14 09 2014

One of my readers is a guy who was a hippie in San Francisco in the late 60’s, but then took, as it were, “The right-hand path,” deciding that, in his words, “Conservatives have better answers than liberals.”  He first contacted me several years ago to comment on my tendency to refer to the two major parties as “Repuglycans” and “Dumbocrats,” pointing out that this was likely to turn off more people than it would turn on.  Well, those were juvenile insults stemming from my own deep sense of powerlessness in the ongoing circus, and I’ve abandoned the terms.  Last month, he got in touch with me again, asking

 I am curious — assuming you aren’t entrenched in a belief that conservatives are “sociopaths” or suffer from some other deficiency — what you make of this divide and how we might nonetheless speak across it and find some manner of constructively engaging each other…..I do wonder what it means for our country that we have become so polarized and separated that there is almost no temperate discussion across the divide. If you would like to compare notes on that, I’d be quite interested.

to which I replied:

This question, I think, is one of several that needs to be answered–and (those answers) implemented–if complex life forms on the planet are to have a future. As I’ve turned this over in my mind since I first read it, I have come up with several different approaches, and I think I’m going to have to write them down to fully understand what they mean and where they lead. That’s not something I’m going to do right this moment, but  i appreciate your request as a call to organize my thoughts on the subject, including what I mean when I say “sociopath.”

I asked him for more information about how he saw things, so that I would have a better idea of who/what I was addressing, and he wrote

I don’t believe a world of voluntary peasants is necessary or even workable. I don’t believe human nature changes much. I don’t believe the earth is on the verge of ecological collapse. I am not a pacifist. I think war or the threat of war is sometimes necessary. Similar to democracy, I think capitalism is the worst economic system except for all the others. I think technology is the way forward and is steadily raising the standard of living worldwide. I think most leftist efforts to transform society trade minor gains for major unintended consequences.

The time has come for me to fulfil my promise.  To some extent, I’m going to be thinking out loud (so to say), and I’m not quite sure where this is going to land.  It may not be pretty, or even cheerful, but here goes.

First of all, to me, “sociopath” is not pejorative, merely descriptive, because most, if not all, those who are manifesting sociopathic behavior at the upper end of our society (or anywhere else in the social strata) did not make a conscious choice to be who they are,  These individuals were conditioned into their adult selves by the circumstances of their birth and upbringing, and are no more to blame for the   lives they lead than an abused child who acts out in increasingly erratic ways as s/he grows up.  Did I just say that being brought up wealthy, with a sense of entitlement, is a form of child abuse?!  What a thought!  I think it’s important to use the word “sociopath” because we need to be clearly cognizant of what our situation is.

It isn’t just wealthy Republicans who are conditioned to be out of touch with reality. It’s true for most of us–Republicans, Democrats, Greens, Caucasian-Americans, African-Americans, Christians, agnostics, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, even (gasp!) us Buddhists, whose spiritual practice is to free ourselves and others from domination by subconsciously driven behavior.  We’re all bundles of conditioned responses walking around, thinking we have something we call “free will.”  Some of us are more aware of it, and able to compensate for it, than others.

And it isn’t just the ol’ parental situation that determines us.  It’s the community into which we were born, from home to neighbourhood to city, culture, country, religion–all these elements imprint our subconscious, in both intended and unintended ways.  These civilizational levels of conditioning are just as crazy-making as what our parents did to us, but in different ways.  As I see it, our family conditioning relates primarily to how we respond to stimuli, while our cultural conditioning mostly teaches us which stimuli to expect.

It’s not just the climate-change deniers who are out of touch with reality.  It’s all the folks who don’t get that the core values of the culture we live in are the source of our problem. It’s the belief that we can have increased prosperity and economic growth and a stable, healthy environment.  That notion, from my perspective, is just as deluded as the assertion that climate change isn’t happening, or couldn’t possibly be caused by human activity. I’m not saying “It’s those people over there who are the problem!”  Many of the most ecologically responsible among us are just about too neurotic to get along with each other, let alone present what they’re doing in a way that might inspire masses of people. I would place myself in that category, but more on that later.  First, I want to say more about why I see us all, not just “conservatives,” as mentally disturbed.

The base level–climate change denial–is denial of simple, high-school level chemistry.  You can’t burn billions of years of accumulated hydrocarbons in just a couple of centuries, in a closed container (the Earth’s atmosphere), without altering the composition of the gases in the container.  You end up with less oxygen and more carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and methane, and it doesn’t take a big rise in the levels of those chemicals in our atmosphere to lower the pH of the planet’s oceans and raise the amount of heat the planet absorbs, which in turn raises the amount of water the atmosphere can hold, and before you know it the climate becomes unstable, and where the new normal will be is difficult to predict.  It won’t have any regard for our preferences, that’s for sure.

This is a very inconvenient truth.  It means that most of the material aspects of “the American way of life” have got to go, before they kill most of us, and most of the other living creatures on the planet.  We are using up the limited resources of a small planet at a “fast burnout” rate.  Why don’t we slow down and leave some goodies for our great-great grandchildren and the generations beyond them? In the light of this, from my perspective, most of what I hear on the news–Christian and Islamic extremism at home and in the Middle East, sabre-rattling in Europe, industrial expansion in China, promises of a growing U.S. economy–is delusional activity, ignorant acting out by people who are “a danger to self and others,” as our psychiatric manuals and state laws put it.  War and economic expansion make things worse, not better.

So…. why have we burned millions of years worth of hydrocarbons in just a couple of centuries?

The answer lies in the so-called secularization of our society, which was not really “secularization” at all, but a cultural decision to prioritize material values over spiritual ones.  skulldollar copyChristianity in the West has been replaced by what I would call Radical Fundamentalist Financialism, the central doctrine of which is that whatever makes the most money in the short term, regardless of long-term consequences, is the highest good.  Thus, coal, oil, uranium, and gas are extracted, forests are felled. fish and other animals are “harvested” to the point of extinction.  The felled forests become fields, and then the fields are paved over, because those activities make the most money in the short term.  The long-term costs–air, land, and water pollution, declining soil fertility, declining biological diversity, declining food supplies, and a generally declining quality of life, are all seen as pluses from the Financialist viewpoint, because society will have to spend a lot of money to try and fix those situations, and thus somebody will “make a lot of money.”  Cheerful acceptance of Financialism as our common cultural religion is not restricted to “right-wingers.”  I have friends who consider themselves left Democrats, seem fairly wise in some respects, yet think fracking  to increase U.S. natural gas production and “free us from the need to import so much oil” is a good idea.  They’d rather have gas than drinking water.  Is that a rational choice?

But–most of this “dangerous to self and others” behavior is conditioned responses, masquerading as “free will.” It makes sense to the people who act it out.  By and large, they see themselves as caring, responsible people, and in many ways they are.  For the most part, they are good to their children, their spouses,their parents, and their neighbors.  They vote and pay their taxes and keep their lawns mowed. “The banality of evil,” American style. Attempting to force these millions of unwilling people to “green up” their lives would not work.  It would just create massive resentment and resistance. Only they can change their minds. Nobody can do it for them.

Richard Thompson–“You Can’t Win

So, to go back to my correspondent’s “better answers”–

I don’t believe the earth is on the verge of ecological collapse.

Might as well believe the sun goes around the Earth, my friend.  The facts are not with you.

I don’t believe a world of voluntary peasants is necessary or even workable.. I am not a pacifist. I think war or the threat of war is sometimes necessary. Similar to democracy, I think capitalism is the worst economic system except for all the others. I think technology is the way forward and is steadily raising the standard of living worldwide.

I think the macroeconomic facts of life refute all these claims, although I think a saner take on technology has been, and could continue to be a great help to the power-down transition that needs to happen, and make the future a lot more comfortable and well-informed than the past..

I think most leftist efforts to transform society trade minor gains for major unintended consequences.

I’ve kind of given my correspondent the bad news first–here’s some good news.  As I said, I think that attempting to force people to change their behavior without changing their minds (which is, I believe, what my correspondent is referring to) is generally not a good idea, at least on these issues.  Forcing Caucasian-Americans to stop overtly discriminating against African-Americans was a good idea, even though, fifty-some years into that campaign, it’s clear that there’s lots and lots of racism remaining, which brings us to the last of his “better answers.”

I don’t believe human nature changes much.

I haven’t addressed this yet, but I will.  For now, let me say that, while the essence of human nature–the clear light of absolute reality–is, indeed, unchanging, the “relative” expression of human nature has changed a great deal through our history as a species. It is changing now, and will continue to evolve in the future, if we make it through this “bottleneck” and have a future.

I suppose this comes across as a rather defiant response to a comment thread which included this from my conservative friend:

I think liberals and conservatives could talk across the divide much more if they would ease up on their need for certainty and bring a little more humility to the table.

Well, you’re right about that, my friend.

But… I’ve just consigned most of humanity, including myself, to the loony bin, with little, if any, uncertainty or humility, and now I’m saying “sure, let’s talk!?”

Well, I’m in here too.  We’re all in this together.  My spiritual practice counsels me to “never become bored or weary of accomplishing the welfare of others.”  So yeah, I’m willing to listen, willing to consider whether my answers really work or not, willing to walk a mile in your shoes, willing to ask you questions, willing to not get impatient waiting for you to do the same, because it’s only by listening to each other, listening to ourselves, being open to new information and learning, somehow, that we are not our personalities, thoughts, or opinions, that we will evolve into individuals in a society that can live harmoniously on this small, rare, blue-green planet.  We have yet to find another one.  I think this one’s worth conserving.

But wait, there’s more….

another comment he posted included this quote from a review of Jonathan Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind”:

Our task, then, is to organize society so that reason and intuition interact in healthy ways. Haidt’s research suggests several broad guidelines. First, we need to help citizens develop sympathetic relationships so that they seek to understand one another instead of using reason to parry opposing views. Second, we need to create time for contemplation. Research shows that two minutes of reflection on a good argument can change a person’s mind. Third, we need to break up our ideological segregation. From 1976 to 2008, the proportion of Americans living in highly partisan counties increased from 27 percent to 48 percent. The Internet exacerbates this problem by helping each user find evidence that supports his views.

My reply to that was simply, “I agree.” As I already said, forcing our views, however enlightened we may think they are, on others, does not work.  And, “contemplation”–yes!  More on that in a little bit.

I have read some of Ken Wilber’s erudite observations on human consciousness, and one of his conceptual structures that I have found useful is that of “levels of consciousness.”  The diagram below illustrates them.  (Click on it to enlarge it, find a fuller, but still concise, description here.) Each of his “levels of consciousness” is a self-confirming world view, yet each level “spirals” into the more comprehensive, more compassionate world view “above” it, resulting in a gradual evolution of the overall level of consciousness on the planet, exactly what we need if we are to avoid trashing the whole experiment.  There is a way out of this mess!

AQAL chart 8

kenWhat Wilber is a little vague on, however, is just how this evolution happens. Timothy Leary enquired into the subject, seeking an answer to the question of “what causes the ‘aha!’ moments when people change their self-concept and world view?” The answer he found got him in a world of trouble.  It was a little too effective, and got a little too out of control, for our  power-hungry hierarchy to stomach, and, while they have not been successful at much, they do seem to have pretty well shut the door that Dr. Leary opened, and so that mode of evolution is not available to us.  One mode that is still available is extreme shock–no, not a couple hundred volts to the head, but life events that completely, undeniably contradict our story of who we are and what the world is about.  At a personal level, it might be the discovery that one’s beloved partner is having an affair, or that one’s partner, child, or  oneself is, contrary to what our religion has taught us is proper–gay.  Serious illness or unexpected job/ home loss may have the same effect–or may plunge an individual into an angrier, more reactive, lower state of consciousness.  There is no guarantee of a positive outcome.

Environmental excess can have the same effect.  When a thousand-year flood, drought, heat wave, thaw, or freeze, or a nuclear accident or an oil spill, has affected your home and/or livelihood, it tends to interrupt the story you believe about your life, and make you reconsider everything you once held true.  Again, there is no guarantee that people will not sink, rather than rise, on these occasions.

There is a gentle approach to de-conditioning that can be undertaken voluntarily.  The “contemplation” Haidt speaks of is the key.  When we sit and don’t do anything, aka meditate, we will, if we practice long enough, get to a place where our “automatic” responses become conscious to us, where we can begin to undo our own conditioning and act in an appropriate, rather than a predetermined, manner.  It’s not as fast or as exciting as Dr. Leary’s approach, not as scary or potentially lethal as getting smacked upside the head by global climate change, or personal sexual change, but it can’t be made illegal (I don’t think!), it doesn’t depend on factors beyond our control, and it won’t kill anyone.  All it requires us to do is decide to be still and open our ears, hearts, and minds.  I hope that’s not too much to ask.

So yeah, ol’ buddy, speak your heart to me. To the best of my ability, I have contemplated what you have already told me, and I promise to keep doing so. I have my opinions, and I suspect I’ve come across to you as “entrenched” in them, but I’m very willing to hear you out.  I’ve been wrong before.

Indigo Girls–“Galileo




50 responses

14 09 2014
Howard Switzer

Excellent article, Martin, and I’m sure your friend will recognize the values expressed. The first issue addressed in this article was about word use or name-calling and I think that is where one all important key is. As the habits of separation we’ve been conditioned with have it we shouldn’t be talking to one another but circumstances demand we do. Our terms for dialogue have been corrupted so careful attention to that will be required. Evolution generally makes its greatest leaps in response to the greatest calamities via massive cooperation. Science has given us the eyes to see in more detail the consequences of our actions, we need to use them. Despite the catastrophic trends converging on our time I see a way through the “bottleneck”, only cool-headed cooperation will keep us from jamming together and blocking our own way through to what Bucky described as a design science revolution that will create a higher standard of living for all than now exists. We seek to emulate nature in doing that as she converts, recycles and manufactures everything we need at ambient temperatures balancing outputs and inputs at every level in ever more intricate ways. We’ve all come here eager to expand on what is here, there is room, we live in an expanding universe. Opposing viewpoints respected often show a new way through.

15 09 2014

Thanks for your comments, Howard. I think I need to clarify what I mean when I talk about lower expectations and powering down–I think we will have a “lower” standard of living in the material terms we are used to thinking in, but a higher standard in terms of quality of life.

16 09 2014

“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master–that’s all.”

Martin: I appreciate that you’re making an effort, but Geez Louise, I still feel like I’m conversing with Humpty Dumpty.

How about I diagnose and label people like you as delusional narcissists and rework political terminology so that I am a classic liberal and you are a neo-communist?

Works for me.

Of course, I’m not being pejorative or anything.

16 09 2014

Actually I do consider myself a classic liberal. It’s even a recognized usage. See

However, I call myself a conservative in discussions like this because it communicates more clearly to Americans today, not because I’m trying to appropriate whatever crunchy goodness accrues to the word “conservative.”

I gather you want to call yourself conservative — or perhaps more accurately you wish to take the term away from people who vote Republican — because you believe the planet should be preserved as much as possible as it is now or has been in the recent past.

I get it but I do find this sort of semantic warfare, in which your side shuffles language around to favor your views, wearying. Likewise, the whole business of “framing” a la George Lakoff which I often hear from progressives.

Nonetheless, you do point out a foundational difference between us. I value humanity and civilization over maintaining the planet in some pristine state. Obviously I don’t condone trashing the planet, but I’m definitely looser on that score than you are.

I would note that unless one favors a huge die-off of humans we will continue to make a greater impact than you are likely to be comfortable with.

I believe that as we get better with technology and make further breakthroughs, we will correspondingly improve the environment.

17 09 2014

So…one paragraph in the wiki article you refer to reads

These beliefs were complemented by a belief that “labour”, i.e. individuals without capital, can only be motivated by fear of hunger and by a reward, while “men of higher rank” can be motivated by ambition, as well.[citation needed] This led politicians at the time to pass the Poor Law Amendment Act 1834, which limited the provision of social assistance, because classical liberals believed in “an unfettered market” as the mechanism that will most efficiently lead to a nation’s wealth. Adopting Thomas Malthus’s population theory, they saw poor urban conditions as inevitable; they believed population growth would outstrip food production, and they regarded that consequence desirable, because starvation would help limit population growth. They opposed any income or wealth redistribution, which they believed would be dissipated by the lowest orders.[13]

Later on, the article notes

Core beliefs of classical liberals did not necessarily include democracy where law is made by majority vote by citizens, because “there is nothing in the bare idea of majority rule to show that majorities will always respect the rights of property or maintain rule of law.”

and, a little further down,

A rigid belief in laissez faire guided the government response in 1846–1849 to the Great Famine in Ireland, during which an estimated 1.5 million people died. The minister responsible for economic and financial affairs, Charles Wood, expected that private enterprise and free trade, rather than government intervention, would alleviate the famine.

How do you view these expressions of “classic liberalism”?

BTW, I have heard of George Lakoff and “framing,” must have read a couple of articles about him/it, but it’s not something that’s made a huge impression on me.

As far as who’s “shuffling language around,” what kind of semantic boundaries have been crossed when “conservatives” are against “conservation”?

“Maintaining the planet in some pristine state” is impossible at this point. I’ll settle for maintaining the planet in an inhabitable (for us) state. I am comfortable with neither increasing human impact or “a huge die-off of humans.” Call it a real-life koan.

I agree with you that technological breakthroughs may well help us ameliorate our impact on the planet and maintain a standard of living that is better than neolithic. I’m all for that. Our ability to access and transmit information on a planetary basis is worth preserving. Lots of other things–warfare, cosmetics, bigtime entertainment/sports, and anything designed for “planned obsolescence (including the current state of our computer/smartphone technology, which is not very durable or upgradable and which doesn’t recycle very well) can go, but let’s keep the internet!

I would like to keep the focus on finding areas of agreement and understanding how each of us sees the world and each other.

I have pressing material business to attend to, will respond to your Humpty-Dumpty comment, and the dialogue between you and Ben, a bit later.

17 09 2014


I’m a classic liberal in the general sense of the wiki article:

Classical liberalism is a political philosophy and ideology belonging to liberalism in which primary emphasis is placed on securing the freedom of the individual by limiting the power of the government.

That doesn’t mean I agree with everything anyone anywhere might ever have advocated under that banner of classic liberalism. Nor am I obliged to respond to any of those points which may have surfaced in the past few centuries.

For instance, you put up that Ken Wilber riff, but I don’t imagine you agree with Wilber’s advocacy of Da Free John or Andrew Cohen, two classic delusional “enlightened” guru-monsters the New Age has inflicted upon the world.

Nor do I expect you agree with Wilber’s “Wyatt Earp” rant in which he responds to critics with cries of “s*** my d***” and “p***ing in eyesockets.” Because he’s so much smarter and more enlightented, he’s entitled to set people straight with his own brand of crazy wisdom.

Or maybe you do agree with those things, but I don’t assume you do just because you mentioned Ken Wilber.

I read Wilber, Da Free John, and Andrew Cohen and I am so grateful Stephen mostly kept his spiritual grandiosity in check with Yankee freethinking and cannabis humility.

17 09 2014

As far as who’s “shuffling language around,” what kind of semantic boundaries have been crossed when “conservatives” are against “conservation”?

Martin: First, just about all conservatives are for conservation. They just don’t draw the lines where you think they should.

Second, conservatives didn’t choose their label. It’s not like they were originally the “Planet Trashers,” then they consulted with George Lakoff and decided they should reframe themselves as “Conservatives” because that sounds better.

Political labels are human language. As such, these labels slip and slide around. They are not scientific designations which are precisely, absolutely defined like the band of ultraviolet light.

Conservatives are called conservative because they tend to favor older American values. That’s all. Of course American values shift over time, so it’s not precise that way either.

Labels are largely a convenience for communication. I don’t get why are you making such a big deal about this other than axe-grinding.

FWIW, Right and Left originally referred to which side of the aisle you sat in the French National Assembly during the French Revolution. If you sat on the right, you supported the king and religion. If you sat on the left, you supported the revolution.

In many ways these labels are arbitrary. Again, they function as a convenience for communication.

17 09 2014
Ben Ennen-Falsch

“I value humanity and civilization over maintaining the planet in some pristine state.”

Still waiting for that explanation… You understand there is no humanity without the planet, the biosphere, and the foundational diversity to support complex life forms, correct? Can we agree on that at the very least?

If we can, is it that much of a stretch to conclude that maintaining the planet is not an act of devaluing humanity and civilization?

Honestly, who is doing the “framing” here? Your statement implies that one must choose between humanity or the planet. That is absolutely absurd.

I would counter note that the huge die off of humans option tends to be a favorite of the elite – Billy Gates, Ted Turner, European royalty, etc.

18 09 2014

I wrote: “I don’t believe the earth is on the verge of ecological collapse.”

You responded: “Might as well believe the sun goes around the Earth, my friend. The facts are not with you.”

So you say. So far, though, the facts are not with you, my friend.

I believed it myself for years because I kept reading all those scary books and articles about pesticides, pollution, food shortages, global cooling, global warming etc. I figured I’d end up dead or living in post-technological ruins before 2000.

But I couldn’t help noticing the predicted grim futures kept failing to arrive.

In 1968 Paul Ehrlich predicted, “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.”

In 1972 the Club of Rome/”Limits to Growth” authors were predicting we would run out of all aluminum about now and everything would be sliding downhill to apocalyptic depletion by 2100.

In the seventies I distinctly remember hearing Jacques Cousteau say on television the oceans would be dead in ten years. I can’t find that quote now but apparently other people remembered it too, because Cousteau felt obliged to correct that impression in 1996:

I said that the oceans were sick but they’re not going to die. There is no death possible in the oceans — there will always be life — but they’re getting sicker every year.

And the inconvenient truth about global warming is that the computer models are broken and there has been little or no warming in the past 12-19 years in spite of ever-increasing yearly carbon emissions. Here’s one such comparison of real data with computer predictions:

Plenty more where that came from.

So in a nutshell those predicting environmental catastrophe keep getting it wrong and moving the goalposts. I don’t expect that to change.

And you call us “deniers.”

18 09 2014

Perhaps I am mistaken, but I get the impression you don’t read both sides of these issues from original sources.

For a start I’d recommend Bjorn Lomborg’s “The Skeptical Environmentalist” and Judith Curry’s blog, “Climate Etc.” (

I think you’d be surprised how reasonable Lomborg and Curry are. For instance, they both believe carbon emissions drive global warming. However, they are skeptical of the certainty and the extent of the warming claimed by global warming proponents as well as the necessity of substantial reductions in carbon emissions versus the approach of adaptions to climate change.

Naturally Lomborg and Curry have been savagely attacked for not adhering to the full narrative of catastrophe.

19 09 2014

I’m going away for the weekend, without the “substantial reply” I promised, but I will ask this: are we succeeding in finding common ground with this dialogue, or just uncovering more areas over which to disagree?

20 09 2014
Arnold Joseph White

~ “Say the word I’m thinking of. Have you heard the world is love.” ~ The Beatles
Say the word and you’ll be free,
Say the word and be like me,
Say the word I’m thinking of,
Have you heard the word is love?
It’s so fine,
It’s sunshine,
It’s the word, love.
In the beginning I misunderstood,
But now I’ve got it, the word is good.
Say the word and you’ll be free,
Say the word and be like me,
Say the word I’m thinking of,
Have you heard the word is love?
It’s so fine,
It’s sunshine,
It’s the word, love.
Everywhere I go, I hjear it said.
In the good in the bad books that I have read.
Say the word and you’ll be free,
Say the word and be like me,
Say the word I’m thinking of,
Have you heard the word is love?
It’s so fine,
It’s sunshine,
It’s the word, love.
Now that I know what I feel must be right,
I want to show everybody the light.
Give the word a chance to say,
That the word is just a way,
It’s the word I’m thinking of,
And the only word is love.
It’s so fine,
It’s sunshine,
It’s the word, love.
Say the word love,
Say the word love,
Say the word love.

21 09 2014

Martin: The essential common ground, as I see it, is an understanding that we are both reasonably informed citizens of good faith who may nonetheless disagree.

If you insist that people like me are “sociopathic” or that my scientific understanding is so deeply ignorant that I “might as well believe the sun revolves around the earth,” I don’t believe we have that common ground.

I posted a catalog of my positions on your request to give you an idea of where I was coming from. I was surprised your response was to attempt to refute those positions line-by-line. However, if that’s why you want to play it, I will rebut.

Do you really think I have never encountered your arguments before? That if only I had read more Mother Jones or maybe some Ken Wilber I would have been spared from becoming conservative?

No, I went through considerable thought and study as I became conservative. I don’t claim my reasons for changing would be sufficient to persuade you, but I would hope you could give me and people like me the benefit of the doubt that we aren’t mentally ill or stupid.

And from there we could start to unravel our differences and find more constructive ways to engage.

21 09 2014

That should be: However, if that’s the way you want to play it, I will rebut.

As the philosopher Dylan said, “If you don’t underestimate me, I won’t underestimate you.”

21 09 2014

I’m going away for the weekend, without the “substantial reply” I promised, but I will ask this: are we succeeding in finding common ground with this dialogue, or just uncovering more areas over which to disagree?

21 09 2014

Yeah, i’m not interested in debating you, either. But you seem to keep misperceiving what I’m saying about mental illness–I’m saying not just “conservatives,” but pretty much everybody, is mostly walking around creating logical arguments to justify their subconscously-driven compulsions. I don’t claim to be free of this, myself.

21 09 2014

I have no problem with being called a “neo-communist,” or, for that matter, a “delusional narcissist.” As I’ve said, we’re all a bit bonkers on this rock, and it’s generally easier for others to understand the nature of our problems than is for we, ourselves, who tend to think, to use the old Quaker phrase, “Everybody here is queer (weird, not gay!) but thee and me, and I’m beginning to wonder about thee.”

21 09 2014

Well, gee, I thought that if Ken Wilber was good enough for John Mackey, he’d be good enough for you!

22 09 2014
Ben Ennen-Falsch


Hey buddy, we agree on something! I remain skeptical of “the global warming” by which I mean the media darling version of the issue which you refer to not the common sense version Martin logically proves above. I am even more skeptical of the Malthusian over population and it’s current incarnation.

Some questions for clarity, if you will…

So you are a libertarian rather than a republican? Or a republican leaning libertarian?

You mentioned previously supporting Bush. How does that fit in to your libertarian leanings (seriously, not sarcastically)?

Who is driving the global warming issue politically and for what purpose?
Who is driving the opposition to carbon emissions and for what purpose?

Who is driving the idea of over population? For what purpose?

Please don’t claim that it is Martin and his “leftist comrades” behind, as you believe, the myth of human caused significant global warming and/or over population. At best they are co-opted minor contributors, not editors, let alone media tycoons.

As for poor Jacque,
If you exaggerate or sensationalize issues, no matter how important and no matter that it is a way to bring important issues into the average person’s mind for the greater good and not a manipulative lie for the purposes of evil, this will typically come back to haunt you and your cause (it is almost guaranteed if you are well meaning and generally honest and decent and your cause is the same – why is it so much less likely if you are a liar and manipulator and your cause is nefarious?).

But Jack, where are those WMD’s? Where are all those major attacks on U.S. soil that were going to happen? Where are those ever increasing yields from chemical fertilizers? Where is the technology to clean up Fukushima? I thought nuke plants were safe and nuclear power was clean? The plants are too well made and looked after for a disaster to happen? What about these lies and the millions like them? You still vote republican and believe in technological progress, right?

I’m skeptical and not terribly interested in global warming because it is too big a concept for the average person and too difficult to prove or disprove and if not absolutely subjective is subjective in most people’s minds. If it isn’t true then the inconvenient truth becomes a very convenient lie for Jack and his “fundamentalist church of radical financialism” because it can then be used to discredit environmentalism and support wanton pollution and destruction of the environment.

So, if I may: forget global warming for now. What about the other issues Martin mentioned:

“whatever makes the most money in the short term, regardless of long-term consequences, is the highest good. Thus, coal, oil, uranium, and gas are extracted, forests are felled. fish and other animals are “harvested” to the point of extinction. The felled forests become fields, and then the fields are paved over, because those activities make the most money in the short term. The long-term costs–air, land, and water pollution, declining soil fertility, declining biological diversity, declining food supplies, and a generally declining quality of life”

These issues are a lot easier to prove and far less subjective. Forget doomsday predictions and let us live in the here and now. Where can a guy get an unpolluted drink of water in this country? Are you avoiding these issues?

P.S. The oceans aren’t dead but they are not by any means healthy. Parts of the oceans are massive “dead zones”. It is no coincidence that a lot of fisherman, especially the little guys, have reversed their “conservative” business first, anti regulatory positions in support of conservation and environmentalism.

22 09 2014
Ben Ennen-Falsch

Let me quickly preempt (ironic) Jack and say that I am not looking to “rehash Bush” with my mention of wmd’s. The point is that Jacques Cousteau’s lie didn’t cost anyone their life (as far as I know) where as Bush’s lie certainly did. If they are all liars why choose the liars that kill and destroy over the liars that value life and conserve?

23 09 2014

Strangely enough, sociopathy is not the technical term for people whom Brother Martin doesn’t like because he thinks they are too stuck in their conditioning.

Sociopathy is a term of art from diagnostic psychology which labels people who present such extreme symptoms of lying, irresponsibility, aggressiveness, antisocial behavior, and lack of remorse that they are only a few percent of the population.

Everyone lies, is irresponsible or aggressive etc. somewhere along the line. That doesn’t mean that they are sociopaths or sociopathic — even if they are Republicans.

Based on brain imaging studies some scientists suspect that sociopathy involves a physical brain disorder, not conditioning.

Brother Martin only levels the sociopath charge at CEOs and Republicans. There are somewhat reasonable arguments that sociopathy might work for people who become CEOs.

But to smear a third of Americans who are Republicans with that brush — I have trouble understanding that as anything other than bigotry.

bigotry – intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself.

24 09 2014

I am very busy in the non-virtual world for the next few days–reconstruction of our house has finally started in earnest. I have a lot to say about all this, but not much time to say it. Since this is a three-way conversation, I am going ahead and publishing what you and Jack have said, and will get back with you as soon as I can. I am really enjoying this. I have no idea what the result of this conversation will be, but I wish there were millions more like it going on right now all over the world. Thanks to both of you!

24 09 2014

so Jack….I’d be interested in your response to this bit of recent news….

25 09 2014

Martin: I have other things requiring my attention too and I don’t mind a respite.

However, I am not playing the “What do you make of this link?” game. If you have a concern you wish me to address, please lay it out for me yourself.

And you might respond more directly to my already stated concerns, such as are you on board with “we are both reasonably informed citizens of good faith who may nonetheless disagree”? I can’t tell.

I do wish you the best on getting your house together. It’s a beautiful Indian summer out here in San Francisco — the prettiest time of the year IMO — but it does mean the days are getting shorter, so I understand and support your priority to have warm, dry quarters for the coming winter.

This afternoon I had the treat of showing my half-brother the glories of North Beach. I took him up the cliff stairs from the Sansome Street side and down to Caffe Trieste for espresso and then to the City Lights Bookstore where Ginsberg’s “Howl” was first published.

My brother was confused about the difference between beatniks and hippies. He thought the counterculture scene was the Haight-Ashbury, but that was for hippies. A decade earlier the San Francisco scene was North Beach.

Of course, there was some overlap between the beatnik and hippie eras — such as Stephen Gaskin himself.

For those into hippie minutiae, the woman who was nicknamed “Stark Naked” in Tom Wolfe’s “The Electric Kool-Aid Test” met Ken Kesey in North Beach. The boyfriend who came to rescue her after she cracked up On The Bus was the actor, Larry Hankin. He showed up a few decades later as various characters on “Seinfeld,” “Friends,” and “Breaking Bad.”

It’s a small world.

Stark Naked was a hauntingly beatiful woman named Cathryn Marie Casamo. It’s worth reading her story at website maintained by her granddaughter.

25 09 2014

First of all, the statement “…people (I) don’t like because..” is inaccurate. I keep saying this,and you keep ignoring it, but…we’re pretty much all crazy, one way or another. If I didn’t like people for being crazy, I wouldn’t like myself or anybody else. This short video might give you some background on the way in which I see that “we’re all bozos on this bus.”

As far as “symptoms of lying, irresponsibility, aggressiveness, antisocial behavior, and lack of remorse,” there’s plenty of that to go around in corporate America, even without speaking of the global warming issues you dispute. Coal executives have lied about black lung disease and other mine safety issues for decades, and still show no remorse. The same is true of the asbestos and uranium mining industries, and the tobacco industry. The pharmaceutical industry has had numerous gaffes (f’rinstance, Vioxx) that they have knowingly gotten away with as long as they could. The U.S. military exposed thousands of soldiers and sailors to nuclear tests, and then was extremely unwilling to accept responsibility for the thousands of early deaths that followed. (Full disclosure: my cousin Tommy was one of those. He joined the Navy to see the world, and the Navy gave him leukaemia.) The oil companies that have polluted the Niger delta and the Ecuadorian rain forest, among other places, have lied, acted irresponsibly and in some cases aggressively, and shown no remorse.

These instances are just off the top of my head, and are likely just the tip of the iceberg. The sociopathic actions of these “corporate persons” were determined and carried out by hundreds of individual human beings, all of whom abdicated their consciences in order to receive their paychecks. Some of them probably voted for Democrats. Sociopathy is, I think, endemic in the upper echelons of the corporate wing of our society, and enabled by thousands of good (corporate) Americans who just want to live “the American Dream.” We are so used to sociopathic behavior that it hardly impresses us any more. being wealthy enables one to get away with a lot.

In “The People, Yes” Carl Sandburg wrote

“Shall a robber be named a robber when he is one
even though bespoken and anointed he is?
Shall a shame and a crime be mentioned
when it is so plainly there,
when day by day it draws toil, blood, and hunger,
enough of slow death and personal tragedy to certify
the kings who sit today as entrenched kings
are too far from their people?
What does justice say?
or if justice is become an abstraction or a harlot
what does her harder sister, necessity, say?”

Well, I’m a little kinder than Sandburg. I’m inclined to attribute these misdeeds to conditioning, rather than wilful misconduct. The sins sadden me, but the sinners are people like me, and I care for their well-being. “Bigotry”? “Intolerance”? Those are your projections. As “the prophet Dylan” said, “It ain’t me, babe”!

25 09 2014

The link, Jack, was about the fact that

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund is joining a coalition of philanthropists pledging to rid themselves of more than $50bn (£31bn) in fossil fuel assets.

due to concerns about the way fossil fuels are contributing to global warming.

As for whether “we are both reasonably informed citizens of good faith who may nonetheless disagree,” I can’t control you and wouldn’t want to, even if I could, so I have to accept you as you are, no matter what my opinion of your opinions may be. Like, you’re really stiffing Ben, aren’t you? It is what it is.

To put another link in the Cathryn Casamo chain, I have long believed that when she hugged Larry McMurtry’s infant son, there was some kind of primal transmission, since the toddler, little Jimmy, is now James McMurtry, one of my favorite musicians. I love his dark insights, social conscience, and wailing, psychedelic guitar, and can’t help but believe that early exposure to the Pranksters had something to do with it. Thanks for the link.

25 09 2014
Ben Ennen-Falsch


“bigot : a person who strongly and unfairly dislikes other people, ideas, etc. : a bigoted person; especially : a person who hates or refuses to accept the members of a particular group (such as a racial or religious group)”

“bigotry: bigoted acts or beliefs”

***definitions from Merriam-Webster

There is a part there in this definition which is critical – “unfairly”
Whether it is fair or not is presumably debatable but of course you “don’t want to debate”

As it stands now it is hard to say anyone “unfairly” dislikes you or your ideas. Maybe if you responded to the challenges of your ideas…

Another part – “refuses to accept”
It is pretty clear you are accepted, as we keep reading your unabridged obsessions over the term sociopath on Martin’s blog (he publishes your work)

By your own definition – “intolerance”
Pretty hard to argue that you aren’t tolerated. The post is in response to your own questions and comments (which you are avoiding in favor of word games).

“Labels are largely a convenience for communication. I don’t get why are you making such a big deal about this other than axe-grinding.”

“In many ways these labels are arbitrary. Again, they function as a convenience for communication.”

Take your own advice!

25 09 2014

Technically speaking, Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters inaugurated the hippie style before there were hippies. Seminal beatnik figures, Neal Cassady and Alan Ginsberg, were part of the Prankster circle.

A highlight of the bus trip described in “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Trip” was the group’s meeting with Jack Kerouac in New York, which did not go well. Kerouac didn’t approve of the Prankster antics nor their usage of the American flag.

Too often forgotten in the Ken Kesey story was his vision of LSD as a classic American frontier quest. In fact the 1964 Pranksters wore red, white and blue colors in public as a testament to the American spirit.

There is a recent, excellent documentary, “Magic Bus,” on Ken Kesey and the Prankster, which I can’t recommend too highly. It explores the roots of the Prankster wing of the proto-hippie movement in the context of early sixties America.

I understand there is a documentary on the Farm titled, “American Commune,” which I haven’t seen yet. Perhaps Brother Martin could tell us something about that film.


Martin: I wrote this offline and didn’t expect to see anything from you for several days.

27 09 2014

Haven’t caught up with the “Magic Bus” movie yet…the first time I was anywhere near a “magic bus” was a Hog Farm bus at the Alternative Media Conference at Goddard College in the summer of 1970, but they told me the bus was full and I couldn’t get on….so I got on the Caravan instead. Those buses were pretty magical–they took me to another world. The early years of The Farm were as close as I’m gonna get in this lifetime to pioneering on another planet. And if I’d gotten on the Hog Farm bus, who knows–maybe I would have ended up somewhere else. No telling….

I have seen “American Commune,” and I thought it was a sweet love letter to a lost way of life, although the movie glossed over some of the snakes that may have been in the grass, so to speak. The movie was one of the inspirations for the essay I wrote last Spring, entitled, “Edward Snowden and The Farm.” There’s a more extended commentary on the film there.

28 09 2014
Ben Ennen-Falsch


What is the point of your rambling?

Pretty odd that you commented on “Edward Snowden and The Farm” but somehow missed the mention of “American Commune”. Did you read it?

28 09 2014

Thanks,Ben, I forgot that Jack had commented on that one. Good question, but, as with other questions he has ignored, Jack has a right not to answer any question he doesn’t want to answer, and a right not to tell us why!

28 09 2014
Howard Switzer

Howdy, not sure I know any of you but bro Martin, its just that having read the discussion and in the interest of seeking common ground I have some comments. Jack has made a request to establish the base line agreement, as ‘basically that we disagree but we’re not stupid.’ Common ground being the stuff on which we agree I think we should seek a better baseline, perhaps one reflecting a good faith intent to seek the common ground. Something like ‘we being of the same species, sharing an extraordinary atmosphere on an extraordinary planet, speaking the same language, living in the same country are seeking common ground on certain politicized issues.’ Or something like that, let me know if it works for you….all.

If we can agree on that then here is some more of my opinion; I suggest we avoid the name calling, things like sociopath, bigot, liberal, conservative, republican, democrat etc. are all loaded and we should not be calling ourselves any of these names, each of you is much more a nuanced individual being than any of these broadcast categories can lend any meaning to whatsoever.

I think all the issues we have with how our world is working, war, population, climate change, corruption, poverty, pollution, all these and more, are symptoms of the same disease and can be traced to a root cause that turns out to be a particular social agreement we have. This social agreement emerged more than 600 years ago but has been shaping the flows of human activity in every realm of endeavor; food production, education, health, business etc., by determining how we value, apply and exchange our creativity, and the fruits of our labor. It is manifest in the most influential of all human designed systems, our monetary system.

Before going into the history, science, how and why of all that, which I would be happy to do, I think I should stop here and say I agree there is reason for skepticism on how many of the issues are being publicized, politicized and normalized etc. and as Mark Twain said, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

28 09 2014

This isn’t my first rodeo. Whether it’s people to my left, Whole Earth types or fundamentalist Christians, I’ve often had people ragging on me, “What about this? What about that? What about that thing over there? Huh, huh, huh? If you don’t answer every little bit to my satisfaction, you lose the debate.”

Shrug. That mostly works out to keeping me on the defensive. I figured it out.

This is why biologists often refuse to debate creationists. There is no end to the “What about this? Huh? Huh?”

So I move at my own pace. Other people can do as they wish.

If you want me to ignore you, just machine gun me with questions and demand that I answer.

When I do respond, I try to answer one point clearly in one screenful.

Like now.

28 09 2014

Martin: I understand your reasoning for your usage of sociopathy. I just disagree.

First, you are misusing a technical term — you are playing Humpty-Dumpty again. However you may think about sociopathy and the use of the word, *that’s not what it means or how the word is properly used.* Ask a psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist if they would use that word for any general segment of the population.

If your real point is that you think Republicans are selfish, greedy, dishonest or whatever, say that. It’s not as much fun, but it is clearer and more honest.

Second, you are rationalizing being nasty. How does throwing around the unpleasantly loaded term, sociopath, at your opponents help us all get along?

I don’t see that it does.

I’m keen on the topic because I believe this kind of name-calling seriously detracts from the national discussion. And it does seem to me those to the left are more guilty than those to the right.

After I switched my politics, I found my former comrades constantly attacking me in personal terms. They didn’t quite call me a sociopath but … I was having a mid-life crisis; I was an angry white male; I had been listening to Rush Limbaugh; I was afraid; I was a moron. And so forth.

At a more general level, those who dislike Republicans constantly accuse them of being racist, homophobic, or in your case, sociopathic. After such terrible epithets are leveled, there is no need to understand Republicans or talk to them — they are obviously scum and beneath civility.

That’s a lazy, destructive form of interaction.

28 09 2014

Stephen wasn’t all that fond of Republicans or conservatives either. But I don’t remember him bringing the hammer down so hard as to call them sociopaths.

I once sent a letter to Stephen in the eighties about a dream I had in which I saw him and the Caravan return to San Francisco and it was all swinging and wonderful and I was so happy to see everyone I was almost crying.

In the dream I was wearing my three-piece suit and I suppose that was a clue I wasn’t on the bus anymore, but I was still so happy.

Stephen replied:

Dear Jack(I lost your last name)

I was gassed and got good rushes from your nice idealistic letter. I am very concerned with all of that sutff too. There is such a stingy vibe loose on the land that I can hardly stand it sometimes. If I didn’t feel that I was working to help I don’t know what I would do.

The Great heresy of the hippies was that nothing mattered because it all came out even in the eternal wash and people in trouble had brought it on themselves from bad karma.

The heresy of the Yuppies is that human nature is Greedy and a Wise Person gets theirs quick. Here is a little bonmot that refutes all that, I think.

“Since a wise man may be wrong, or a hundred men, or several nations, and since human nature, as we think, goes wrong for several centuries on this matter or on that, how can we be certain that it occasionally stops going wrong, and that in this century it is not mistaken.”

Montaigne, the Essays



28 09 2014

Martin: Sorry I forgot you had covered “American Commune” already. I read thousands of web words every day and they do run together and some get lost in that shuffle. I look forward to seeing “American Commune.”

Be clear I honor you and your friends for your efforts. As one of my favorite poets, Frank O’Hara, said of Pasternak’s “Dr. Zhivago”:

Pasternak has written a revolutionary and prophetic work which judges contemporary society outside as well within the Iron Curtain. And if Pasternak is saying that the 1917 Revolution failed, he must feel that the West never even made an attempt.

America did, eventually, make an attempt. The Farm is one such. I won’t say it failed, but that it is a thread in a larger tapestry.

Many conservatives reject the sixties experiments. I don’t. I believe they were necessary and meaningful in the longer term.

And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin.
The times they are a’changing.

–Bob Dylan

29 09 2014

Hey, I forgot it was you who made the comment about the CIA funding abstract expressionism!

29 09 2014

thanks for sharing this!

29 09 2014

I think I understand where you’re coming from, but I think it’s important to call things as we see them–sociopathic, racist, homophobic, narcissistic, whatever we look like to each other, because it’s only by being fully honest about how we see each other that we can have a real discussion about how to get along. We just have to be willing to hear each other, and not be offended, or at least not for long, in the same way a married couple who know how to fight will stay together longer, and, ultimately, be happier together, than a couple who don’t know how to fight and try and soft-pedal their disagreements.

“Selfish, greedy, and dishonest”? To me, that’s a pretty good working definition of “sociopath.” Also, you never seem to register that I am not saying Repubs are bad and Dems are good. I think most members of both mainstream parties in this country are seriously out of touch with reality–but not all of them, and not all aspects of most of them. My father-in-law is a fundamentalist Christian Republican who told me, vis-a-vis Obama, “A man of Muslim descent cannot be President of the United States.” He’s also been a really kind, generous guy, and been very accepting of his daughter’s making a radical hippie like me his son-in-law. My father was a lifelong Republican of the old school, who met Richard Nixon in 1952 when my dad was a reporter, travelling on Nixon’s campaign train. He could tell the guy was dishonest then, and never liked him, and felt the same way about Cheney and the Bushes. We actually agreed about quite a lot. So, please stop trying to color me black and white, ’cause I’m not.

29 09 2014

Given this feedback from my longtime friend Howard, Jack, I’m reconsidering my defense of my use of the term “sociopath,” but, again, please note that I think it applies to wide swaths of our culture, and not just to Republicans!

29 09 2014

I am not interested in bullying you.

29 09 2014
Ben Ennen-Falsch

‘we being of the same species, sharing an extraordinary atmosphere on an extraordinary planet, speaking the same language, living in the same country are seeking common ground on certain politicized issues.’

I can more or less agree with that.

“I think I understand where you’re coming from, but I think it’s important to call things as we see them–sociopathic, racist, homophobic, narcissistic, whatever we look like to each other, because it’s only by being fully honest about how we see each other that we can have a real discussion about how to get along. We just have to be willing to hear each other, and not be offended, or at least not for long”

I totally agree with this. I think we would find a new excuse from the offended party if we dropped the term sociopath at this point – one has to wonder if the whole purpose of Jack’s comments are to force a retraction. If he will not get a retraction he can use the term as a means of framing Martin as a venomous bigot incapable and uninterested in constructive engagement and unity or if he does get a retraction use it as solid proof of the same. If we are overly sensitive to words then where does it end? It is foolish. I think anyone who really wants to get anywhere in conversation looks for the meaning in the words as defined by the person using the word.


I have to say I started out in this conversation from something like your perspective. Over the course of this conversation I have come around to Martin’s perspective. I have no problem with his use of the word sociopath (as he has several times explained his meaning).

I assume you have not read the comments attached to “What One Person Can Accomplish” of which this piece and comments are basically a continuation.

My own suggestion of a “baseline” was this quote from Christopher Day:

“Real conversation is never a compromise. Something dies in a compromise, but in a conversation something new is born. It is in this something, this ‘spirit of conversation’, that the universal and uniquely particular are fused into a work of art. As with design conversations with clients, what arises is better and more appropriate than either of us could have done on our own. Appropriate is a key word. Things are only appropriate if they meet the needs of the circumstance – and there are many needs: the surroundings, the wider community, the health of the earth, all have needs as well as those of the building users.”

Assuming that what we are looking to converse on is a question of design and what we are looking for is something “new.”

On a quick side note I looked at the website linked to your name. You probably are familiar with Christopher Day. I am very interested in the kind of work you are doing and have been working on cob and straw bale construction here in metro Detroit.

I would also love to hear more about your thoughts on the monetary system.


“At a more general level, those who dislike Republicans constantly accuse them of being racist, homophobic, or in your case, sociopathic. After such terrible epithets are leveled, there is no need to understand Republicans or talk to them — they are obviously scum and beneath civility.

That’s a lazy, destructive form of interaction.”

The only person accusing JackSF of being “scum and beneath civility” is literally JackSF. People are trying to talk to you and understand you. That is what this is about. I’m genuinely sorry your “friends were mean to you” or whatever but it probably isn’t wise for you to carry that with you into every conversation and project it on to everyone you meet.

“If you want me to ignore you, just machine gun me with questions and demand that I answer.”

I assume this is directed at me. You are less than truthful, dramatic and manipulative as always (“machine gun” and “demand”) and of course more of the “framing” you claim to despise.

For those like me that prefer simple direct language you are ignoring anyone who asks you more than one question. Thus given your style of “communication” (vague and evasive) you are effectively ignoring anyone who is trying to interact with you or understand you.

Now let us compare your two statements…

You falsely accuse others of “lazy, destructive form of interaction” and then admit that you are refusing to interact (grammar here) Scratch the question mark because I don’t want that to be my one question (per day i guess… i don’t know but I dare not ask for any detail).

30 09 2014
Howard Switzer

Thank you Ben, to clarify I think the words used to describe various human behaviors, which you listed, are fine used as such but labeling a person or group with them I think can be counterproductive and misleading. I’ve met people who exhibit psychopathic behavior, but not in every moment of their day so I learned not to label them, just the behavior, because they can change the behavior. Calling Republicans sociopaths is different from saying current or specific Republican policy is sociopathic. I know “Republicans” who are really nice people but their beliefs don’t square with reality. However life has a way of delivering experiences that often change a persons outlook. I’ve met “Republicans” who went straight from party activist to radical anti-authoritarian activists. But all this talk reminds me that these divides in the American electorate are generated and encouraged by the media to keep the people divided, as in divide and conquer. I know we all know that and I think it is wise to refuse to adhere to the roles the system has laid out for us, that we need not be on one “side” or another. I realize, and I’m sure some of you would agree, the society has been heavily conditioned for generations by the schooling, media and economic systems all in service to the interests of the major industrialists.

Stephen said “Attention is energy” Esther Hicks says, “If we know someone that exhibits behavior we don’t like try only seeing them doing the behaviors you do like and in time they will stop doing the behaviors you don’t like.” This is one aspect of the power of attention. Obviously that means face to face relationships which in such a fractured society we have to reconfigure. The economic system, as Charles Eisenstein points out, turns nature and relationships into commodities. That process is driven by the social agreement known as our monetary system. We are all witnessing how that social agreement has gotten us to the point where it will soon have to be changed.

30 09 2014

OK, general response to all three of the active members of this conversation, plus various asides…

Considering the questions Howard raised, and Jack’s discomfort with my use of the word “sociopath,” I went to bed last night with the hope that I would dream something relevant, and lo and behold….I dreamed I was witnessing a truly torrential rainstorm, in which water was not descending in drops but pouring down as if there were huge faucets in the sky.

I will make no attempt to interpret that.

So, Jack, dig it–this blog is not “Deep Blue Perspective,” it’s “Deep Green Perspective,” and, from my “deep green” perspective, it’s not only most Republicans who are mad, but most Democrats as well, just in different ways. The two parties play “good cop/bad cop” games with the voters, each one cultivating fear of the other in their respective demographics, while both serve the same corporate master. The Democrats may throw a few more crumbs to the hoi polloi, while the Republicans tend to be more ruthless, but the end result is the same–the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and the environment goes to hell.

Such behavior is criminally insane, and I am not going to compromise or make nice about it. It may result in the end of the human race and many other species on this planet. I know you don’t believe that, Jack, and you are free not to believe it, but I am free to think that your belief is out of touch with reality. What part of “ongoing mass extinction” don’t you get?

But hey, we don’t know each other at all. You may have more of a sense of me, since I’ve got about a half a million words in this blog expressing my opinions on many subjects, but we’ve never been in each other’s presence (except maybe long ago in a Monday Night Class far away). We have no context for each other–don’t know each others’ friends, don’t know each others’ social history. We just have to trust that the other is being honest in this exchange of typed words that we are having. That’s the point of all these questions that you are so wary of answering. You said you wanted to find ways in which we can all get along, and so did I, but you have not been very forthcoming in this discussion.

Jack and Howard, this morning I had a talk with my wife about “the s-word.” She is much more of a student of non-violent communication than I, and she urged me not to label people, but to focus on the specifics of what I have a hard time accepting in another person. From her view, the radical honesty that I advocated in one of these posts was, indeed, most suited to a marital or other high-trust situation, and unlikely to work in this situation of typed messages among virtual strangers. She’s a very sensible woman. She’s probably right, but I don’t “get” what she’s telling me enough to actually adopt that stance. I think it’s what you’re trying to tell me, too, Howard.

In that light, Jack, when you complain that

At a more general level, those who dislike Republicans constantly accuse them of being racist, homophobic, or in your case, sociopathic.

or, I might add, “classist,” I think that racist, homophobic, or classist are somewhat more useful than sociopathic, because they can refer to specific acts, as can “selfish, greedy, and dishonest.”…

I think you’re kind of ignoring the reality that a great many people who call themselves Republican do reprehensible things that fall into those categories. But most of those folks feel completely justified in their behavior. Again, I don’t know you, and don’t know if you are one of those old-fashioned honest Republicans like my dad, or somebody whose values justify selfishness, greed, etc.

Howard, I appreciate your input, I’m just not sure I want to live by those rules. My bad, maybe.

Ben, I really appreciate your input too. You ask thought-provoking questions, whether Jack responds to them or not.

In closing, it seems to me that I have repeatedly pointed out that I am not singling out Republicans for criticism, and, Jack, it seems to me that you have repeatedly ignored these statements. Enough for now.

1 10 2014
Howard Switzer

Martin, “not sure I want to live by those rules” …This is a similar response the Green Party gave Charles Eisenstein and like he, I want to say I am not proposing any rules, only a suggestion on a strategy one might try.

We had one Green tell us the next day that his talk went over their head. Kate laughed and said “How can love go over your head?”

I agree with much that you’ve said here, if not how, and believe the industrial economic power system has reached its ecological limits and we need to change it. To do that, enough people will need to get on the same page and to do that we need to learn to listen to one another and seek the common ground, Society has been divided and conquered and is maintained that way.

I’m told also that when diverging viewpoints come together to collaborate is often when truly unique solutions emerge. I guess the trick is getting people to come together to collaborate. Too many just want to vent I think because they haven’t been listened to, poll after poll shows that there is broad support for the things we’ve been asking for for decades.

It seems that just as negative ads seem to influence people more than positive ads do, being on one of 2 predetermined sides seems to be alluring. To change the game, however, we need to stop playing by those rules.

1 10 2014

Martin: I know you disagree with me. I am hardly asking you to convert to my position and rename your blog “Deep Blue Perspective.”

Again, my question is whether we can converse as equals, as informed citizens of good faith who may nonetheless disagree and still maintain respect.

Mostly what I get from you, however cordial, is that no, we are not equals. You have the moral and intellectual high ground. You get to call me and my side all sorts of names. You get to diagnose us for psychological syndromes and cite us for low and high crimes of political incorrectness.

And my job and the job for people like me, apparently, is to sit still for the lectures and be reeducated.

It doesn’t help when you explain you are almost as bigoted towards Democrats or that you aren’t criticizing all Republicans.

Maybe the situation is that dire and I am totally wrong and misled. Maybe you have to do it this way.

But I sure don’t see it. I don’t claim to know you, but I do know you have not read these issues from as many sides as I have.

Am I really supposed to interact with you on this “You’ve got to admit you have not stopped beating your wife” basis? Sorry. I don’t admit that and many other things you seem to believe I should accept.

It’s a problem.

This looks like a rigged game. Please explain why I should bother discussing anything any further with you. It seems you have only one way to talk to people like me and that is “down.”

1 10 2014

Martin: I like your wife’s distinction between low and high trust situations.

My leftist comrades constantly lapse into a friendly confidante position as if they were my partner, priest or therapist, and then proceed to give me “friendly” advice to stop being such a stupid, evil conservative.

No. I try to maintain a civil tone but make no mistake: I am as convinced as you are that the stakes are high and your side has got it wrong.

But, heck, once upon a time I believed the same things you do, with the same fervor.

People believe all sorts of things. I sure did and still do. Unless I want to disown my younger self, I’ve got to be philosophical about it.

My larger vision is that it’s all part of the Long Song.

2 10 2014

Jack, is your reference to “The Long Song” a Dr. Who reference, or Australian Aboriginal, or something else? I’m tired tonight, be away tomorrow, have a lot of thoughts in my head but don’t trust myself to express them adequately at this point…be back to y’all over the weekend.

4 10 2014

Jack, you said

This looks like a rigged game. Please explain why I should bother discussing anything any further with you. It seems you have only one way to talk to people like me and that is “down.”

Well, I confess. Here’s the thing. Just since we have been having this discussion, I have this from the Rockefeller Foundation

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund is joining a coalition of philanthropists pledging to rid themselves of more than $50bn (£31bn) in fossil fuel assets….”There is a moral imperative to preserve a healthy planet,” Valerie Rockefeller Wayne, a great-great-granddaughter of Mr Rockefeller and a trustee of the fund, is quoted by the Washington Post as saying.

There’s also this:

The new Living Planet Index report from the World Wildlife Fund opens with a jaw-dropping statistic: we’ve killed roughly half of the world’s non-human vertebrate animal population since 1970.

and this

Due to global warming, the sea ice favored by walruses has disappeared — and now, in northwest Alaska, more than 35,000 walrus have come ashore seeking refuge.

Catastrophic global warming is not a debatable theory. It is not something that can be explained away by shuffling statistics. It’s not a left-wing conspiracy, or a scientific conspiracy. It’s reality, but you seem intent on denying it. I will be cordial to you, and do my best to be respectful, but I have a hard time taking seriously anyone who is in such deep denial as you.

One of the late Mr. Gaskin’s introductions to the language was the term, “ego agreement,” which refers to two or more people agreeing to regard something false as true because it makes their egos look better. When you say you “think conservatives have better answers,” it indicates to me that you are in one of those ego agreements, one that says, “it’s OK for us to be rich and selfish, because we’re smarter than everybody else, or we wouldn’t be so rich,” or something like that. Darth, ol’ buddy, you may have fond memories of your hippie days, but yes, as far as I’m concerned, you have gone over to the dark side. I care about your sanity, and, yes, your salvation, but at this remove there’s not really much I can do about it. I can’t force you to change your mind, and I wouldn’t want to force you, or anybody, to change their mind–it just doesn’t work. You’ve gotta find your own path, in your own time. So yeah, there probably isn’t anything further to say at this point. When reality hits you upside the head hard enough, get back in touch, and I promise you that if I find out that I am wrong about any of this, I will get in touch and apologize.

May the farce be with you!

4 10 2014

Howard said

Martin, “not sure I want to live by those rules” …This is a similar response the Green Party gave Charles Eisenstein and like he, I want to say I am not proposing any rules, only a suggestion on a strategy one might try.

I love Charles Eisenstein’s vision, but I don’t see any way to get “there” from “here.” I wish I did. I think he’s describing what we started out to do forty years ago with “the hippie movement,” but the money interests were not about to let themselves be overthrown, no matter what the long-term consequences, and now it may be too late.

As for my conversation with JackSF, sometimes the most loving thing I can tell somebody is that there’s no way I can agree with them. “Honesty is the best policy.”

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