FROM PARIS TO NASHVILLE

9 01 2016

In December, the 21st “Council of Parties” to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change took place in Paris. Almost everybody seemed to understand that we are in “no more fooling around” territory, with some notable exceptions, like, f’rinstance, India and Saudi Arabia. Ironically, these are two of the countries with the most to lose from further climate change–like, their inhabitability.  Even so, it has become common knowledge that climate change denialism has largely been, um, fuelled by oil companiesbig-oil-the-new-big-tobacco-29081 who did the research in the 70’s and 80’s and, like the tobacco companies before them, realized that their product was lethal, and who nonetheless chose to elevate their short-term bottom line over the long-term survival of not just their customers, as with the tobacco companies, but of the human race, along with most other species on the planet. I could be snide and sneer about the oxymoronic quality of the phrase “corporate ethics,” but it’s not just corporations that prioritize reaping short-term benefits over preventing long-term threats.  It’s a fairly common human trait, it turns out, and one that is plaguing our efforts to stop doing things that release more carbon and accelerate climate change, and to start doing things that will capture carbon and reverse our ever more tightly spiralling spin into planetary oblivion. In order to reverse climate change, we must reverse our own conditioned responses.  The outer depends on the inner, as always.

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NEWNESS

8 01 2016

This is the 16th chapter of Charles Eisenstein’s “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible.” If you like what he has to say, please buy his book.

Let us pause for a moment to question the newness of the new story. After all, one of the hallmarks of the old story is the glorification of change, of novelty, of constantly discarding the old in favor of something new and better, the latest technological marvel in an endless saga of progress that devalues old relationships, knowledge, and traditions. Fixation on the new can also become a kind of escapism that sees existing problems as inconsequential, since we will leave them behind when we enter the “new” world. Some look to technology to save us, hoping that more novelty can rescue us from the disastrous unanticipated consequences of previous novelty; for example, that nanotechnology will reverse the climate effects of fossil fuel technology. There is nothing new about that ambition. So I would like to preempt that concern by clarifying that the new story is only new in the context of what we in modern “civilized” society are used to.

Many readers will recognize that the Story of Interbeing echoes the worldview of various indigenous tribes and ancient wisdom traditions around the world. None of the principles enunciated herein are new at all. I am wary, however, of appealing to “indigenous wisdom” as a way to legitimize my beliefs, first, because that would imply a uniformity across indigenous belief systems that trivializes their diversity; second, because various elements of indigenous spirituality have oft been ripped from their context and used as sales props for all manner of questionable products and ideas; third, because to draw too sharp a distinction between the civilized and the indigenous obscures our common humanity and perpetrates a kind of inverted racism that superficially valorizes, but ultimately demeans, those labeled as indigenous…..

read the rest here

….In a conversation, the Lakota Aloysius Weasel Bear told me that he once asked his grandfather, “Grandpa, the White Man is destroying everything, shouldn’t we try to stop him?” His grandfather replied, “No, it isn’t necessary. We will stand by. He will outsmart himself.” The grandfather recognized two things in this reply: (1) that Separation carries the seeds of its own demise, and (2) that his people’s role is to be themselves. But I don’t think that this is an attitude of callousness that leaves the White Man to his just deserts; it is an attitude of compassion and helping that understands the tremendous importance of simply being who they are. They are keeping alive something that the planet and the community of all being needs.

By the same token, our culture’s fascination with all things indigenous is not merely the latest form of cultural imperialism and exploitation. True, the final stage of cultural domination would be to turn Native ways into a brand, a marketing image. And certainly there are some in my culture who, sundered from community and from a real identity, adopt Native pseudo-identities and pride themselves on their connections to Native culture, spirituality, people, and so forth. Underneath that, however, we recognize that the surviving First Peoples have something important to teach us. We are drawn to their gift, to the seed that they have preserved until the present time. To receive this seed, it is not necessary to participate in their rituals, take an animal name, or claim a Native ancestor, but only to humbly see what they have preserved, so that memory may awaken. Until recently, such seeing was impossible for us, blinkered by our cultural superiority complex, our arrogance, our apparent success in mastering the universe. Now that converging ecological and social crises reveal the bankruptcy of our ways, we have the eyes to see the ways of others.

music:  Eliza Gilkyson, “Through the Looking Glass

Eliza Gilkyson “Requiem





CO-OPPING NASHVILLE

13 12 2015

As many of you probably know, I ran for Metro Council last summer.  My candidacy was pretty minimal–I made no attempt to recruit volunteers or raise money, and spent none of my own.  I created a blog and a Facebook page to lay out my platform, attended several candidate forums, posted ideas and answers on several internet voter education sites, and was interviewed by the Nashville Scene, which, as it did when Howard Switzer ran for Governor, trivialized my campaign and ignored my issues because they’re Democrats and we’re Greens, and they don’t care for competition on the left. (I was hoping to provide a link to the job the Scene did on my friend Howard, but they have apparently opted to chuck that article down the ol’ memory hole. Probably a good call on their part.)

There were three key pillars in my platform.  One was re-localizing Nashville, economically, socially, and politically–creating neighborhoods in which people could attend school, shop, work, and go out and socialize without needing to use an automobile–thus simplifying the city’s traffic problems–and granting these neighborhoods a fair amount of control over their zoning, codes enforcement, new construction, schools, and policing.  Another pillar was to identify and foster industries that would serve local needs that are currently being met by goods imported from across the continent or across the ocean.  The third pillar was to foster co-operatives as a form of small-d democratic community organization–not just food co-ops and other retail establishments, but worker-owned service and manufacturing co-ops, and housing co-ops, as well.  These worker-owned co-ops would include the local-needs industries, and the housing co-ops would be part of a larger context of urban land trusts. All these would serve to increase opportunities and living standards for lower-income Nashvillians, stabilize their neighborhoods, and empower them with an ownership stake in the places where they work, shop, and live. My proposals were largely modelled on the ones that made Bernie Sanders’ reputation as Mayor of Burlington–they were radical and populist but pragmatic and very “doable.” They are also infectious, in the sense that people hear them, like them, and make them their own.  Their emphasis on citizen, not government, ownership appeals to people all over the political spectrum.2015_1206co_2

That was my basic message.  About 2,300 Nashville voters heard it and signalled their approval by voting for me.  That earned me second-to-last standing in the election, but, for me, the important part of my campaign was that, in the course of attending the candidate forums, I got to speak repeatedly to the candidates who did win the election.  Hey, at several of these, there were more candidates on the stage than voters in the audience! Besides, candidates are also voters, and we each had four votes in the election besides the one each of us was likely to cast for ourselves.

And so, I planted my seeds, with no idea which ones would sprout or where, and, once the election was over, happily returned to my wooded hollow and my usual pursuits.  Imagine my surprise early last week when I glanced through my email inbox and discovered that the Tennessee Alliance for Progress (TAP), in partnership with Nashville Organized for Action and Hope (NOAH) and the Southern Grassroots Economies Project, (which springs from the venerable Highlander Folk Center) was sponsoring an all-day workshop on….creating co-operatives in Nashville.  How could I not go?

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THE PARTY OF PSYCHOSIS, THE PARTY OF NEUROSIS, AND THE GREEN ALTERNATIVE

1 11 2015

First, a short news article from Democracy Now:

…in New Hampshire, an intruder armed with a hatchet was caught inside a Planned Parenthood clinic early Wednesday morning after smashing computers, furniture, plumbing fixtures, medical equipment, windows and walls. The Claremont clinic, which provides a range of services, but not abortions, was spray-painted with the word “murderer” earlier this month.

The perpetrator turned out to be a teenager.  In Israel, the police routinely shoot Palestinian teenagers who act like that.  They call them “terrorists.” So….sure, the vandalism in New Hampshire was just plain stupid, but isn’t it also “terrorism”? And, if it’s ” terrorism,” shouldn’t those who incited it be prosecuted along with the perp? I’m looking at you, Republicans andFaux News.

Planned Parenthood has not done anything illegal or unethical, but it has been condemned in the court of right-wing opinion, and legislatures across the country are effectively vandalizing the organization by cutting off state funding, eliminating a whole spectrum of health care services for low-income women.

They claim they’re doing this in the name of “Christianity,”a religion whose holy book says:

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ORTHODOXY

1 11 2015

This is a chapter from Charles Eisenstein’s book, “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.” It can be read on line for free, but please consider buying a copy to support his work.

That is at bottom the only courage that is demanded of us: to have courage for the most strange, the most singular and the most inexplicable that we may encounter. That mankind has in this sense been cowardly has done life endless harm; the experiences that are called “visions,” the whole so-called “spirit-world,” death, all those things that are so closely akin to us, have by daily parrying been so crowded out of life that the senses with which we could have grasped them are atrophied.

—Rilke

The convergence of spirituality and activism mirrors a broader reunion of spirit and matter, in which we understand the two realms as one. This is different from the claim of science to have explained away any phenomenon we might call spiritual. More than a reduction of spirit to matter, it is an elevation of matter to spirit.

This reunion is still incomplete. There are still many political activists who will be appalled at this book’s reference to phenomena that they label as “scientifically unproven” or causal principles they label as unscientific. They do not realize that scientific orthodoxy is cut from the same cloth and serves the same ends as the rest of our dominant institutions. It contributes to the maintenance of the Story of Separation just as much as economics, politics, or organized religion……

read the rest here

…..There has probably been something in this chapter to tweak nearly everyone. When things fall apart, we look for a redoubt, some familiar institution that we can rely on as a repository of goodness and truth. In this age, there is none: not science, not education, not medicine, not academia. Even our spirituality, as we have seen, is rife with the thought forms of Separation.

It is quite natural to react defensively to the falling apart of the world, to cling to it all the more tightly. If you react emotionally to my aspersions on one of your sacred cows, it probably means that something beyond mere opinion is threatened. Perhaps you disagree with me about the efficacy of acupuncture or the authenticity of crop circles. Is it just an intellectual disagreement, or are you a little bit angry? What emotionally tinged judgments accompany the disagreement? That I am a simpleminded dupe? That I am ignorant of basic science? That I have neglected to examine contrary evidence that would spoil my wishful thinking? That my beliefs are outrageous, contemptible, or shameful? Do you justify the contempt with reasoning like “These beliefs give people false hope and distract them from solutions that might actually work”? If so, is that really why you are mad, or is it something else? I have found that when I react emotionally to an idea that contradicts my beliefs, usually it is because it threatens my story of the world or my story of self, creating a kind of existential unease. I feel a sense of violation.

None of this is to imply that if you respond emotionally to my unconventional statements, you are proved wrong and I am proved right. All it implies is that your rejection has little to do with evidence or logic. Evidence and logic are tools we use to justify and flesh out our beliefs, but we are deceiving ourselves to think that they are the source of our beliefs. I will return to this idea, because it is crucial to understanding the process of belief change as well; and clearly, for our world to have a chance of surviving, a lot of beliefs are going to have to change.

 

music: Material, “Into the 7th House” (sorry, not available on line!)





THE CONTEXT OF THE ASSAULT ON PLANNED PARENTHOOD

11 10 2015

First of all, we have to accept that mainstream American politics has long been about which party’s lies resonate better with the voters.  For most of the last 35 years, the Republicans have had the more popular fantasy, to the point where the Democrats have had to borrow parts of it just to be able to get a hand in the cookie jar from time to time (I’m lookin’ at you, Obama, Bill, and Hillary!).  A delusional belief system accompanied by compulsive lying would be easy to spot and treat if it were the province of only a few isolated individuals, but, since similar delusions and manias have a grip on the minds of millions of people, it becomes tempting to simply accept them as consensus reality and go along with the madness, forgetting that it’s what we once vowed to cure. “Of course American politics is built on ego, selfishness, greed, delusions of grandeur, and overwhelming paranoia.  Of course you’re always going to have to choose the lesser of two evils. Get used to it!”

Lately, however, the Republican side of the duopoly has reached a pitch of madness. There have even been signs that it might be turning into a healing crisis, rather than a fatal spinout.  There are some signs that this same healing crisis has spread into the Democrats, as well.  Part of the Democrats’ delusion has long been that they, as the more populist wing of the corporate duopoly party, offer a real alternative to the Republicans.  “Hey, we’re for abortion and gay marriage!  Vote for us, ‘cos we’re cool!” Get ’em by the short hairs, and their hearts and minds will follow, eh?

I think we can trace the beginning of this particular delusional/manic episode to the 2000 election, when the Republicans turned Al Gore’s wonky, intelligent, detail-oriented personality into a major campaign issue, as if the qualities that might make him a good President were drawbacks, reasons to vote for his opponent, who seemed to embody the very opposite of those qualities. The Republicans, I believe, compounded this by conspiring to steal the election from Gore, a crime which the Democrats chose to ignore, instead blaming Ralph Nader and the Green Party. In psychological terms, that is known as displacement.

That illustrates the fundamental dynamic that has played out between Republicans and Democrats in all the instances I am going to relate:  an unfair contest between the cruel and the clueless, in which the clueless remain clueless about why they keep losing, or even why they keep playing the kind of games they lose. Where I grew up, I was taught that, if somebody says something that seems to be dripping with weird implications, you don’t just play along like nothing is happening, you say what those implications seem to be, letting the chips fall, and the poop fly, where they may. That is what I am going to do here.

We’ll skip over the near certainty that 9-11 was a flimflam and the  absolute certainty that Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction” was a con, and check into 2004, when the Republicans again turned what should have been a strong “selling point” for Democratic candidate John Kerry–his war record–into a new political verb–they “Swift boated” him, emphasizing

John Kerry redeems himself/why they hate him

John Kerry redeems himself/why they hate him

a version of what happened to Kerry in Vietnam that painted a much more negative picture of him–they said he turned and ran.  His own crew members deny that.  But here’s the thing:  the comrades-in-arms who attempted to discredit him also shared a dislike for his later change of heart–he joined Vietnam Veterans for Peace, and became a major spokesperson for the group. I think that’s where he redeemed himself, but it really burned some of his old war buddies’ bacon.  They did not care for the notion that they had fought on the side of injustice. Sorry, guys. US intervention in Vietnam was wrong, and Ho Chi Minh was right, even if the repressive Vietnam of today is far from the U.S. Constitution-inspired workers’ and peasants’ paradise that Ho envisioned.  I also think that the Democrats’ use of Kerry’s “war heroism” as a selling point shows that, whatever their disagreements, Republicans and Democrats agree on the importance of American imperialism. Read the rest of this entry »





SPIRIT

13 09 2015

This is the 14th chapter of Charles Eisenstein’s “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.”  You can read the whole chapter here and buy the book here.  Please buy it.  Charles Eisenstein is worth supporting!

There is another world, but it is in this one.

―W. B. Yeats

The cynical reader might suppose that I will unveil “spirituality”as an escape from the bleak, dispiriting universe of the Story of Separation. I won’t, because unfortunately, spirituality as we typically conceive it is itself a key component of Separation. It concedes that the desolate materialism offered by science is essentially correct: that sacredness, purpose, and sentience cannot inhere in matter itself, cannot be found among the generic subatomic building blocks of the material world. These things, says spirituality, reside instead in another, nonmaterial realm, the realm of spirit.

Given that premise, the goal of spirituality becomes to transcend the material realm and ascend into the spiritual. A kind of antimaterialism infuses such teachings as “You are not your body” as well as aspirations to “raise one’s vibrations.” Given that our environmental collapse comes from antimaterialism as well (a devaluing and desacralization of the material world), we might want to reconsider these teachings. What is so special about “high” vibrations? Is a bassoon less beautiful than a flute? Is a rock less sacred than a cloud? Is Earth less sacred than Heaven? Is superior better than inferior? Is high better than low? Is abstract better than concrete? Is reason better than feeling? Is pure better than messy? Is man better than woman?…..

….That doesn’t mean that every person “should” address every level. We each have unique gifts that draw us toward the work for which those gifts are best suited. Although a healthy, well-rounded person will generally engage the world on multiple levels, being as she is an individual, a friend, a member of a family, a member of a community and a place, an inhabitant of a bioregion, a citizen of a nation, and a member of the tribe of all life on Earth, even a cosmic citizen, it is also true that we go through phases of relative inward and outward focus, action, and quiet, expression and retreat.

When we no longer hold a rigid self/other distinction, then we recognize that the world mirrors the self; that to work on the self it is necessary to work in the world, and to work effectively in the world, it is necessary to work on the self. Of course, there have always been spiritual practitioners who are politically active and political activists who are deeply spiritual, but now the attraction of each realm to the other is becoming irrepressible. More and more social and environmental activists are rejecting mainstream beliefs in ways that are more personal. The Occupy supporter is also likely to support attachment parenting, practice meditation, use alternative medicine. The hippies and the ’60s radicals are converging.

music: Indigo Girls, “Get Together








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