Tag Archives: hubris

A Strange Culture

Acedia3My news sources have recently been dominated by American politics related either to a) what to do about the Mueller report or  b) speculation about presidential promises of the hopeful. For the most part, I have lost interest in both of these as I have no way of discerning important information from speculation. Canada is also gearing up for election so Canadian news also has lots of promises. However a small number of articles have attracted my attention, so I offer a potpourri on this occasion — we live in a strange culture of fearfulness, laziness, and self-righteousness.

Leading the Public into Emergency Mode: Introducing the Emergency Climate Movement (201905)

A well-written statement of what needs to happen for our civilization to survive the coming apocalypse. As evidenced by the Extinction Rebellion success in the UK and the increasing number of cities throughout the world who are at least espousing a climate emergency, we are gradually moving in this direction.

Scared About City Chemicals? Don’t Be. She Did Every Test in the Book. (20190528)

An excellent article on the complexity of our exposure to toxic chemicals within our environment. The title unfortunately belies the seriousness of the issue; in particular, the article names our cultural ignorance of a) at what level do we consider chemicals to be toxic as well as b) our even greater ignorance of synergistic interaction between toxins.

The Wealth Detective Who Finds the Hidden Money of the Super Rich (20190523)

A fascinating description of how much money is hidden, and how it is hidden, by the world’s wealthy. As of 2016, the top 0.1% hold 20% of American wealth and the top 1% hold 39%, surging (more than doubling) after the economic decisions of the 1980s. For me, these are staggering figures, and an indictment of the ills of capitalism.

More Climate Truth

Problems2This post is a series of articles I have found recently that illustrate for me the complexity of what we must deal with as a culture. I shake my head in wonder, and sometimes struggle to stay out of despair. Even in despair, I choose to be function in contemplative action.

A Look at Past and Future Climate Change in Less Than a Minute (20190218)

Two graphics that illustrate the changes in average temperature over the 20th and 21st centuries. Simple, impressive.

re: Generation (20190218)

An excellent article regarding our failure as a generation to respond to the existential crisis of climate disruption — we need now to support our youth as they stand up to our acedia. Hopefully they will manage better than we have done.

Rethink Activism in the Face of Catastrophic Biological Collapse (20190304)

The second in a series (the first is also online). Both express the vulnerability needed to come to terms with the possibility of our collapse as a species.

The strongmen strike back (20190314)

An excellent article on the rise of authoritarianism throughout the world. I am currently in a small group exploring issues of Power & Privilege; what I recognize from this article is that I am currently only exploring the tip of the iceberg.

The Gentrification of Payments (20190317)

The complexity of the issues whereby power infiltrates systems astounds me.

Here’s Why America Is Dumping Its Trash in Poorer Countries (20190309)

I assume it is also likely true of Canada. The denial of garbage is another illustration of the complexity we must overcome if we are to survive, let alone thrive, as a species.

Deep Earth: A Subterranean Galapagos Expands The Tree Of Life (20190203)

An amazing description of life existing in places where I would not have thought possible. The resiliency of life astounds me such that I imagine that even if we destroy ourselves, life will persist. Who knows — maybe in another billion years archeologists will wonder who we were.

I’m Right!

How we polarize!

The past three blog posts have been fueled by James Hoggan’s book I’m Right, And You’re An Idiot[1]. In conversation with Hoggan, David Suzuki (Canada’s leading environmentalist) asked: Why aren’t people demanding action on environmental issues? To address this question, Hoggan set out to interview a large number of some of the world’s leading thinkers, specifically individuals who study human communication, to gain their perspective on this failure.

As mentioned in Ways To Contribute, I am involved with the Suzuki Elders in exploring how to use this information in the management of difficult conversations. In Finding Common Ground and How Conflict Escalates, I proposed a simple (perhaps difficult?) methodology for this. Yet I also want to give credit to Hoggan for the immense amount of exploration he undertook.

The following are some of the major points with which Hoggan grappled. Most are from his Epilogue, and all are direct quotes, with the interviewee named (JH denotes Hoggan’s commentary). [Square brackets are minor changes I have added, hopefully without changing the meaning.]

  • Few of us are truly evil — and good people sometimes [strongly disagree] for good reasons. (JH, p. 215)
  • Democracy works only if reasoned debate in the public sphere is possible. (Jason Stanley, p. 98)
    • While contention lies at the heart of democracy, it must be constructive contention. (Marshall Ganz, p. 115)
    • [People] don’t need not agree on the solution or on the problem. They don’t need to understand each other, trust each other or even like each other. But they do have to recognize that the only way to move forward is together. (Adam Kahane, p. 123)
  • It is through narratives . . . that people learn to access the moral and emotional resources we need to act with agency in the face of danger, challenge, and threat. . . . [This] is one of the most important lessons set out in I’m Right. (Marshall Ganz and JH, p. 174)
    • At its most basic level, I’m Right is about how we tell stories and how we treat each other. (JH, p. 115)
    • To create powerful persuasive narratives, our starting point must be rooted in an attitude of empathy, respect, and compassion. (The Dalai Lama, p. 211).
  • People don’t start out mired in hostility. The situation evolves. . . . Our defense mechanisms kick in . . . and this provokes . . . eventual gridlock. (JH, pp. 214-215)
    • It is hard to know who and what to trust. (JH, p. 216)
    • An important key is to hold our beliefs lightly [so that we are open to new possibility]. (JH, p. 215)
  • Facts and reason are fundamental to healthy public discourse, but in our overheated adversarial public square, facts are not enough. (JH, p. 217)
    • The initial strategy . . . must be inquiry, . . . [exploring] what truly matters to people [the emotional energy]. (JH, p. 218)
    • We must appeal to people’s values and speak from a moral position, . . . encouraging debate about matters of concern. (JH, pp. 217-218)
  • A well-crafted . . . narrative helps tear down barriers of propaganda and polarization. This theme of emotional communication is grounded in the Golden Rule of treating others the way we want to be treated. (p. 219-220)
    • If we seek change, we should learn to use speech for its highest purpose — moral discourse. (JH, p. 222)

I propose that the methodology I suggested in earlier posts satisfies what Hoggan has identified, especially in providing narrative and compassion, and provides constructive contention.

[1] Hoggan, J. (2016).  I’m right, and you’re an idiot: The toxic state of public discourse and how to clean it up. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers.

What Are We Thinking?

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

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

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

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

I almost need to laugh, perhaps cry!

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

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

Who is Guilty of Climate Crimes? (20180216)

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

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

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

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

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

Climate science deniers’ credibility tested (20180301)

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

An Economy That Works

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

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

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

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

It is a long article, and well worth reading.

The Clock Is Ticking

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

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

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

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

Global Warming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Political Scene

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

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

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

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


Rabbi Sacks on Leonard Cohen and parsha Vayera (20161118)

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

The Improbable Origins of PowerPoint (20171031)

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

A Very Old Man for a Wolf (20171030)

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

The 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

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.

So Much Pain

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.