PAINTING OURSELVES INTO A CORNER

3 04 2016

American democracy has been functionally describable as “a two-party system” for most of our country’s history. There have been “third parties,” but they have rarely been successful at breaking into the mainstream. One exception is the Republican Party, which took advantage of the collapse of the former “second party,” the Whigs, to  become the other major party besides the Democrats, in the election of 1856, running bearded, long-haired John C. Fremont for President.

JCFrémont

John C. Fremont, the first Republican Presidential candidate–a long-haired guy with a beard.

They didn’t win that election, but went on to win in 1860 with Abe Lincoln, and kept that string going for most of the next seventy-two years, until Roosevelt routed Hoover in 1932.

Meanwhile, other parties kept hoping to do what the Republicans had done. The Populists and Socialists never got much traction; the Progressive Party, championed by Theodore Roosevelt and later Robert LaFollette, came closest. The Progressives were actually a spinoff from the Republicans, and succeeded in diverting enough Republican votes to allow the election of Woodrow Wilson, who first kept us out of, and then got us into, World War I. Hey, it was a good excuse for arresting radicals and labor organizers. It’s kind of amusing, in light of the current political landscape, to think of the Republicans as the progressive part of our political spectrum, but that is how they started out–taking the radical position that slavery should be limited and, ultimately, eradicated. I am sure that, when they endorsed this idea in 1856, they had no idea how soon it would come to pass. That should serve as an inspiration to all of us. Thank you, Republicans!

So, what has being a two-party system meant for the form and direction of politics in this country? Read the rest of this entry »





DOING

3 04 2016

This is a chapter from Charles Eisenstein’s book, “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.” You can read the whole chapter here, and buy the book here. Please consider supporting Mr. Eisenstein’s work by buying the book!

All of these flavors of scarcity share a common root, a kind of existential scarcity for which I cannot find a name. It is a scarcity of being, the feeling “I am not enough” or “There is not enough life.” Born of the cutoff of our extended selves that inter-exist with the rest of the universe, it never lets us rest. It is a consequence of our alienation, our abandonment to a dead, purposeless universe of force and mass, a universe in which we can never feel at home, a universe in which we are never held by an intelligence greater than our own, never part of an unfolding purpose. Even more than the scarcity of time or money, it is this existential unease that drives the will to consume and control.

The primary habit that arises from it is the habit of always doing. Here and now is never enough. You might protest that most people in the Western world spend vast amounts of time doing nothing productive at all, watching TV and playing video games, but these are displacements of doing, and not nondoing.

I am not saying that it is bad to do. I am saying that there is a time to do, and a time not to do, and that when we are slave to the habit of doing we are unable to distinguish between them. As I mentioned earlier, the time to do is when you know what to do. When you don’t know what to do, and act anyway, you are probably acting out of habit…..

music: Indigo Girls, “Let It Be Me

Sheila Chandra, “La Sagesse

Jenifer Berezan, “ReTurning” (excerpt)





THE PREJUDICE THAT UNITES US

12 03 2016

It’s been quite a month. Republicans are starting to fear that the Trumpenstein monster they have created might be about to tear them, and their party, limb from limb. “The Ku Klux Klan endorsed Ronald Reagan,” they admit, “but he refused their endorsement.” That conveniently ignores the fact that the KKK endorsed Reagan because he embodied their principles, and in rejecting the Ku Klux Klan, Reagan did not abandon the ideas for which they endorsed him. The whirlwind the GOP has been sowing for fifty years, ever since Barry Goldwater, may be about to blow them away.

Meanwhile, among Democrats, Hillary Clinton is doing exactly what I predicted she would, stealing Bernie Sanders’ somewhat radical rhetoric. I don’t expect her embrace of his positions to last much past the election. If she wins the nomination but loses the election, I suspect that, in spite of his doing everything he can to avoid being “Naderized” by the Democrats, Sanders will, indeed, be “Naderized,” blamed for raising peoples’ expectations too high and making them dissatisfied with, and less than enthusiastic about, Ms. Clinton.

And Barack Obama, on top of shilling for the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership, has just defended his administration’s half-hearted, half-assed show of regulating Wall Street. It must be really schizy to be  a “progressive” Democrat.

I could spend the hour commenting on all this foolishness, but this is the “Deep Green Perspective,” and what I try to do here  is go to the roots of what’s happening. Tonight, I’m going to examine prejudice, and in particular the one prejudice that nearly all of us share.

Read the rest of this entry »





WHEN I DREAM OF A PLANET IN RECOVERY, by DERRICK JENSEN

12 03 2016

This prose poem by Derrick Jensen, which appeared in the most recent issue of Yes! Magazine, seems to me like the perfect sequel to my post on speciesism. I would like to thank Mr. Jensen for graciously giving his permission for me to read it on the air and publish it here.

In the time after, the buffalo come home. At first only a few, shaking snow off their shoulders as they pass from mountain to plain. Big bulls sweep away snowpack from the soft grass beneath; big cows attend to and protect their young. The young themselves delight, like the young everywhere, in the newness of everything they see, smell, taste, touch, and feel.

Wolves follow the buffalo, as do mallards, gadwalls, blue-winged teal, northern shovelers, northern pintails, redheads, canvasbacks, and tundra swans. Prairie dogs come home, bringing with them the rain, and bringing with them ferrets, foxes, hawks, eagles, snakes, and badgers. With all of these come meadowlarks and red-winged blackbirds. With all of these come the tall and short grasses. With these come the prairies.

In the time after, the salmon come home, swimming over broken dams to forests that have never forgotten the feeling of millions of fish turning their rivers black and roiling, filling the rivers so full that sunlight does not reach the bottom of even shallow streams. In the time after, the forests remember a feeling they’ve never forgotten, of embracing these fish that are as much a part of these forests as are cedars and spruce and bobcats and bears.

In the time after, the beavers come home, bringing with them caddisflies and dragonflies, bringing with them ponds and pools and wetlands, bringing home frogs, newts, and fish. Beavers build and build, and restore and restore, working hard to unmake the damage that was done, and to remake forests and rivers and streams and marshes into what they once were, into what they need to be, into what they will be again..

In the time after, plants save the world.

In the time after, the oceans are filled with fish, with forests of kelp and communities of coral. In the time after, the air is full with the steamy breath of whales, and the shores are laden with the hard shells and patient, ageless eyes of sea turtles. Seals haul out on sea ice, and polar bears hunt them.seaturtle

In the time after, buffalo bring back prairies by being buffalo, and prairies bring back buffalo by being prairies. Salmon bring back forests by being salmon, and forests bring back salmon by being forests. Cell by cell, leaf by leaf, limb by limb, prairie and forest and marsh and ocean; they bring the carbon home, burying it in the ground, holding it in their bodies. They do what they have done before and what they will do again.

The time after is a time of magic. Not the magic of parlor tricks, not the magic of smoke and mirrors, distractions that point one’s attention away from the real action. No, this magic is the real action. This magic is the embodied intelligence of the world and its members. This magic is the rough skin of sharks without which they would not swim so fast, so powerfully. This magic is the long tongues of butterflies and the flowers that welcome them. This magic is the brilliance of fruits and berries  that grow to be eaten by those that then distribute their seeds along with the nutrients necessary for new growth. This magic is the work of fungi that join trees and mammals and bacteria to create a forest. This magic is the billions of beings in a handful of soil. This magic is the billions of beings that live inside you, that make it possible for you to live.

In the time before, the world was resilient, beautiful, and strong. It happened through the magic of blood flowing through capillaries, and the magic of tiny seeds turning into giant redwoods, and the magic of long relationships between rivers and mountains, and the magic of complex dances between all members of natural communities. It took life and death, and the gifts of the dead, forfeited to the living, to make the world strong.

In the time after, this is understood.

In the time after, there is sorrow for those who did not make it: passenger pigeons, great auks, dodos, striped rocksnails, Charles Island tortoises, Steller’s sea cows, Darling Downs hopping mice, Guam flying foxes, Saudi gazelle, sea mink, Caspian tigers, quaggas, laughing owls, St. Helena olives, Cape Verde giant skinks, silver trout, Galapagos amaranths.

dodo-110302

But in those humans and non-humans who survive, there is another feeling, emerging from below and beyond and around and through this sorrow. In the time after, those still alive begin to feel something almost none have felt before, something that everything felt long, long ago. What those who come in the time after feel is a sense of realistic optimism, a sense that things will turn out all right, a sense that life, which so desperately wants to continue, will endure, will thrive.

We, living now, in the time before, have choices. We can remember what it is to be animals on this planet and remember and understand what it is to live and die such that our lives and deaths help make the world stronger. We can live and die such that we make possible a time after where life flourishes, where buffalo can come home, and the same for salmon and prairie dogs and prairies and forests and carbon and rivers and mountains.

music: George Winston, “Before Barbed Wire” and “Frangenti





SCARCITY

12 03 2016

This is another chapter from Charles Eisenstein’s “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.” You can buy the book here.

The hardest thing of all is to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if there is no cat.

―Confucius

Even as the old world comes apart around us, or even as we leave it in disgust, still we carry its conditioning. We have been colonized through and through by the old Story of the World. We are born into its logic, acculturated to its worldview, and imbued with its habits. And all of this is so pervasive as to be nearly invisible. As the comment of the Dogon elder suggests, we take for granted the very things that are at the root of the crisis, helplessly replicating them in all we do.

Wisdom traditions, indigenous worldviews, and sacred stories help to illuminate some of this baggage we carry from the Age of Separation, just like the Dogon elder questioned the operating assumption of scarcity of time. As we become more attuned to a new way of seeing the world, the more we wish to rid ourselves of the burdensome habits of the old. Not only do they no longer resonate with who we are and who we are becoming, but we recognize that trapped by those habits, we cannot help but create the world in their image. To release the habits of separation is therefore more than an issue of self-cultivation; it is also crucial to our effectiveness as activists, healers, and changemakers.

read the rest here

music: Greg Brown, “One Cool Remove” (The second link is to a Shawn Colvin/Mary Chapin Carpenter cover of the song. I like to have gender balance in my song selection, but for technical reasons am unable to play this version on the air.)

to end the show, here’s some serious Sufi Divine Feminine for ya:

Abida Parveen, “Ek Nukta Yaar

 





KEEPING AMERICA SAFE FOR PLUTOCRACY

20 02 2016

This story isn’t exactly new, but it’s worth revisiting in the light of current events.

Nearly two years ago, a couple of professors at Princeton announced that, after studying the relationship between public opinion and political activity at various income levels and the way our government makes laws and takes action, they had concluded that the US was “no longer a democracy.” News reports of their story were quick to say that the researchers’ work showed that America is now an “oligarchy,” but they themselves shied away from that phrase, preferring to call our system “Economic Elite Domination” and “Biased Pluralism.” In an interview, study author Martin Gillens explained that this means that

contrary to what decades of political science research might lead you to believe, ordinary citizens have virtually no influence over what their government does in the United States. And economic elites and interest groups, especially those representing business, have a substantial degree of influence. Government policy-making over the last few decades reflects the preferences of those groups — of economic elites and of organized interests.

Sahil Kapur, who conducted the interview for “Talking Points Memo,” asked several other questions that are worth quoting:

When did things start to become this way?

It’s possible that in earlier eras, that we don’t have data for, that things were better. But in the time period that we do have data for, there’s certainly no such evidence. Over time responsiveness to elites has grown.

Another question was

Which party, Democrat or Republican, caters to the interests of the rich more? Does your research find them to be equal or is one more responsive than the other?

We didn’t look at that in this paper. Other work I’ve done suggest it depends. There are a set of economic issues on which the Democratic party is more consistently supportive of the needs of the poor and middle class. But it’s by no means a strong relationship. Both parties have to a large degree embraced a set of policies that reflect the needs, preferences and interests of the well to do.

Read the rest of this entry »





URGENCY

20 02 2016

This is a chapter from Charles Eisenstein’s book, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.  You can buy it here.

The Way is calm and wide,

Not easy, not difficult.

But small minds get lost.

Hurrying, they fall behind.

—Seng Can

A year or two ago a young man confronted me at a talk in Florida. I’d been describing my view that the paradigm of urgency, heroic efforts, and struggle may itself be part of the problem; that it comes from the same place of scarcity and domination as the conquest of nature; that coming from that place, we might blindly create more of the same. Instead, I suggested, we might try slowing down, perhaps even doing nothing sometimes. Instead of holding ourselves to a high standard of revolutionary asceticism, we might approach life in a spirit of ease and play. Perhaps from this place our creative energies can bring about something truly new for civilization.

The man said something to the following effect (embellished here with words from my own inner critic):….

You can read the whole chapter here.

….None of this should be taken as a rejection of action or a call for passivity. There is a place in this world for effort, for urgency. What I have described is much like a birth process. From what I’ve witnessed in the birth of my children, when the time comes to push, the urge to push is unstoppable. Here is the very epitome of urgency. Between contractions the mother rests. Can you imagine saying to her, “Don’t stop now! You have to make an effort. What happens if the urge doesn’t arise again? You can’t just push when you feel like it!”

“You can’t just do whatever you feel like.” “You can’t just do anything you want.” “You have to learn self-restraint.” “You’re only interested in gratifying your desires.” “You don’t care about anything but your own pleasure.” Can you hear the judgmentality in these admonitions? Can you see how they reproduce the mentality of domination that runs our civilization? Goodness comes through conquest. Health comes through conquering bacteria. Agriculture is improved by eliminating pests. Society is made safe by winning the war on crime. On my walk today, students accosted me, asking if I wanted to join the “fight” against pediatric cancer. There are so many fights, crusades, campaigns, so many calls to overcome the enemy by force. No wonder we apply the same strategy to ourselves. Thus it is that the inner devastation of the Western psyche matches exactly the outer devastation it has wreaked upon the planet. Wouldn’t you like to be part of a different kind of revolution?

music: Eliza Gilkyson, “Through the Looking Glass”

Afro-Celt Sound System, “Inion

 








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