LAUGHINGSTOCK NATION

14 10 2018

Recently, our President addressed The United Nations, and something unprecedented  took place. When he said,

 “My administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.”

That usually solemn body broke out in laughter.

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Several commentators that I read were aghast, enraged that our country has been brought so low that our President is laughed at by other world leaders.

Not me. I’m glad it finally happened, and I hope it’s not the only time. I wish the world had started laughing at America’s pretensions a long time ago.

I wish that, when Colin Powell falsely asserted that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, he had been laughed at. I wish the UN had laughed at George Bush for supporting those lies, instead of acquiescing and giving the US permission to invade Iraq and Afghanistan on the ludicrous pretext that a bunch of Saudis hijacked airplanes and flew them into buildings in the US. I wish the UN had laughed at Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech. I wish French and British diplomats had laughed at the US when this country put them up to the UN resolution that was wrongly used to justify intervention in that country’s US-incited civil war, which plunged Libya from being, as Iraq once was, one of the wealthier, more stable countries in the region into being a failed state and a gateway for African refugees seeking to escape to Europe. Not that African refugees don’t need a safe haven. Read the rest of this entry »





INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ DAY

14 10 2018
     Last Monday was “indigenous Peoples’ Day,” still celebrated in some quarters as “Columbus Day.” In my quarter, I sat quietly on my porch that morning and did my best to reach out to the spirits of the beings, human and non-human, whom us Europeans destroyed by disease, murdered, hunted to extinction, and dispossessed in order to seize this continent. I opened my mind to the whole ecosystem they danced in, and the cultural forms in which they danced, in harmony, for tens of thousands of years before we, far cleverer and far less wise, showed up. I sincerely hope the few hundred years of our rude interruption turns out to be a small blip in a long era of peace and harmony, although the extent of our violation is so great that, when this ecosystem returns to a normal level of stasis, it is likely to be a very different stasis than the one that has prevailed here since the end of the last glacial epoch.
     After a while, my quiet time  was punctuated with multiple volleys of distant, but distinct, gunfire. We live about a mile from Nashville’s municipal shooting range, so I am used to this, and always feel grateful that, whatever the fantasies in the heads of the shooters may be, I do not need to be concerned that the shots indicate any immediate danger to anyone, including me. A great many of the world’s inhabitants do not have the luxury of staying relaxed when they hear gunfire. This particular morning, it occurred to me that the shooters, who do not normally turn out on Monday mornings–weekends are more common–were there because it was a national holiday, and that it was quite likely that to most of them, this was not “Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” but “Columbus Day.” To me, it seemed that discharging firearms was an appropriate way to celebrate the life of the man who initiated the genocide of all the ancient, but firearm-free, cultures of North and South America.
     I let those thoughts go, and just kept sitting, contentedly wrapped in the trees, the birds, and the unusually warm October morning. After a while, there had were more shots. “A metaphor, perhaps?” I wondered.
      Then  the roar of a low-flying jet swelled into prominence. It occurred to me that airplanes are the modern equivalent of the sailing ships of Columbus’s various invasion fleets. Like the galleons of old, wherever airplanes go, they bring destructive, bland, corporate culture with them. Those who impose air travel bulldoze vast swathes of the natural world to create airports. Their construction, and the fuel they burn, are inseparable from corporate culture. Airplane culture is part of the problem, not part of the solution, and this reinforced my recurring thought that I can not, in good conscience, travel by air again.
     Full disclosure: the last time I flew, it was to visit family temporarily in Costa Rica, nearly 20 years ago, and that was  only after confirming that I could not book passage on a freighter from the Gulf Coast to Limon, Costa  Rica’s gulf port, which ships a great many of America’s bananas. Freighters, in any case, burn bunker oil, one of the most polluting fossil fuels.
      I kept sitting, the noise of the plane rapidly faded into the distance, and I was once again alone with my four-legged and winged neighbors and the spirits that, against all scientific evidence, I keep sensing in the world around me.
     Maybe what happened to me this morning was a message from the embodied spirits who once inhabited this valley, and the non-embodied spirits that persist here. Maybe they were telling me to hold steady, do what I can, and not be distracted by gunfire or airplanes or those who produce them. This is a time for combining clear vision, strong intention, courage, fearlessness, and, most important of all, it seems, patience. The foolish fog that has enveloped us will pass, and pass faster the less we lose our focus and contribute to the confusion.
     Mother Earth will return to a steady state. If we help Her, that steady state will likely include us. If we do not work in harmony with Her, She will cast us off in favor of whoever will, even if She has to go back to jellyfish and cockroaches and start over again from there. The choice is ours.
 




WHAT I’D LIKE FOR MY BIRTHDAY

9 09 2018

I passed my 70th birthday last month. There was no party. Nobody sent me a card, though lots of people posted on my Facebook page, and nobody gave me any presents, which is OK, because I have no lack of the kinds of things people usually give as birthday gifts. But if somebody had inquired as to what I’d like for my birthday, here’s what I would have told them.

I’d like for a significant portion (as in, “enough to change the direction we’re heading”) of the humans on this planet, all over the planet and at all levels of age and society, to have, as they say, “a turning about in the deepest seat of consciousness” that causes them/us (I’m a willing candidate for such a turning. Some people would even say I’m badly in need of it!) to real-ize that we’re all in this together, that it’s inappropriate for a few to have so much when so many have so little, that we need to shut down all fossil fuel extraction and use, including plastic and fertilizer manufacture, as well as all uranium extraction and use, immediately, and just deal with the difficulties that will arise from that. Whatever they may be, they will be far less difficult than what we will encounter, and already are, by staying on the fossil fuel-nuclear energy path. Yes, we won’t have all the marvellous toys we have become so used to—but we, our children, our grandchildren, and our great-grandchildren (I’ve got two) will have at least the possibility of a livable planet. That beats extinction, toys firmly in hand and foot on the gas, any day, at least in my book.

I’d like to see all human enterprises—communities and businesses alike–managed democratically, by the input of those involved in them— workers, customers, residents. No more domination, either by patriarchs or capitalists. (Is there a difference?)

And, while I’m asking for big things, I’d like to see the seven billion humans on this planet split among ten different alternate Earths. I think that a 90% cut in the human population would return us to a relatively stable ecosystem. We are seriously overgrazing this planet, with quite predictable results, just as our ancestors’ goats overgrazed the Mediterranean basin and the Middle East, turning them from “The Garden of Eden” into scrubby desert and near-desert. I think 700 million people with a societal awareness that “we’re all in it together,” including the non-human members of our ecosystem, would be smart enough to not overgrow their/our habitat.

I know that splitting us off onto ten alternate Earths sounds awfully magical, but it’s the only compassionate way I can think of to get our population back to sane numbers as fast as it needs to happen without invoking either horrid calamities or an untenable culture with ten very old people for every young one. On the other hand, we could navigate a generation of full-time elder care more easily than we could violate the known laws of physics.

That’s what I would like for my birthday, in order to rest easy through whatever time I have left on this planet.

Hey, you’re saying, your birthday is about YOU—what do you want for yourself? Read the rest of this entry »





DISRUPTION

8 07 2018

prettyswiftThis is a chapter from Charles Eisenstein’s 2013 book, “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.” Due to this chapter’s length, I am only reading part of it this month. The beginning of the chapter, and the end of this month’s reading, are reproduced below. You can find the whole chapter here.

It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.

—Jonathan Swift

The world as we know it is built on a story. To be a change agent is, first, to disrupt the existing Story of the World, and second, to tell a new Story of the World so that those entering the space between stories have a place to go. Often, these two functions merge into one, since the actions we take that are part of the telling of a new story are also disruptive to the old.

This is how I see my work, the work of activists, and even on some level the work of artists and healers. Many of the stories I have told in this book exemplify the disruption of the old story: Pancho’s interaction with the policeman, for instance. I will share some more examples soon, but let’s start by considering a class of people that is the source of the greatest despair for many people I know. It is the class of “people who just don’t get it.”……

…..I believe the conversation must go deeper still. What that Nestlé VP did to justify her company, others can do to justify our whole civilization, as long as we grant them certain premises about the nature of life, self, and reality. For example, if we grant the premise that primitive life was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short,” then any doubts about the overall beneficence of technology run into a brick wall. Similarly, if we grant the premise that nature bears no inherent tendency toward organization and that life is just a random collocation of lifeless, generic building blocks bumped around by purposeless forces, then clearly we need have no scruples about seeking to conquer nature and turn it toward human ends. And finally, if we grant the premise that each of us is a discrete, separate self seeking to maximize genetic self-interest, then ultimately there is no arguing over the broad legal and economic parameters of our society, which seek to overcome that wanton nature and channel it toward pro-social ends.

The Nestlé VP’s views are more or less sound within the framework I have described above, the framework of “making life better through technology,” of the progressive conquest of inner and outer nature. Her views will not change until that framework crumbles. They are completely at home within the Story of Ascent.

I have to note that I take issue with what I regard as Eisenstein’s overly generous characterization of climate change deniers, since we now know, much more clearly now than when this book was written, that the big oil companies became aware of the profoundly dangerous consequences of their business back in the 70’s, and chose to hide what they knew and dispute the revelations of others in the interests of short-term profits. Back then, it would have been much easier to change course than it is now, both because so much polluting infrastructure has been built and because we are now running out of time before the changes wrought by our use of oil and coal send the planet’s climate too far out of control for anything but a crash landing.

I suspect that many corporate executives like the one Eisenstein writes about in this chapter may likewise be well aware that the one percent is quite consciously sucking the rest of us, and the planet, dry. Be that as it may, however, they are human beings like us, and if we are going to create, as I said earlier in this show, “a culture that is equitable, ecological, responsible, visionary, and tolerant,” it is going to have to find a way to include these people. That is exactly the issue Eisenstein is addressing here, so tune in next month for the next exciting instalment–or read the book yourself, if you can’t stand to wait.

music: “Pulled Up,” Talking Heads

Am,” Umar Bin Hassan

On the August “Green Hour,” I began reading with this, and concluded with the end of the chapter:

I heard another smart guy one morning on The Diane Rehm Show, an energy industry consultant. One of the topics was the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, intended to transport Albertan tar sands oil to refineries on the Gulf Coast. The consultant made the following point, which I will paraphrase: “Look, if we don’t build the pipeline, the refineries on the Gulf Coast are just going to refine heavy crude from somewhere else, and the tar sands will send their oil to Asia instead of the United States. Stopping the pipeline won’t have any impact on climate change or ecosystem destruction. That oil is going to be extracted and refined anyway, so it might as well be done in a way that brings jobs to the United States.”

Philosophers of ethics would have fun demolishing these arguments, which would apply just as well to selling body parts from the Nazi concentration camps. Whether I sell them or not, the camps are still operating, so I might as well put those body parts to good use, right? The point here, though, isn’t to expose the logical flaws in the justifications for the Keystone XL pipeline or plastic bottles, but to show how the things we take for granted determine our moral choices. In the reality bubble they inhabit, their arguments make perfect sense. If it is indeed an unalterable fact of the universe that the tar sands will be extracted, then it would be vain and counterproductive to disdainfully refuse to engage that fact. If our current petroleum-based civilization is unalterable, then we might commend Nestlé for putting its waste to good use. If we take the growing busyness of people’s lives for granted, then we must welcome the conveniences that make modern life tolerable. Within their operating paradigms, both these smart people are doing good……..

…..

Years later, he says, he still gets emails from those participants, telling him that their lives have never been the same since. “Tell me when you give another seminar,” they say. “I don’t care what the topic is.”

The power of that act of generosity was far beyond the mere economic impact on the working-class janitors. Its power lay in its violation of the laws of reality as the janitors, their supervisor, and the seminar participants had known them. The impossible happened, that day. Experiences like that tell us, “The world doesn’t work the way you thought it did. The realm of the possible is greater than you believed it was.”

Music: “Money” — Pink Floyd

Waiting for a Miracle” –Jerry Garcia Band





CONTROL ISSUES

15 04 2018

There are a number of seemingly disparate issues affecting the country these days. When I examine their roots, and the way our society is attempting to deal with them, I see that they actually have a lot in common, and that the commonly accepted responses to them are failing to have their hoped-for effects, for a common reason. Likewise, the optimum solutions to all these very real concerns, while individualized according to the particular manifestation they treat, all spring from a common root. I am going to describe these problems, the conventional-wisdom solutions to them, look at the unintended consequences that these solutions engender, and, as best I can, suggest a Green,  radical–literally “to the root”– solution to them.

GUNS AND PUBLIC VIOLENCE

Gun violence has been a hot-button heart breaker for far too long. The natural, and obvious, response is to make it more difficult to obtain firearms, or at least, as comedian Chris Rock has suggested, to make the price of ammunition prohibitive. Five-thousand-dollar bullets would certainly rearrange a lot of people’s priorities. Hey, the Constitution guarantees the right to keep and bear arms–it doesn’t say anything about ammunition! I have no problem with making  high-tech rock throwers, or the rocks they throw,which have no other purpose than to harm or kill other beings, a lot more difficult to obtain.

But, in spite of the tremendous hue and cry about this devastating fact of American life, legislatures, especially Republican-dominated ones, remain deaf to the appeals of the growing clamor for gun control. Read the rest of this entry »





LARRY NASSAR AND THE BOUNDARIES OF COMPASSION

18 02 2018

Even in the midst of a veritable avalanche of revelations of sexual predation, the case of Larry Nassar sticks out like a gaping, bleeding wound. It’s not just that he took advantage of his position as US Olympic Gymnastics Team doctor to use the bodies of young girls as objects in his sexual fantasies. It’s not just that, apparently, a whole lot of the officials involved with him knew what he was doing, and chose to ignore it. It’s that, in our culture, the objectification of female bodies is, in many ways, the norm, so that, viewed from a certain perspective, what he was doing was not so far out of the ordinary. Our commercial culture uses sexually attractive women’s bodies as a lure to sell things to men, and as a way to shame women, deny their worth, and guilt-trip them into buying things that will, supposedly, make them more worthy. In this world of women-as-objects, sex becomes detached from emotional intimacy. “Sex robots” seem like a reasonable use of technology….hey, they’re just the ultimate sex toy, right? This objectification, and consequent alienation, is a symptom of the normalization of sociopathy in our culture.

not the real thing…just a fantasy

People are rightly horrified by Nassar and what he has done. The father of one of his victims attempted to assault him in the courtroom. He will not be the last person to do so. Child molesters are the very bottom of the social ladder in prison, and often meet violent ends. Whatever thrills Mr. Nassar got from taking advantage of the young girls with whom he was entrusted, he will be paying for them dearly.

But our culture has plenty of Larry Nassars  who have figured out socially acceptable ways to victimize innocent people. I want to examine the case of one man in particular, a man whose initial way of molesting women and children was to drop bombs on them. He didn’t know the children he killed and wounded. He didn’t even see them. He was killing people for what he considered a higher purpose, so that the country he lived in would prevail against the country whose women and children he was killing. Read the rest of this entry »





A BASKET OF DISPOSABLES

21 01 2018

Our current junta, which took power based on the approval of somewhere around a quarter of the potential voters, seems to be making a practice of doing things that are opposed by at least three-quarters of the adult American public. They repealed internet neutrality. They’ve approved a tax plan that benefits, and is mostly appreciated by, nobody but the insanely wealthy. They’re trying to revive the war on marijuana. They’ve proposed opening virtually the entire coastal US to offshore oil drilling. They’re shredding the Constitution to go after domestic activists of many stripes, as well as Central American refugees who have come here because US policies sucked their home countries dry of all hope and sustenance. They’re expanding their ability to spy on and search anybody they choose. They’re filling the judicial system with right-wing ideologues. And, of course, they’re shutting down every government mention of, measurement of, and response to, climate change and the direct relation between climate chaos and our cultural dependence on fossil fuels.

As we all endure this sh@tstorm as best we can, some people are asking me, “Given this horrendous record, have you repented your refusal to support Hillary Clinton and the Democrats?” That’s a good question, and I’ll respond to it in a few minutes, but the first, “Deep Green,” question I want to examine is, “What is the logic, the pattern, the thinking behind what the GOP is doing?” In order to answer the question about my personal political allegiance and whether it is shifting, I will also examine the question of how things might have been different if Ms. Clinton had been able to turn out a few more voters in a few key states, or if a few more of the votes that were cast for her in those states had been counted, in either case making her the President instead of the guy who’s in charge now, ignoring for purposes of focus the fact that she would have been facing an extremely hostile Congress that, even if they couldn’t manage to impeach her and Tim Kaine and install Paul Ryan as President, would have blocked all of her cabinet nominees, judicial nominees, and anybody and anything else, like her legislative agenda, that needed Congressional approval.

I want to start by discussing “austerity.” You hear a lot about the need for austerity from Democratic as well as Republican, politicians these days. Let’s look at “what we can’t do” because of this supposed need for “austerity.”

Read the rest of this entry »








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