying issues of how we trust, as well as the immense difficulty we have with too much information, or (mis)information.

Cognitive Biases

In attempting to understand trust, I recently looked up the nature of cognitive biases[1]. To quote Wikipedia, “Cognitive biases are tendencies to think in certain ways that can lead to systematic deviations from a standard of rationality or good judgment.” Depending on which source I looked up, I found between 180 and 250 distinct biases, ranging from anchoring bias (the tendency to anchor conclusions on the first piece of “trusted” information acquired) to the Zeigamik Effect (the tendency for interrupted tasks to be remembered better than completed ones). I found the list to be fascinating, and recognized that many of the biases would have great survival value in a simple culture.

But ours is not a simple culture. When overwhelmed with too much information, I (and almost certainly any human being) will rapidly sort the information for importance according to my biases, especially my other-than-conscious biases. I know I do this every day — and (perhaps as my bias) I believe I am very sophisticated in my understanding of human communication. Heaven help those who are less sophisticated.

Whom To Trust

As I said recently, I have previously written about the means by which we establish trust (Whom Do You Trust?), and the TIC process that people use. To reiterate (as I regard it as a very important process to understand), people:

translate (T) the new information into language they can understand more easily, they interpret (I) into their own system of meaning, and then they corroborate (C) this meaning with groups that they already trust. For example, if I want to process information about new electric cars, I translate (T) the information into my current understanding of cars, think about (I) what cars mean to me, and then go ask (C) my friends what they think about electric cars.

Thus the fundamental basis of trust is how we select those around us whom we will believe, or at least with whom we will associate. But the group we trust may have their own biases, often in many ways. Examples include the colonial stances of the 19th century and the information presented in The Untold History . . . .

Such biases are especially important in the light of George Marshall book Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Ignore Climate Change that I recently reviewed (7 parts, beginning here).

I recently wrote to a friend, concerning our mutual need to find a way to have the Canadian people mobilize for climate disruption, that we need:

a big frame that allows the conservatives and doubters to engage together with those committed. We have to interact so as to establish trust, not so much with the people like [Steve] Bannon, but with those who listen to him and still have uncertainty. The frame could be something like: ‘What do you want for the future? We are all in this together, and even though most of us have uncertainty, we need to pull together to create a better world. Let’s all talk to each other as if the other has truth in what they are saying: both those who are uncertain about climate disruption, and those who are more certain.’

But I continue to wonder to what extent my own biases and those of others interfere with our ability to cooperate on this super-wicked difficulty.

And if we don’t cooperate, the consequences are immense, if not disastrous.

[1] (A) List of Cognitive Biases, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases, accessed 2017 February 14; (B) Cognitive Bias Codex, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases#/media/File:Cognitive_Bias_Codex_-_180%2B_biases,_designed_by_John_Manoogian_III_(jm3).jpg, accessed 2017 February 14

The (Mis)Information Age, Part 1

misinformation1

I’ve been watching a fascinating series on Netflix: The Untold History of the United States (Oliver Stone, 2012), twelve presentations based on a particular interpretation of documented events during the 20th century, especially events related to the politics of war, specifically the cold war. I find it fascinating because it seems well researched and well presented, and it also reinforces my biases regarding the duplicity of modern politics (and probably ancient politics also). And as a result, I am challenged again to decide if the information is actually mis-information — hence my title The (Mis)Information Age.

Reviews[1] of the series were mixed, with claims that there was really nothing new presented in the interpretations provided, and that there was much selective cherry-picking of the information presented. Perhaps this is true, but I still find that it provides me with much information that I had not previously encountered, and as a result that I have been reflecting a lot on how do I process information in the modern age.

My Experience of Trust

When I was a young boy, if I wanted to know something about a topic, I went to the encyclopedia; if needed, I went to the local library and searched for the topic in the Encyclopedia Britannica — the definitive source of the time. There I would find a concise three to five page article on the topic, and I had a sense of trust that I had now found useful information, actual knowledge of the state of the world at the current time. And that there was not easily a better source available.

Almost certainly this was a gross error, and if reviewed now, the information would undoubtedly be considered heavily biased (male perspective, British Empire perspective, et cetera). However, it was a world in which there was a sense of trust. Such trust was manifest in many ways. Many days as a child, I wandered freely over the neighborhood, perhaps blocks away, with no sense of fear. As a much younger child, I frequently visited with the “neighborhood grand-father,” where together with eight or ten other four-year-olds he would read us stories on Saturday mornings. I also recall going to school alone on the bus when I was seven or eight, perhaps younger. My older brother and I, he then perhaps nine or ten years old, would hop on the bus and go downtown to the Saturday morning movies, alone. When somewhat older, I cannot recall that I ever locked a bicycle or a car; most of the time the house door was unlocked, unless we were planning to be away for a few days.

In the interim, in my lifetime, I have watched the erosion of trust, both within myself, and within society in general. As I am sure you the reader know, almost no one fails to lock their home or their car anymore, or if they do, they worry until they return, fearful that it will be vandalized or stolen. Who today would think of leaving a younger child to go to the movies by themselves? Or allowing a young child to take public transit alone?

Nor do I trust modern communications, especially the media, and also much of professional literature. I have six university degrees, all of them in some way related to science; hence I generally understand scientific reports, but I do not trust many of the conclusions presented in modern scientific reports. I am very aware of the ways in which the language used in reports are heavily biased in subtle ways. Especially I do not trust the writings in psycho-pharmacology or nutrition (I also have a 1000 hours training as a cook, and know the politics of the culinary field).

Thus, I have my own issues with (mis)information.

To be continued (Cognitive Biases and Whom To Trust).

[1] The Untold History of the United States,  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Untold_History_of_the_United_States, accessed 2017 February 14

Donald Trump — Endless Possibilities

civildisobedience2

Donald Trump — the possibilities are endless (from dangerous strong man to major statesman — see below).

However, given:

  • that Donald Trump is soon to be inaugurated as US President, and
  • the intelligence report jointly released on 2017 January 6th by US intelligence services (jointly by the CIA, the FBI, and the NSA) indicating illegal activities in the electoral program by the Russian government, and
    • possibly with the collaboration of the President-elect,

there is a growing movement in the United States (and abroad):

  • to refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of Donald Trump as President of the United States, and
  • to insist upon a full and comprehensive investigation of these illegal activities.

For example, US Congressman John Lewis has recently stated publically that Trump is not a legitimate President. Another example is this blog post from Jim Garrison, President of Ubiquity University, promoting an important petition. (I totally agree with all that Jim states in this latter example — see below for another post by Jim.)

One outcome of such investigations could be the potential impeachment of the President, followed by a government more in alignment with the dangers we face from global warming. Whether such movement will have this impact is unclear, but from my perspective, at the very least, they will assist in legitimizing the electoral process. Given the chaos of this process last year, such legitimization is essential.

Potentially these processes are also the beginning of non-violent civil disobedience, both as regards maturation of our culture and for their impact on global warming. Given that I do not know of other healthier processes, I hope that this is the case.

Yet, the inauguration of Donald Trump could be transformational in a positive sense — greatness is within his grasp. Here, Jim Garrison has also written a brilliant summary of what Trump could accomplish if he has the maturity to transform from strong man to statesman.

We live in such interesting times!

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!