SEXUAL PREDATORS

10 12 2017

As one public figure after another tumbles, I’m starting to wonder whether any man in any position of prominence or authority will be left standing. The number of American politicians and entertainers who are being sacked due to generally well-substantiated charges that they used their power and authority to coerce women who needed their co-operation, into sexual contact that was not voluntary on the woman’s part continues to, um, mount.

It is simply outrageous that there is so much sexual predation in our culture. That it is so pervasive, I think, is because it is not a case of “a few bad apples,” but something systemic. The good news, I think, is that it’s very healthy for this to be coming to light, because awareness of a problem is  the first step towards solving it, and a saner sexual ethos is essential if our species is going to evolve. If we don’t evolve, on this and several other fronts, we are likely headed for a very messy extinction.

I think that the best place to begin is with personal disclosure. For the first several years of my sexual maturity, in my late teens and early twenties, I assumed that what we now call sexual predation was normal male behavior, and many of my early sexual experiences involved me being pushy in ways that, when I look back on them now, make me wince. I had no fame or power to offer, but it was the sixties, and “girls said yes to boys who said no.” I was one of those boys who said no, and I expected my due. I was never “violent,” but you don’t have to be “violent” to be a jerk. I was definitely a jerk. Read the rest of this entry »

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EVIL

10 12 2017

This is the 29th chapter of Charles Eisenstein’s book, “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.” It’s a long one, so I won’t be reading the whole chapter this month. Please buy the book to support Mr. Eisenstein’s work. Thank you!

When we confront something we regard as “evil,” it poses a threat to the self-preservation of ego. We are so busy preserving our existence in the face of this threat that we cannot see the thing clearly at all.

—Chögyam Trungpa

Sometimes in Q&A sessions or internet comments I am confronted with the accusation that I ignore “the dark side of human nature.” I would like to unpack that statement. What is the dark side of human nature? It certainly means more than “Sometimes people do some pretty awful things,” because obviously if it wasn’t someone’s fault or intention to cause harm, that is not very dark. Besides, anyone who has read my work knows that I am well aware of the horrible things we humans have done to each other and the planet. No, when we speak of the dark side of human nature we are making a dispositionist claim: that we do bad things because there is bad within us. We bear within us evil, malice, selfishness, greed, brutality, cruelty, violence, hate, and callousness.

On the one hand, this is trivially true: all of these are parts of the human experience. Even if circumstances bring them out, they must be there to be brought out in the first place. But if it were only that, then the situationist response would be sufficient: change the circumstances that elicit evil. No easy task, this: these “circumstances” include the whole edifice of our civilization all the way down to its foundational mythology of Separation and Ascent. Yet still, a more beautiful world is still possible in principle…..

…..

Jimi told me he’d think about it. He didn’t do as I suggested, but let me tell you what happened. Later that week Jimi arranged a meeting with the thief. He went accompanied by his friend M., a martial arts expert. The thief brought two of his friends along as well. He said he really wanted the item and didn’t want to pay for it. His two friends started egging him and Jimi on, suggesting that they fight for it. Jimi (who is six-feet-two and has also studied martial arts) said, “Forget it, I’m not going to fight you for this petty material object. You keep it. I don’t want your money.”

The thief was taken aback. Then he said, “You know, that doesn’t feel right. I shouldn’t have taken it like that. Let me give you some money. How about $50? That’s all I can afford.”

Whereas each had held the other in a story of enmity, now there was humanity.

Bruce Cockburn, “The Gospel of Bondage” and “The Gift





THE UNITED STATES OF DENIAL

12 11 2017

I want to explore the geography of the United States of Denial just a little. No, “The United States of Denial” is not a new name for Egypt. I’m talking about the good ol’ USA, where we are all united in being in various states of denial. Some of those states are adjacent to each other, some are pretty far apart, and some of the ones that are adjacent to each other are simultaneously quite distant from their neighbors. That’s one of the ways we’re united–in denying our denial. Those other people–they’re in denial Not me!

There’s Republican states of denial, Democratic states of denial, and then there are various liberal-left-socialist-Green states of denial, as well. I think it’s wonderful that, even though the United States of America has effectively closed its political process to all but two basically similar parties, in the United States of Denial there’s room for lots of political flavors.

Republican states of denial have been on the front burner a lot lately. Climate change denial has been front and center, along with science denial in general, as well as denial of racism, sexism, and compassion.  And then, of course, there’s denial of reality in general. Speaking of generals, there’s denial of the danger that a war anywhere in the world would pose to life everywhere in the world.

That particular state of denial, the denial of the danger of war, borders one of the most prominent Democratic states of denial, which also denies the dangers of war. While the Republican state of denial of war danger borders North Korea and Iran, its Democratic counterpart bumps up against Russia. The two states of denial also share a common border with Afghanistan.

Republican climate denialism is so well-known that I’m going to skip over it and give some attention to its neighbor, Democratic climate denialism. Democratic climate denialism is more subtle than the rugged Republican version, which simply denies that the problem exists. Hey, mass extinction is the capitalist way to solve overpopulation!

Read the rest of this entry »





A HOCKEY STICK STORY

12 11 2017

Maybe I’m sentimental, but I still subscribe to Mother Jones Magazine. I first connected with it back in the 70’s, when, like the labor organizer it’s named for, it was a radical voice that both took a clear-eyed look at what is, and laid out a promising, hopeful view of, and path toward, the better future that could be. In the forty years since, the magazine has increasingly become a cheerleader for the mainstream of the Democratic Party, to the point that I think that  if Mother Jones were she still alive, she would be taking legal action against the magazine for sullying her good name. So far, though, every time I’ve felt just about fed up enough to cancel my subscription, they’ve come through with some kind of a must-read-and-share article that has renewed my faith in them.

I’m curious to see what they’ll make of Donna Brazile’s recent tell-all memoir, in which she reveals that the DP really did rig the primaries in exchange for certain financial considerations from the Clinton campaign. Perhaps the lawsuit on those grounds against the DP will be revived. But that’s not what I”m going to focus on tonight. I want to focus, instead, on what I think is the first science fiction story Mother Jones has ever printed. That story is called “You Will Lose Your Job to a Robot.”   It features a hockey stick graph of the rate at which computing power, and thus, automation, is expected to increase.aihockeystick,

The science fiction aspect of this story is not so much the potential advances in computer technology as it is its casual, offhand treatment of climate change, regarding it as a minor inconvenience that will, of course, be managed and dealt with without any serious impact on our Sacred American Way of Life. That’s kind of like confusing spinal meningitis with the flu. Climate change, like spinal meningitis, has its own exponential growth curve. hockeyprojection

Read the rest of this entry »





PSYCHOPATHY

8 10 2017

The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible is available for free at this link, but I urge you to buy the book and show your support for the author.

Note: This another amazingly relevant chapter from a book written four years ago. Because of its length, I am reading half of it this month, and half next month.

If something bites you, it is inside of your clothes.

—Swahili proverb

I have argued that change will come not from overcoming the powers-that-be, but through their transformation. I have stated that we are fundamentally the same being looking out at the world through many sets of eyes. I have described how our perception of evil comes from a lack of understanding of what it is like to be another person. I have asserted that what we do unto the other, we do unto ourselves, and that this is something we can feel. And I have invoked the principle of the gift, that we are all here to contribute our gifts toward something greater than ourselves, and will never be content unless we are. In answer to all of these, sometimes people bring up the counterexample of the psychopath, a distinct subset of humanity that supposedly possesses no compassion, no ability to feel love, and no shame.

These people are, it is said, totally out for themselves, suffering no compunctions in ruthlessly pursuing short-term self-interest. Unfeeling, charming, charismatic, daring, and ruthless, they tend to rise to the top in business and government. To a large extent, they are the powers-that-be, and it would be naive to think that anything but raw force would stop them. Without pity, without conscience, without even the capacity to feel anything but a few basic proto-emotions, they are the epitome of evil. According to many researchers, they can never be cured. They don’t want to be cured. They are happy the way they are…..

….

Many classic psychopathic behaviors make sense within the context of a general shutdown in feeling. Inured to feeling, the psychopath nonetheless has, like all of us, a strong physiological need to feel. Therefore he is given to impulsiveness, drama, pointlessly risky behavior that doesn’t contribute to his self-interest at all. Anything powerful enough to breach the walls he has constructed will attract him. For some, it could be the intensity of infatuation, for others, murder, for others closing the big deal. It could be the big risk, the big purchase, the big gamble. Many psychopaths are addicted to such things that, they sometimes say, make them feel alive. Most academic researchers believe psychopathy is a conjunction of two independent axes of variation: lack of empathy, and impulsivity. In my hypothesis, the two are closely linked. The risky behavior is an attempt to breach the lack of feeling.

I must acknowledge that there is very little research supporting this hypothesis. I base it on my own experience—first and foremost with myself. I was an extremely sensitive child and, due to traumatic bullying in my early teens, learned to shut off most of my feelings. Though the shutoff wasn’t nearly as profound as that of a psychopath, still it enabled me to do some pretty callous, manipulative things. I also exhibited other psychopathic traits, such as impulsivity and a penchant for drama. I was trapped in numbness and wanted desperately to feel. Tori Amos’s lyric spoke to me: “Give me life, give me pain, give me my self again.”

music: Tori Amos “Little Earthquakes” (Note: the video for this song contains a lot of shockingly graphic images, as befits a song that seems to be about domestic violence.)

Second half, which concludes the November broadcast:

In addition, I have also had extensive interactions with several psychopathic individuals, at least one of whom was profoundly so: a man whose ruthlessness knew no bounds. I’ll call him C. He also had other classically psychopathic traits: glib self-justification, total lack of shame, extreme impulsiveness, extraordinary charisma, and great physical courage that often crossed the line into foolhardiness. But there were a few times when I caught a fleeting glimpse of something else, a tenderness or a purity that came out in very convoluted ways, for example as spontaneous, secret, and sometimes magnanimous acts of generosity or caregiving. These were distinct from the cynical devices he routinely enacted to seem a swell guy. There was something else, a real human being. As far as I know, that real human being is still deeply buried, but it is in there and somehow, someday, might awaken……

…..Imagine what this world could be, if we could channel that tremendous pent-up life-force toward something worth caring about. To be sure, most people do have access to things worth caring about on a personal level. There are babies to hold, shoulders to cry on, gardens to plant. Our Story of the World and its systems often squeeze these simple avenues of service to the hurried margins of life. Besides, we also need more than just these, at least in certain stages of life. That is why we, and especially young people, hunger for a cause. Like F., we want to care. We want to find a way to open the floodgates of the heart. Such things as “ending polio in Africa” or “internet freedom” might serve for a time, but eventually they cease to excite us. The gates shut again, maybe via burnout or compassion fatigue. For some of us, none of these causes, taken in isolation, can pierce the ennui, the uncaring, the cool. We need to see what bigger thing we are serving. We need a story of the world we really care about.

Music: Bjork, “It’s In Our Hands





HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM…..

8 10 2017

music: The Band, “Look Out, Cleveland

This is a story about Harvey, Irma, and Maria. What an awesome threesome! A lot of ink, pixels, and hot air has gone into telling their stories, but not much of that has taken a “deep green perspective.” They’re part of a much bigger picture–really, part of a couple of “much bigger pictures,” one nested within the other, like a small shark intent on snapping up a fish, not realizing that he’s about to be snapped up by the jaws of a much larger shark. To explore this hierarchy of hungry sharks, but let’s start with Tropical Storm Harvey.

Twelve years to the day after Katrina flooded New Orleans, America’s forty-sixth largest city, Harvey, a much bigger storm, inundated America’s fourth largest city.

Consider the Houston recipe: Establish a sprawling, extremely toxic chemical industry pretty much at sea level on a low-lying, hurricane-prone shore. Run lots of pipelines full of oil, gas, and other toxic substances from all across the country to this area, making it one of the essential nodes that supports our whole way of life. Allow a large city to grow mixed in with all these chemical plants and pipelines, so that virtually the entire residential area of the city is within smelling distance of a chemical facility. Don’t do zoning. In fact, take an “anything goes” ethic when it comes to environmental safety standards, including a good strong dose of climate science denial.

Put this mixture on a shelf for a few decades and pay attention to other things, while carbon emissions due to that chemical industry raise the temperature of the planet, causing sea level and the intensity of storms to rise.

What could possibly go wrong?

Read the rest of this entry »





THE LARGEST AND LEAST POWERFUL GREEN PARTY IN THE WORLD, AND HOW TO EMPOWER IT

24 09 2017

The United States has the largest Green Party in the world, with around a quarter million registered voters, plus thousands more supporters in states like Tennessee that don’t have party registration. In survey after survey, and as demonstrated by Bernie Sanders’ galvanizing effect on the American public, substantial majorities of Americans support Green positions, from universal single-payer health care greenyetto a greater emphasis on alternative energy and a cleaner environment, to local economies and greater community and economic democracy, but you wouldn’t know it to look at election results, where the Green Party rarely even gets into double digits, let alone is a contender, in any election higher than the local level.

As I researched this piece, I discovered that it was easy to find links backing up my statements about public support for health care, alternative energy, a cleaner environment, and stronger local economies, but it seems as if nobody has thought to ask about the radical notion of having more “everyday people” involved in their own governance, let alone the ownership and governance of their workplaces. Both of these have been taken up enthusiastically in places where they have been tried, such as Burlington, Vermont when, and ever since, Bernie was mayor, Jackson, Mississippi today, and the increasing number of worker owned and managed companies around the country. The Democrats will attempt to co-opt Green Party positions on the environment, alternate energy, and the minimum wage, but you can bet they won’t touch economic, workplace, and community democracy. The change from hierarchical ownership and direction by the few to governance by the network of people actually involved in a workplace or community  threatens the corporatist, oligarchic monopoly of the few that currently calls the shots in this country, and thus consideration of such ideas is not welcome in polite society. As Noam Chomsky said,

chomskynarrow

I think that’s a very apt description of what’s going on the US these days: there’s tremendous passion and polarization around scores of issues, while the root cause of all of them is never touched, and keeps throwing up new shoots that we activists hack at until we grow weary. If we are going to put an end to all the many levels of oppression that saturate our society, we need to uproot the oligarchy that is the source of our oppression. It’s not just an oligarchy that’s outside us. All of us have internalized it to some extent, and we each need to win our own our personal psycho-spiritual revolution if the external revolution is going to succeed.

Meanwhile, around the globe, Green Parties are achieving a satisfying level of electoral success in a great many countries, and changing those countries’ priorities for the better in the process. Let’s examine some of those countries, and then look into why it hasn’t happened here, which leads directly to what it will take in order for it to happen here. Read the rest of this entry »








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