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. 19 min……

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 installment–or read the book yourself, if you can’t stand to wait.

music: “Pulled Up,” Talking Heads

Am,” Umar Bin Hassan

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PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE OLIGARCH(S) BEHIND THE CURTAIN

17 06 2018

In 2014, a pair of highly respected political scientists at Princeton and Northwestern Universities jointly researched and published a study on the influence of the extremely wealthy in American politics, which confirmed what a great many of us political activists knew in our guts: the United States is an oligarchy, a country whose political process is controlled by, and largely benefits, the wealthiest Americans, be they flesh-and-blood or corporate persons, or whether they are American or Saudi citizens. It was kind of a “duh” moment for most of us. It’s been obvious for decades that corporate capture of our government is fairly, or should I say unfairly, all-encompassing.  It takes money to win elections, and the corporate sector’s ability to accumulate money, and use the power of that money to change the laws and enable them to accumulate even more money and exert even more influence just keeps growing, like the balance on your credit card debt. As I said last month, accumulating money tends to be extremely addictive.

Another way the corporations have sought to consolidate their hold on the country is through ownership of our news media. All those big corporations that advertise on TV? Those ads are like the brand on a cow, telling the world “we own and control this station.”

And then, there’s the “brands” they advertise. Brands of cars, or beer, or whatever, are a little different from brands on cows. The difference is, the cow brand is seared onto the cow, while the product brand is seared into your mind, if you are exposed to it often enough. But I digress….  When the news sources most readily available to the average citizen spout nothing but approval for the corporate agenda even though they may report critically on some of the effects of the corporate agenda, but never question the validity of that agenda, it becomes difficult for those average citizens to imagine that there might be any more equitable alternatives. You know, like what the US says North Korea does to its people.

I discovered an example of concealed corporate propaganda while researching this story. One of the articles that showed up near the top of the list when I did a search on “Princeton oligarchy study” was on Vox, claiming to rebut the Princeton study. I read the Vox story carefully, and noted that it seemed to kind of nibble around the edges of what the Princeton-Northwestern study had claimed, seemed to use its statistics somewhat disingenuously, and it ignored the voluminous real-world evidence that corroborates the Princeton statistical study. I recalled that Vox is part of the same media conglomerate that puts out Daily Kos. This conglomerate, with its many faces, is widely regarded as the voice of the corporate Democratic Party, and one of those “reliable sources” frequently recommended by those who caution us against the kind of “fake news” that does question the validity of corporatism and/or advocate serious alternatives, like cooperative democratic socialism, AKA The Green Party, among others. That Vox should be so eager to rebut the reality of American oligarchy only emphasizes what I have to say in this post. Read the rest of this entry »





NASHVILLE’S BREXIT VOTE

13 05 2018

th+graph+1I recently wrote about Nashville’s plans for a better transit system, calling it “another big-ticket neoliberal scheme to make the rich richer,”  and now the voters have spoken. By a nearly 2–1 margin, with nearly twice the expected turnout, the transit plan was voted down. The analyses of the issue that I have read treat it as a failure of strategy and tactics, and largely ignore the fact that the funding mechanism was pure neoliberal flim-flam: they were going to do this wonderful thing for the low-income people of Nashville, that the lower-income people were going to have to pay for themselves. According to the Tennessean, nearly 90% of the revenue for the project would come from an increase in the sales tax. If you are reading this, I probably don’t have to remind you that sales taxes are highly regressive in nature, paid disproportionately by low-income taxpayers. The other sticking point was the widespread perception that the plan did not do nearly enough to address the already rampant issue of gentrification in Nashville, which even proponents of the plan admitted would likely come to neighborhoods with better public transportation. Indeed, Metro sees increased property values as one of the benefits of infrastructure projects, whether they’re sewers or light rail lines. Liberals in the city can make all kinds of cluck-clucks of sympathy about the plight of low-income Nashvillians, but their actions, which promote gentrification, belie those words, and lower-income Nashvillians were rightly wary of the latest set of promises and the likelihood of increased exploitation.

Let me spell that out: people earn low wages in large part because their labor is being exploited. By “exploited,” I mean that their labor produces considerably more value than they are paid for, with their employer skimming off the difference. Nashville’s largely Democratic/neoliberal power brokers blithely assumed that they could successfully exploit the exploited still further, rather than ask the businesses who exploit those workers, and who are disproportionately wealthy as a result, to pay a fair share of the cost. As with Brexit and Trump’s upset victory, the exploited took advantage of the ballot box to do what they could to indicate that they did not want to be exploited any further.

Like Brexit and the Trump Presidency, this is a three-sided issue, not a bipolar one, although every attempt is being made to portray it as such. I hated to see the GOP screw-the-poor crowd get to chalk this up as a victory about as much as I would have disliked seeing the plan win, since, to say it again a little differently, it screwed low-income people by making them pay for the plan and not doing enough to address the rampant gentrification that was all too likely to follow the tracks. The big-ticket construction plan, and the gentrification, would further enrich the wealthy at the expense of the poor, in the name of “doing something for the poor.” Excuse me for repeating myself, but I think this is an important point to make. That’s how the Democrats roll.

The third position is the one taken by The People’s Alliance for Transit, Housing & Employment, which, in its recent “People’s State of Metro” called for the following: Read the rest of this entry »





SEX, TRANSIT, GLORIA NASHVILLE

11 03 2018

Before I heard the recent news, I was planning to write a story that examined the proposal to create a rail-centered mass transit system in Nashville. When I heard about Mayor Barry’s resignation and guilty plea on the national news (“a rising star in the Democratic Party,” they called her), I decided that I would be remiss not to comment on a situation that reveals so much about our country’s politics, and human nature in general. So, sex first, then transit.

Let’s  begin with the adultery aspect. I see two somewhat opposing dynamics here. On one hand, in order for people to be fully intimate with each other, honesty is essential. The number of people involved in that intimacy doesn’t necessarily matter, as long as they all agree on the same ground rules and are wiling to work through whatever emotional baggage those ground rules may bring to light. For most people, most of the time, the basic ground rule is, “You and me, baby. Two’s company, three’s a crowd.”

On the other hand, enough people have broken their promise of dyadic exclusivity so that we, as a society, should have figured out by now that we’re not necessarily wired that way. 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 »





THE UNITED STATES OF DENIAL

12 11 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest of this entry »





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

24 09 2017

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

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

chomskynarrow

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

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








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