Tag Archives: values

Who Cares?

Compassion4I have recently begun to explore Unitarian-Univeralism (UU), a very inclusive “church” structure that requires no dogmatic belief system and yet recognizes the human need for community and the search for meaning, the need for caring and the questing of “Who Cares?” In particular, I invite the reader to view a recent sermon at the local UU church A Big Tent with Even Bigger Dreams[1] (20180506), one that I thought was profound (as well as very humorous).

For my part, UU (in its profound inclusivity) represents the possibility of mature community, an essential component of cultural transformation (of which I have written many posts in this blog — see this series). I find a number of aspects of the local church, the North Shore Unitarians, to have deep appeal for me; I also have the intuition (and hope) that these aspects are to be found throughout the UU system.

  • They are deeply inclusive. In particular, I have found them very welcoming, and very open to diversity, especially the LGBTQQIP2SAA community and any other source of divisiveness in community.
    • A significant quote from the above sermon is “we honor this truth by encouraging our members to reflect on the Light through whatever set of windows they find most illuminating. We only require that this same freedom be honored for others.”
  • They recognize the incredible destructiveness that “religion” has played in the world.
    • I have a friend who is atheist and strongly against religion, yet from my perspective he does not seem to recognize “religion” as simply a cultural lens, and that its implications range from the very immature (including much of Christian history as well as modern fundamentalism, both Christian and Muslim) to the very mature. I totally agree with him in his disparagement of Christianity when expressed via fundamentalism, and I also deeply value the mature expression of religion when I find it. Mature religion for me is not a set of beliefs, rather it is a way of approaching life with compassion to all its complexity.
  • They are very open to questioning the meaning of life.
    • For the past year, the Church has been running a series of discussion groups called Wounded Words (words such as sin, salvation, god, prayer) in an attempt to recognize how divisive these words have been (and continue to be).

The main emphasis that I have seen is that UU encourages the recognition that we all search for meaning and that we are all in the same boat! We must learn to value “making sure there’s room for another to come sit next to me, even if, especially if, they make me uncomfortable . . . . with such a big tent [that] we don’t even agree on the words to use to describe it.”

There is for me something deep within the heart of all human beings that searches for meaning; maturity for me means that of being willing to sit in the mystery that this represents. Those who claim certainty are at high risk of fundamentalism, and the abuses of religion — this I distrust.

To give my answer to the basic question of this post, those who care are those who continue to search, allowing others also to search. I honor all who do, including the UU church.

[1] Hartlief, M. (20180506). A Big Tent With Even Bigger Dreams, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNB–Aa5KWo, published 20180507.

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 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.

The Busyness Of Life

The Busyness Of Life

Anxiety3As is obvious, I have not been doing a lot of posts in recent weeks. Partly, I’m lacking inspiration, and partly, I’m unclear what else to add to what I have already written. I strongly believe that the many issues within global warming are simply the tip of the iceberg of our cultural immaturity and expanding world population, but until we recognize this, little will change. So I have been pondering what else to write, with little clarity.

For now, I have decided to do a weekly post (more or less), with brief comments on various links that come across my desk. This is the first of such posts, noting:

  • books I’m currently reading
  • social movement victories in the first 100 days
  • recent examples of global warming
  • the age of stupid

Books I’m Reading

A major component of who I am is that I seek an integrated worldview — I’m constantly assessing my experiences and my sources of information for consistency. I am not per se interested in accummulating knowledge; rather I want to experience and live more authentically. I strongly believe that:

A science that does not incorporate spirituality is dehumanizing;
a spirituality that does not incorporate science is delusional.

As part of this ongoing search, I am always reading multiple books at a time, largely because I get saturated with one book, and shift to another to clear my mind. Currently I am reading (I recommend them all):

  • BlindSpots: 21 Good Reasons To Think Before You Talk, by Christian deQuincey[1]
    • Christian was my research advisor for my PhD, and I have a deep respect for his clarity of thinking. BlindSpots is an excellent overview of the many ways in which we become confused about basic issues such as consciousness, energy, time, healing, et cetera. It is somewhat repetitive, but otherwise excellent.
  • Scotus For Dunces: An Introduction To The Subtle Doctor, by Mary Beth Ingram[2]
    • As part of my current exploration of meditation and contemplative practice, I’m studying the Christian traditions, especially the Franciscan traditions. John Duns Scotus was a brilliant theologian of the early 14th century, especially focused on a profoundly mature understanding of the relational character of God. In particular, he illustrates for me that human beings of other centuries were not stupid; they simply did not have our technological sophistication (nor, in many cases, our hubris).
  • Musicophilia: Tales Of Music And The Brain, by Oliver Sacks[3]
    • Oliver Sacks is a neurologist who writes about the many human issues that occur with neurological defects; other than his strong bias to equating mind and brain, I always find his writings to be very insightful. I’m especially interested in this book because, with my own neurological issues, I have little awareness of music — I have almost no response, cognitive or emotional (a point of sadness for me).

Current Comments on Global Warming

A recent article on CTV News Central and Eastern Canada face heavy flooding (20170505) describes the unprecedented rains and flooding occuring on the East Coast of Canada and the US. For me, it highlights the strange weather that is occurring — likely due to global warming (no one weather event can be proved to be due to global warming; it is on the trends of climate that are the main impact). Here, on the West Coast, our spring is very delayed — normally the streets are ablaze with flowering trees and shrubs, but currently theay are very muted or just beginning. For me, all this is simply the beginning of changes, many of which will be very difficult to accommodate.

It is so necessary that we respond to climate disruption in emergency fashion (see Blueprint For A Climate Emergency Movement), and I easily lose sight of progress. I don’t pay a lot of attention to the many articles about the Trump administration that simply incite anxiety — most of them are so illustrative of the need of the media to be theatrical, but some articles are important. The Top 10 Resistance Victories in Trump’s First 100 Days (20170427) identifies that progress is being made, especialy that groups are banding together to have a greater impact. For me, it remains a chaotic morasse without clear focus, more against Trump rather than defining a solid vision of the future, but it is much better than no response. The title ‘It can’t just be a march. It has to be a movement.’ What’s next for climate activists? (20170430) sums it up for me.

In contrast, I note the rise of populism (ant-intellectual political movements that offer unorthodox polices, frequently those that foster some kind of discrimination). Especially good is WATCH: Populism’s ‘backhanded service’ (20170505).

But it remains very difficult to get good information, the internet is so fraught with misinformation. As illustration, David Suzuki’s Research sheds light on dark corner of B.C.’s oil and gas industry (20170504) emphasizes how little I trust government these days. Currently we are in the midst of BC provincial elections, and I simply shake my head at posturing, and promises that likely will never be fully realized.

The Age Of Stupid

In Busy Is The New Stupid (20160720), Ed Baldwin notes I’ve found that the most productive and successful people I’ve ever met are busy, but you wouldn’t know it.  They find time that others don’t.” He notes the many difficulties that occur when we are too busy, and especially emphasizes “We’ve all been tricked into believing that if we are busy we are important.” From my perspective, much of this busyness also occurs because we are overloaded attempting to manage data (emails, reports, et cetera), rather than knowing how to organize information effectively.

Why we need to slow down our lives (20170430), Pico Iyer notes this massive influx of data, and proposes that we need a secular sabbath (given we so seldom keep a religious sabbath in our culture), “if only to regather the sense of proportion and direction [we will] need for when [we] go back online.” He also references an excellent TedTalk How Technology Evolves by Kevin Kelly. Kelly is the founding executive editor of Wired magazine, and an avid enthusiast of technology, yet notes “I continue to keep the cornucopia of technology at arm’s length, so that I can more easily remember who I am.”

In conclusion, I am reminded of a Zen story of the farmer who needs a horse. He is getting old, and now requires a horse so as to plow his fields. Bemoaning his life, he goes to the village master who says, “Be at peace. Come back tomorrow.” So he goes home, somewhat dissatisfied. Yet the next morning, a stray horse shows up in his field. He goes to the master to express his thanks, and the master responds, “Be at peace. Come back tomorrow.” Puzzled, he returns to his farm, plows his fields, and goes to bed. The next morning, his teenage son sees the horse, and attempts a ride, only to fall and break his leg. In misery, the old man goes again to the master, who again answers, “Be at peace. Come back tomorrow.” Again dissatisfied, the old man goes home, to find the local army commandeering all the young men and boys for its battles. His son, with his broken leg, is spared. The old man is elated, and again goes to thank the master, who only replies “Be at peace. Come back tomorrow.”

The single most important skill here, from my perspective, is that of mindfulness, just being present to what is.

So in the trials of life,

“Be at peace. Come back tomorrow.”

[1] deQuincey, C. (2015). Blindspots: 21 good reasons to think before you talk. Rochester, VT: Park Street Press (Kindle Edition)

[2] Ingram, M. B. (2003). Scotus for dunces: An introduction to the subtle doctor. St Bonaventure, NY:Franciscan Institute Publications (Kindle Edition).

[3] Sacks, O. (2007). Musicology: Tales of music and the brain. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf Publications

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.

Why We Ignore Climate Change, Part 7

The need for distrust: betrayal.
Modern complexity is so disruptive of trust.

This is my final post exploring a précis I did of George Marshall’s Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Ignore Climate Change (2014), starting 20170122. Much of the information disheartens me, but it also clarifies the possibility of better outcome. The bottom line is how we deal with trust.

Chapter 42. In a nutshell. Some personal and highly biased ideas for digging our way out of this hole. Climate change is a scientific fact. Psychological obstacles are also a scientific fact. A large body of rigorous research based evidence suggests that we need to overcome numerous biases against threats that appear to be distant in time and place. We need to make these obstacles explicit, and recognize that many may be subconscious.

Marshall then offers approximately fifteen suggestions based on the extensive research he has personally done, interviewing many diverse groups as to what has been effective in mobilizing response to global warming, and what has not. [Unfortunately, I find this chapter to be the least useful of the entire book, partly because Marshall’s suggestions have not created a large frame for me — they are more a compilation of suggestions, all pointing at climate disruption. What follows is my attempt to give a frame.]

  • Trust is more important than information; emphasize qualities that create trust by telling personal story, and being emotionally honest.
    • Be honest about the danger, while encouraging positive vision. Activate cooperative values, and stress what we have in common. Relate solutions to climate change to sources of happiness.
    • Recognize people’s feelings of grief and anxiety; mourn what is lost, and value what remains.
  • Build a narrative of cooperation. Accept the spectrum of approaches that all parties bring. Create a heroic quest in which the enemy may be our internal weakness rather than an outside group.
    • Follow narrative rules to recognize the actors, motives, causes, and effects. Resist narratives of in-group and out-group; be wary of narrative takeover.
    • People are best motivated when action reinforces identity and social belonging. Emphasize action that makes us proud to be who we are. Enable communications with built-in interaction.
  • Resist simple frames, and be open to new meanings. Be sure that a wide range of solutions is constantly under review.
    • Never assume that what works for you will work for others. Close the partisan gap by affirming wider values.
    • Keep an open mind; be alert to your own biases. Remember experts can also be biased. Learn from your critics.
  • Never accept the frames of opponents: do not negate, repeat, or structure arguments to counter them. We all contribute to climate change; argument simply detracts from narrative.
    • Argument does not establish trust! The very word “opponent” suggests argument! Work to find a way to include the frames presented.
  • Emphasize the climate change is happening here and now. Be wary of creating distance in time and space.
    • Develop conversations about long-term preparedness, emphasizing a narrative of positive change.
    • Recognize moments of proximity that create symbolic moments, adding to emotional narrative.
  • Present climate change as a journey of conviction. Be prepared to learn from religious sources, which are frequently journeys of conviction; invoke non-negotiable sacred values.
    • Remember that how we respond now will provide the template for future responses.

The essential means of communication is personal story. Good communication is meant to be a sharing which leads to change in both originator and recipient. Modern communications, especially media, have been very effective in creating personal story, but usually have minimized the resources of logic and ethics. The modern means of communication whereby individuals leave comments, often anonymously, has generally become a means of diatribe, rather than dialogue. It is the means by which individuals discharge their emotional energy, but unfortunately is usually ineffective:

  • the individual does not fully release their energy, and
  • generally neither originator nor recipient learn from diatribe.

For effectiveness, personal story must be combined with good information, information that is logical and ethical, and which meets the recipient in a manner that the recipient trusts. Unfortunately, this kind of communication is uncommon. Thus it is essential that communicators work to include the frames of “opponents” — those who, often, are simply attempting to include their frames, and come from a position of argument.

From my perspective, the major need is to find promote cooperation by inclusivity. This requires both personal contact and time for relationship to develop. Given that evolving climate disruption has a time frame, I attempt to work in a manner that hopes/trusts that this effort will be enough! It has been my experience over my lifetime, especially in my career as a therapist, that change often comes in totally unexpected fashion, sometimes in what seems miraculous fashion.

Why We Ignore Climate Change, Part 6

The need for distrust: betrayal.
Modern complexity is so disruptive of healthy living.

These posts explore a précis I did of George Marshall’s book Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Ignore Climate Change (2014), starting 20170122. Much of the information disheartens me, but it also clarifies the possibility of better outcome.

One more post to go to complete this series — it has seemed long, but I believe the ideas to be important. The next post, on the final chapter of the book, will summarize my thoughts as well.

Chapter 38. Intimations of mortality. Why the future goes dark. We all know we are going to die, and we used to be able to cope with the thought that our life was contributing to something larger that would survive this. Now even that has been taken away from us. [Such losses overwhelm us.]

One of the destructive aspects of scientific materialism. Human beings respond to emotional narrative — the glory of the material-based cosmos thrills us with its complexity, but does not provide a sense of purpose. This is one of the reasons I ascribe to panpsychism (philosophically) and panentheism (spiritually) — they offer me greater depth of awe.

Chapter 39. From the head to the heart. The phony division between science and religion. Conviction is a condition of strongly held opinion, reached through a personal evaluation of the evidence. We know what needs to be done, and we know how it must be done. Yet, despite the information at our disposal, unfortunately very little is done. It is a long journey from the head to the heart; and an even longer journey from the heart to the hands.

Both science and spirituality seek to honor the cosmos, and are not opposed (although they have been interpreted as such) — the historic division occurred largely because of power politics of the 13th century, sustained since by the self-righteous struggles of both ends of the spectrum. We need a narrative that includes both, but most importantly we need to stop arguing details when we do not recognize the centrality of our ignorance. Then perhaps we could treat the world, this planet and its biosphere, with the respect it deserves.

Chapter 40. Climate conviction. What the green team can learn from the God squad. Climate change appears to be hopeless because people will never be prepared to make a sacrifice based on rational calculation, but this is not the case with religions, which contain sacred values that are so fundamental that they are entirely nonnegotiable. In religion, the reward for belief comes from belonging to a community of believers, and the cost of disbelief is social rejection. The language of climate change is strongly based in guilt and blame, and contains no language of forgiveness. Not surprisingly, people either reject the entire moralistic package, or generate self-forgiveness to ingenious licensing.

What will it take for we humans to know and honor a value system that treats the world appropriately?

Chapter 41. Why we are wired to ignore climate change . . . and why we are wired to take action. The issues of climate change are difficult to challenge; they are complex, unfamiliar, slow moving, invisible, and intergenerational. They require certain short-term loss in order to mitigate against uncertain longer-term loss. They challenged deeply held assumptions about comfort, about gases that we have considered benign, and that our familiar environment has become dangerous and uncertain. Cooperation amongst large numbers of rival social groups is required for a distribution of losses, and thereafter the allocation of the greatly diminished shared atmospheric commons. We all contribute moral responsibility together with the powerlessness of individual action. Climate change is exceptionally multivalent, lending itself to multiple interpretations of causality, timing, and impact. This leaves it extremely vulnerable to our innate disposition to select information so that confirms our pre-existing assumptions. These constructed narratives become so culturally specific that people who do not identify with their values can reject the issue they explain. The bottom line is that we do not accept climate change because we wish to avoid the anxiety it generates, and the deep changes it requires.

. . . and why we are wired to take action. Nonetheless, we are capable of dealing with all aspects of climate change. We have a virtually unlimited capacity to accept things that might otherwise prove to be cognitively challenging once they are supported by shared conviction, reinforced by social norms,  and conveyed in narratives that speak to our sacred values. We currently feel isolated and powerless, but could readily be mobilized if our concerns and hopes become validated within a community of shared conviction and purpose.

Unfortunately, it is not yet clear at what point we will fully engage in this process. Readers of this blog will know that I do not believe climate change to be a technological issue — it is an emotional issue reflective of our hubris as a species. We have much maturing to do as such.

To be continued.

Why We Ignore Climate Change, Part 5

distrust03
The Central Issue of Our Civilization

These posts explore a précis I did of George Marshall’s book Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Ignore Climate Change (2014), starting 20170122. Much of the information disheartens me, but it also clarifies the possibility of better outcome.

Chapter 31. Precedents and presidents. How climate policy lost the plot. The issue of climate change emerged at the time of unusual optimism, when there were three very recent precedents of proven success and international cooperation: reduction of nuclear arms, reduction of ozone-depleting chemicals, and reduction of acid rain pollution. All were resolved with improved technology. In retrospect, these issues had such strong metaphorical similarities to climate change that policymakers failed to notice the glaring and important differences — the differences between solvable tame problems and multifactorial wicked problems. Unfortunately, these precedents were of an entirely more manageable scale than climate change. As with all frames, these precedents focused the attention, and defined the areas of disattention — thus, climate change could be defined entirely and exclusively is a problem of gases.

Precedents can be unintended disinformation. Only very slowly is our culture coming to recognize the complexity of climate disruption, especially the issues that relate to cultural maturity — my stance that global warming is not a technological issue; rather it arises from the underpinning of our civilization.

Chapter 32. Wellhead and tailpipe. Why we keep fueling the fire we want to put old. From the very beginning, fossil fuel production was outside the frame of climate change. The focus on tailpipe gases ignored wellhead production, including exploration and development. Because climate change is multivalent and wicked, it can have multiple interpretations, but exists only in the frame that people choose to have.

Climate disruption is much more than a greenhouse gas issue. How blind we are to our own follies!

Chapter 33. The black gooey stuff. Why oil companies await our permission to go out of business. The social construction of risk generates CRAP (a.k.a. compulsive risk assessment psychosis). This allows the fossil fuel industry to focus on the future development of technology, especially Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), as a solution to global warming — the optimism of technology and consumerism.

Again, our blindness.

Chapter 34. Moral imperatives. How we diffuse responsibility for climate change. The use of passive voice allows confusion of responsibility. Obfuscation allows governments to create the impression that something is being done, while simultaneously preventing anything from happening.

And unfortunately, some of the blindness occurs by deliberately putting on dark glasses.

Chapter 35. What did you do in the great climate work, daddy? Why we don’t really care what our children think. Professionals assume that their privileged position in the world will immunize their children from the worst impacts of climate change. The choice to have children compels those who have children to write a narrative around climate change in which the overall prognosis becomes more optimistic, their own emissions become less significant, they become less vulnerable, and they accept a world of extreme inequality of future outcomes on their behalf.

Wow. Our biases come to the surface in many diverse ways, especially moved by moralistic slogans.

Chapter 36. The power of one. How climate change became your fault. Climate change is unique in that our individual contributions can be measured down to the last gram; no other global issue has this characteristic. In reality, the promotion of personal responsibility was a narrative gambit to define climate change as a problem that lay at the very furthest end of the tailpipe in the purchasing decisions of the individual. Creating personal responsibility leads to blame and resentment. It is conservatives who have the greatest moral emphasis on personal responsibility; and it is liberal individualists, with their highly individualized values, who are actually the group least suited to working together for a shared goal. Small changes in lifestyle lend license to tomorrow, justifying excess in other areas. What is needed is the power of all, not the power of one.

Guilt is not an effective motivator. There are so many different factors in the way in which narrative is received, and these factors vary from group to group. My experience over the years is that what motivates people is a sense that they can do something in a way that is successful; unfortunately, the super-wicked nature of global warming is such that it will always be two steps forward, and three backwards, and only occasionally will it be four steps forward, perhaps to long-term success. This is not a recipe for engagement.

Chapter 37. Degrees of separation. How climate experts cope with what they know. They cope as human beings, with all the anxieties and inconsistencies of each of us.

As Pogo said: “We have found the enemy. And he is us!” The only way I myself have managed is to bracket my issues. Human like the rest of us.

To be continued.