Thursday, November 11, 2010

Do Nothing (To)Day: A Manifesto of "Irresponsibility"

"Don't just do something! Sit there." (Sylvia Boorstein)

It is thirty-five years later, and we are worried. Thirty five years later, everything is changed, and nothing has changed. We--the vast majority of us--cannot feel like we are waiting on the cusp of change for anything good anymore, nationally or locally, or that things are about to break in our direction. (The next national phase will be another war on something. The next local development will be another box store that shuts down a half-dozen local businesses.) Even as our technology, our science and our practical arts have caused us--for those paying attention--to know much more about who we are as a species and a culture, our institutions and our commerce apply what we've learned to our daily experience far, far less. The ideology of Cowboy Capitalist Individualism rides taller in the saddle than ever before in recent memory.

In those ancient and heady former times, standing even then at the beginning of the present slide, little out of the ordinary was seen in taking off from a successful stockbroker's career to pursue a program of personal growth like we read about in the 1970s adventures of "Adam Smith in Powers of Mind--as long as one had enough of the good stuff, of course, chiefly money. (More contemporaneously, of course, the requisite retreat is toward the revolving door of lucrative government "service.") Like high storm-waves reaching far up the beach to rearrange the flotsam and jetsam for another season, the social revolution briefly touched the lives of the well-to-do, and the "stepping out" retreat was a momentary fashion for those who wanted and could afford that particular version of the success story. In its wake, though, the storm passing, and the seas all calm again, ordinary people have been left doing ordinary, gritty, time- and life-stealing, soul-destroying, repetitive jobs live with levels of stress and dietary lapse that would have been common only to those at the very center of pill-popping uncertainty in former days.

A growing number of people alive now--mostly those for whom success within the status quo hasn't become a thick blanket of reassuring insulation--fully expect to be killed by drought, flood, earthquake, famine or by the consequences of social unrest following upon region-wide breakdown. The remainder pretend they don't know what they know, as they pour into and out of the latest release of the next big zombie or apocalyptic disaster movie. What point now, is there, for a renewed interest in self-exploration, meditation, mind-expanding experiences, except for something to read about as toys for the very rich, or to laugh at, pointing at the people wearing the funny clothes, or to sneer at as something the "hippys" do? (Or to be afraid: Those dark people dress different. Don't that mean they're some kinda terr'ist?)

The rich and the very rich, and their toys... how could we ever forget to mention them? In the past 35 years, not just in the US, we've seen a massive upward movement of wealth into the rarified air of the very well-to-do, while the average person, who works longer, and harder, and is required to be paid less for it, has seen his or her wages stagnate, or even his or her job simply vanish. (For example, the richest percent of Americans now take home 24 percent of aggregate income, up from just under 9 percent in the 1970s.) Of course, these are not the rules for the 10 percent at the top who own 71 percent of the nation's wealth, or the 1 percent globally who own 40 percent of everything. These people manage to find lots of time. They manage to buy property where encroaching sprawl or strip development isn't the defining character of the landscape. They can afford to surround themselves with healthy greenery and immerse themselves in the challenge of arcane pursuits, concupiscent connoisseurship, Ultimate Athleticism, meditative retreat and experimental therapy.

Even if a person or ordinary means wanted step off, "tune in, turn on", and see where the adventure might go, what one among the mainstream middle-middle and lower classes would have the time to do it? (Sure, they can go out on the weekend to the nearest ski slope or amusement park, but that's not the same thing at all, is it? Nor is it meant to be.) The one asset everyone theoretically owns--the time that makes up his or her life--escapes, even for the upper-middle-class, by design, to-wit:

"Does the law say that you can only be required to work for 40 hours in a week without compensation for overtime? WE say to keep this high-status and well-paid job you will work for 50 hours or more, or you won't have it long…"

"Tired of the same old TV? With this plan--only $59.99 a month--you will enjoy high speed broadband internet and cable access to 600 channels of exciting programming…"

Yet, the hunger remains for something very different; for a different way of living (as much for active play, or something heard about from stories out of the lost past about community celebrations, as for a new way of working). Unlike the social scene three and a half decades ago, the bookstores, the internet and the broadcast media are full of stories about personal triumph over stultifying adversity (ending usually in a financially remunerative denouement) and advice about how anyone who really wants to change his or her life and circumstances, can. The hunger, expressed in books and services available for purchase, is there. Many feel called. Few go. Who is to blame the many who don't? They're being kept quite busy. Far easier it is to consider the successful break by the few as a consequence of special circumstances--which too often, once the full story is told, it is, for behind many an independent adventure stands a legacy, and inherited advantages that aren't just anyone's. (Again, who is to offer blame for this? At least when called, these were people who went.)

THE ubiquitous form of dissent for most of us at work is theft, mostly of time. In its rare and pure form, it would be to simply steal back all one's time by refusing to work all those assigned hours and choose to do something other than remain employed full time; it would be to pay the social and economic consequences for this choice of refusing to "work hard" after the acceptable fashion to those who feel they must choose to stay with the Plan in the coin of permanently living on the receiving end of social disdain and economic disadvantage. (The ones who most ardently enforce the "rule of work," inevitably come, to a man or woman, from either the blue-collar working class, who, having made a bad bargain, and having wasted the best years of their lives enriching someone else, know to their very core that, by god, no one else is going to be making a better deal, if they have anything to say about it, or from the ranks of the small businessperson who characteristically believe that employing someone makes them into a paid slave: "What gives you the right to shirk, or to protest, or to have time?") The lesser rebellion, manifest in the working days of those too afraid to embrace this dissent in its greater form, is found in a hundred little acts against the requirements of routine--the email- and social network-checking or the cell-phone texting during working hours, the at-work internet shopping, the full participation in Steal Something From Work Day, the escapes to the privacy of the washroom to masturbate, the extended coffee-break posing as a meeting...

Of course, in its lesser form, such a rebellion remains mostly acquiescence. It affords little scope for a person to examine the metes and bounds of his or her own life, or to limn the depths and heights of conscious awareness. Or, to simply take a break and do nothing. Or, again, to stop and play with one's child, or a dog, at first with edgy impatience that Important Things Aren't Getting Done, but (if not given up on), with increasing interest in the experience of the here and the now that nearly all children or dogs know. THAT break--potentially the most revolutionary move of all, and the most threatening of all to society's governors and the behind-the-throne-standing representatives of the established social and economic order--remains out of reach. And seeing this, there has to be a slight revision in the notion of blame, mentioned before. Events have shown that it is possible to get Americans (this free people) to do almost anything, to put up with almost anything, as long as they can be made to feel afraid. Any blame in that, though certainly starting with the rot at the top, can be spread around to almost everyone. (So-called "mind work" might have something to interject, here, shedding light: Where resides the fear, the terror? Is it "out there" someplace, or is it inside the breast of each one of the fearful? If one refuses to act afraid, is one terrorized? What about the other way 'round?)

That's how we are different, now, from the heady days of the early 1970s.

How we are the same is much more simply said: We desperately need to change the course we are on. If anything, the urgency for this grows even more acute. The warnings on the fringe, back then, largely unheeded, are the problems, now, at the forefront of attention. What is to be done, certainly has political, and economic and social components, but the classic double-bind in which we seem to find ourselves, collectively, calls out for necessary personal change--what was once called, by the 'way-before' Victorians, a change of heart. (Of course what would be meant by a needed change of heart now would only somewhat overlap what was meant then, and would be much different than what would be meant by present-day authoritarian religious movements.)

There's a ethical principle which might be brought to bear, here, in choosing how to forge a different path, or to strike off in an unfamiliar direction: Those who can are the ones who ought. The ones who are able to make the break (or take a break), ought to lead the way, even at some cost, particularly if by doing so they are able to show an example as to how it is possible for a person of ordinary means to go about calling back what is missing. Certainly, the ones who can, ought to, in order to open and invite and to nourish a discussion of what is possible and how to go about the work and play of taking back our lives from the forces that would oppress us out of living them.

Obviously, a living has to be made, but the original idea has to have been (perhaps coming to us from before the advent of the agricultural surplus and the city, and along with these, slavery, aristocracy, and the permanent warrior class) that making a living is subordinate to actually living... An insight which goes back to the fear that the ones who rule would have us feel, the terror we are intended to respond to in characteristic ways (Save Us! O, Save Us!).

Perhaps if we were to make a round turn toward an old question again, with fresh experience, "How little might it be possible to get by on and stay healthy and content?" we might find the beginning of a solution to our problems.

Don't just do something. Sit there.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Why Stop At 10?

One of my very favorite bloggers, who I just learned--reading through "back issues" of her blog--lives in Alaska not far from where I do, wrote out the following annotated list:

That's 10 Things Every Adult Should Know

Why Stop At 10?

I have lots more:

It's not about you.

Though a strong case can be made for promoting maximum scope for individual action in any society, the dogma of Individualism, so dear to the American zeitgeist these days, is just that, a dogma. The world doesn't revolve around your needs or wants, and there are deeply important matters that transcend your personal goals and your fucking career. A strong case can be made that identity itself is not an individual 'thing', but arises out of the network of associations of which a person is a part. Let's test this notion with a little observational thought experiment in looking at the wealthy, specifically, the wealthy in the USofA. The rich who've "earned" their wealth (we do not speak here those who inherited it), got rich, mostly, no matter how hard they worked, first of all, because they were lucky to be at the right place at the right time, and second, because they had lots of help (acknowledged and compensated, or not) from many people who worked as hard as they did. American folklore notwithstanding, the rich don't do it all themselves. Even the most avid entrepreneur inherits a vast legacy. There are countless other examples that might be cited to show how the dogma of Individualism is a hallmark of shallow thinking.

Prayer consists of intention in action, and not of begging.

Whether or not there is some kind of All-Being (or Beings) concerned with human destiny, even a casual look at human history strongly suggests that petitionary prayer is as useful for changing things as a fart in a windstorm. Again, to take an obvious example--taken here because we find it so often resorted to by right wingers of a certain kind--do you think for a moment that as the Nazis hauled Jews and other 'different' folk off to the execution camps that petitionary prayer after prayer didn't go up to whatever god there is? We know the result. Are you one of those holocaust deniers? Ok then, pick your favorite genocide. Do you think for a moment that in a world where up to 90% of the people polled claim a belief in god, that prayer after prayer didn't go 'up there' for help in moments of deathly crisis? To what effect? On the other hand, we find in the history of the US, through the actions of the Society of Friends (the "Quakers"), a sect who were among the first to stand strong against slavery, and some 180 years later, in the actions of Civil Rights leaders, the sort of prayer that did have effective and welcome results. Intention in action made it possible for a people who were oppressed by bitter injustice to move in the direction of freedom.

If you eat poison, you'll get sick.

Chronic ingestion of lots of sugar in the form of sucrose (table sugar) and high fructose corn syrup (the sweetening in your 48 oz quick stop soda) has for a long time been known to cause a host of ills. (For those who wish to know more, check out: .) Even a casual look across the internet at the discussion of food, agriculture, and the industrial food system, suggests that something goes seriously wrong when food and agribusiness manufacturers are free to add more or less whatever they choose to our food, when and where they like. Again: IF YOU EAT POISON, YOU'LL GET SICK. Go ahead, though, eat that shit 'cause you have been conditioned to think it tastes good. And, for those of you who don't eat that shit, and who think that the presence of the few alternatives out there are guaranteed, by all means, don't agitate against agribizz monopolists like Monsanto, who want to take every alternative away. Just go on your merry way, then, feeling virtuous in your "organic" diet, shaking your head at the "paranoid conspiracy theorists." If you find yourself having to choose, not between well labeled, organically grown food and food with junk in it, but between unlabeled foods with more junk or with less junk in them, you'll have plenty of time, then, to change things, you betcha.

Following upon #13… You are partly animal--flesh and blood--and animals need exercise or they'll get sick. (That, along with nutritionally wholesome food, is health care. Going to the doctor is sick care.)

Moving around to do stuff--moderate physical labor--is healthy. Walking is healthy. Hello!

Mistakes are not stupid. (Mistakes and stupidity are not the same thing.)

Mistake and error is the way we learn and the way we grow. (We have to try, and err, to have "trial and error." Doh.) Let's not forget in saying this, though, that error is not the end of the matter. To learn from mistakes we have to… ummm… PROFIT from them in the lesson learned by changing our course of action. Several insights arise from understanding the importance of mistakes: Children should not be taught to be afraid to err in school and at home. Informed risk-taking is worthy and honorable. Changing course and changing minds according to what happens is worthy and honorable. The hallmark of foolishness and stupidity is the refusal to be instructed by experience.

The opposite of profiting from error by changing course is found in the current approach to so many of the political and social problems facing us: "What? The things we are doing aren't working? Well then, we must do exactly the same things, staunchly "staying the course," only harder and more extreme!" In short, stupid.

Children educated in authoritarian institutions don't learn how to govern themselves--either personally or in their future role as citizens.

For 80 years US public schools have been teaching students these lessons:

"Shut up and do as you're told."
"Before doing anything, wait for instructions."
"To question or to object is to disobey."
"The answer to every question or problem can be supplied by a person in authority."
"Your time is not your own."
"You are only as good as we say you are."
"It is just for the many to be punished for the sins of the few."
"Working according to instruction in institutions are the only way to get anything done."
"Might is right."

Does this sound like a curriculum to prepare participatory citizens in a democratic republic, or the rules for an authoritarian regime? In which direction is the US evolving, then, towards greater scope for citizen action, or away?

Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as a bad profit.

That this simple fact appears to have escaped an overwhelming majority of people speaks volumes to the efficient and effective sales job done by the commercial message machine. The corporation has been allowed to become little more than an "externalizing machine."--projecting what economists call "externalities" onto the general population--which means that someone else pays for messes made by concerns who've made it their business to profit from activities that make messes. We are surrounded by examples of this, usually couched in the familiar saw, "Well, y'cain't stop progress." Our water becomes increasingly fouled because it was decided that the solution to pollution is dilution in a mixing zone. Plastic floats in a state-sized island in the middle of the Pacific because coastal areas and sea-going craft have been free to dump refuse into the sea as though doing that would make the trash invisible. The rise of antibiotic resistant pathogens are the direct result of feedlot meat production in which commercial operators are allowed to feed tons of antibiotics to animals living in filth. The list could go on and on and on. A lot of this stuff would have had to find a much more difficult path to happening if the grownups who ought to know better ("development" friendly or not), were able to distinguish between a good profit and a bad one.

Your children are not:

a) Your toys,
b) Your pets,
c) Little versions of you,
d) Extensions of your ego.

'Nuff said. On a related note...

Children are still growing up.

Children are in the process of making big changes every few months. That's why they aren't like grownups.

This would be one good reason to pay attention to what they are doing and saying instead of looking at everything through grownup eyes.

This would be one good reason not to discard them.

It would be fair to say that how a society treats its young is an accurate measure of its level of cultural and social development. Effective education (or its lack) for children who come from all income levels, a willingness to try juveniles (or not) for crimes as adults, the effectiveness of a safety net for disadvantaged children, the quality and worth of foster care for orphaned and abused children... all go into this measurement. (What DOES that say about the American Standard Plan?)

Sincerity is a measure of… sincerity.

A person can be sincerely mistaken. Just because it feels real, real true don't necessarily make it so. Are you listening True Believers? (You know who you are, Capitalist Ideologues, Birthers, Religious Fundamentalists, Global Warming Deniers…) Perhaps a course correction is called for.

Data is not the same as information. Information is not the same as knowledge. Knowledge is not the same as Wisdom.

The act of measurement--paying formal, repeatable attention to some aspect of the arrangement of things--gives us data. Data intentionally processed by the application of quantitative and qualitative analysis gives us information. Information compared, contrasted, described, discussed, criticized, etc. provides those who are willing to do the work with knowledge. (In other words, the application of educated insight converts diverse streams of information into knowledge.) Knowledge laboriously carried across time and culture, borne up through collective and individual experience, tested, challenged by events and the like, provides some few of our kind--the ones paying attention--with wisdom. (Awareness and attention of knowledge in its many contexts, and in its consequences gives some few of our kind wisdom--or can.)

Belief matters (for ill, or for good), but no matter what you believe, in this life, you are still going to die.

Your threat response to those who question your cherished religious faith is a fight-or-flight response to something that you feel tells you that you are in danger. This is only because you've convinced yourself (with your faith) that you are not really going to die. You are. YOU ARE GOING TO DIE.

Belief is about living and how to live, and not about not dying or escaping mortal destiny. Any one of us, including the one sitting here writing these words, or the one sitting there reading them, might well be completely wrong in our understanding of what happens AFTER death (in fact, we're probably almost all of us in for a big surprise), but that does not suggest anything about the escapability of death. We are mortal men and women. "Whatever is begotten, born… dies."

People who believe in the technological convergence of nanotech, biological science and computers in THE SINGULARITY are religious nuts trying to convince themselves that they can escape death--at least in theory.

As nuts, perhaps they are less dangerous to themselves and others than the Heaven's Gate or Scientology, or Christian Fundamentalists or advocates of Radical Islam, but they are nuts just the same.

Hitting children teaches them it is ok to hit people. Could this be any more obvious?

Making heroes out of people trained to kill other people on command, simply because they have been trained to do that, teaches children that it is ok to kill people as long as someone in power says it is ok.

If we wish to honor the soldiers and sailors who serve (formerly I was one), we might first choose to NOT send our soldiers and sailors perpetually out on wars on wars of foreign conquest couched as "defending our nation," and second, on the rare occasions we'd need to call on them, we could choose instead to honor them for doing a difficult, dirty and dangerous job without glamorizing or sanitizing it--and providing, in the process of expressing our gratitude and honor, for their re-integration into the human brother- and sisterhood as people who have had to bear the sacrifice of leaving it for a time to kill.

All the buckles are very firm. What is to be done?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"Industrial Society and Its Future"

Sometime ago, I read part of "Industrial Society and Its Future", by T. Kaczynski (herein and subsequently to be designated TK). Of late I've been feeling reason to return to a closer reading.

The essay bears close reading well, and its reading, along with the context in which it appeared, explicitly and implicitly raises important questions (which can accurately be taken on any number of levels): How far is too far? Is murder the worst crime that an individual can commit? How about an organization? When an institutional evil defines what is good, and what it is doing as the good, what, rightly, is the correct response by people of conscience?

My own ideal path might be more found in a book like: Open Secrets by Walt Anderson, but the difficult questions raised by TK's life, choices and experiences ( remain for me real and vital.

There is a growing suspicion, even in the mainstream, that the system is irreparably broken. The problems to which TK points, have, if anything, gotten worse. Right or Left, either path goes down.

If one is not to cast bombs about in rage, or immolate oneself in suicide-murder, is there still an effective response toward total dissent?

Perhaps there is--in this: Enough people simply doing all they can to ignore the system.

People refusing to go along are refusing to go along. Enough of that, and who knows what changes are possible?

People refusing to go along are: refusing to participate any longer in the debt-for-life pattern (whatever it takes to do that); forming their own networks of shared meaning, of community and socio-economic connection; working as much as possible 'under the table' and in the gray market; working hard to do as much for themselves, by themselves and with like-minded folk as possible; sourcing basic materials (such as medicines) 'illegally' and showing others how to do the same; forgoing the 'latest and greatest' in new gadgets; turning away from the blandishments of media, even fervid participation in the internet… In short, they've hit upon the notion that the way forward is in not playing by the rules of THEIR game, that THEY'VE defined the rules for---THEM being those who can be counted upon to relentlessly support and defend a status quo which is increasingly constrained to reward the insiders and those at the top, and their trusted middle-class servers.

If we must sacrifice some comfort, in exchange, we will take our freedom. (They are not going to give it.) The sacrifice we must make, and the path toward our freedom is in letting go of the handles driving the machinery of dependency.

This points to, incidentally, my biggest beef with the Teabaggers. Their entire complaint is made as though what has happened is something someone put over on them against their will, as though they haven't chosen each and every day to acquiesce and fully participate. What do they think all those costly promises made on TV are there for?

Monday, November 30, 2009

What We (Darkly) Need

What is needed is an event that will succeed in stunning the North American moneyed and powerful classes--the arrogant upper socio-economic tier--along with a good part of Europe's elite. What is needed is to stun them long enough that other ideas now gaining currency "at the edges"... of peace; of ecological awareness; of communal sharing and mutual care; of rising, non-exclusive, non-fundamentalist spirituality; of the end of the West's strict subjective-objective divide; of discernment-driven situational ethical insight replacing authority-enforced categorical moral imperative; of nurturing life rather than making war; of the competitive spirit tempered by cooperation replacing the elevation of competition to the highest virtue; of flattening hierarchies; etc., etc.... as I say, we need an event lasting long enough so that different sets of ideas and practices than those which built the edifice of banditry characterizing the Euro-American success story (now being aggressively adopted by former colony nation-states around the globe) will have a chance to obtain sufficient scope to change the human world before it is too late to prevent its destruction (along with up to half the earth's species now alive). Our need is to stun the vested powerful interests who will insist upon resisting any significant change to the status quo from which they derive everything they hold dear long enough so that other ways of thinking gain sufficient currency and momentum, so that when they, these "elites," wake up, as they will, and come out of their stunned reveries, they will be forced to "catch up" and go along with decisions, policy directions and events they otherwise would have had no part of, and forcefully resisted.

What sort of event might do this? One might have thought that the events of 11 September 2001, or the recent banking-industry-mediated economic and financial meltdown, or (more positively), even the election in 2008 of Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States of America would have accomplished at least a part of what is needed, as described above, but as we are all able to see, each of these is proving to be successfully "managed."

Certainly, if for nothing else, out of justice toward the poor nations upon which catastrophe typically falls, and who suffer so much when it does, such an event as the event we need, has to fall exclusively or primarily upon the USA, particularly, east-coast, Old Money USA (but reaching the entire nation), with spill-over effects falling on Western Europe, too, and possibly the Mediterranean.

What can do this? At first, I would have been tempted to advocate that a nation like Russia, Pakistan or Israel arrange to detonate a series of strategically located nuclear weapons in low earth orbit above the US. Blast, fallout and thermal effects of low earth orbit nuclear explosions such as these would not reach the surface, sparing surface inhabitants the typical carnage that follows nuclear attack. The only effect which would reach the surface is the vitally important Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP), which would, ideally, fry most North American electronic devices, and bring down most or all of the nation's electrical grid. That would be an example of the kind of event we need. As I say, at first I would have been tempted to suggest this as a possible solution. The problem is with the USA's likely response. It would be extremely difficult to hide the origin of such an attack, and the US still would have all those ocean-shielded, working nuclear submarines. Whatever nation that was determined to have made the attack would be nuclear bombed--and likely not in low earth orbit. No, the psyche of the US is much too unstable for something like this scenario to unfold with much of any positive outcome.

What then, can we honestly hope for? It turns out that we might be able to turn toward the sun. A sufficiently large solar "mega-flare" that erupted at just the right moment might direct the full force of its effects upon the continental US just fine, with EMP-like consequences for the North American electrical grid.

Certainly, ordinary American folk would feel the effects of such a catastrophe. It is hard to imagine anything of sufficient power to do what needs to be done which would avoid that, but with cooperation and help from abroad, relief efforts might mitigate much of the worst for most people, in the early days and weeks. (Furthermore, it is only fair that the people who up to now have enjoyed taking sixty percent of the world's resources with something like five percent of the world's population feel the full brunt of a disaster to fall precisely upon the way of life that is a direct cause of this inequity.) Meanwhile, the necessity for the power elite to go about by ordinary means like everyone else, and to have to go before the world, hands out, asking for relief, would do much to reverse the here-to-fore tendency toward Ugly American Arrogance. The mighty will have been brought low, and stunningly so. Because a mega solar flare would destroy nearly all the highly specialized equipment that constitutes the US inter-tied electrical grid as it now exists, it is estimated that the US would take years to fully recover from such an event. (With sufficient power in the flare, even many cars and trucks would "go down"--at least until clever mechanics could get to them with fixes.) In the days and weeks (and even years) following the initial turmoil of catastrophe, the people of this nation would have to discover different, more local, more cooperative, more energy-efficient, more life-centered ways for doing almost everything. Ideas having to do with how this might happen that operate presently only on the socioeconomic periphery would necessarily rise into the mainstream of the new American culture. (The Chicago School of Economics would come to be understood for the intellectual fraud that it is, for example.)

So, assuming that intention consciously set affects the cosmos in some fashion, here is what we must aim for. Here is the intent we must set. Between summer solstice and fall equinox of 2012 or 2013 (the years of the projected upcoming solar maximum), at which point the sun is at an ideal seasonal declination for maximum impact upon the United States of America, we must "ask the sun" for an extremely large solar flare and/or coronal mass ejection 10,000 times the energy of the 1989 solar flare which brought down the electrical grid in Quebec, Canada--a flare of sufficient power to destroy the US electrical grid, and most of its unprotected business and consumer electronics.

Admittedly, this is a huge disaster, but it is the gentlest one I am able to think of, coming short of the one we are presently making, promising to end everything we ever knew, or are capable of knowing--the entire world in which our species evolved (and, likely, ourselves as well). Do you honestly think, without something unpredictable "coming from outside" that the Principalities and Powers that Be who rule the status quo will allow the kinds of changes we need to happen in time to avoid runaway, six degree global warming? I am a person with financially privileged friends who consider themselves enlightened, and admittedly, in some things, they are, but even so, they don't believe that human extinction is a real possibility, or that our present circumstances require any urgent action. Magnify that outlook by a hundred-thousand-fold (or taking in the entire human "globalized" world, a million-fold), and it is quite easy to see that without "help", They. Will. Do. Nothing.


© ITBT 2009

Saturday, November 14, 2009

No longer knowing where I was,
From a beige study I awoke
To the sound far off like falling ice
Or water autumn driven, or blown fog through pines,
But was the morning rush of auto traffic;
Thereupon, spiked, stunned dumb and numbly slack
From my flowering heart turned and fell through fumes
Retching, dizzy, confused, and eyeshot black.

copyright © ITBT

Saturday, March 14, 2009

What is Missing from the Quote

"...So what are these barriers that keep people from reaching anywhere near their real potential? The answer to that can be found in another question, and that's this: which is the most universal human characteristic, fear, or laziness?"

We would have to add selfishness to the list, asking: which is the most universal human characteristic, fear, selfishness or laziness?

It would seem that the more particularly bloody-minded forms of stupidity arise from an abundance of two or more of these in strong interaction.

By including selfishness, we are able to include the lust for power in our understanding of why we so often fall so far short.

Here's a little list, illustrating the point:

Fear and Laziness: "It can't happen to me."

Selfishness and Laziness: "No one should get anything for free."

Fear and Selfishness: "Don't be different. You're being different. That bothers me. You'd better change."

Fear and Laziness: "God is coming. Look busy."

Selfishness and Laziness: "There is no such thing as a bad profit."

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Fear or Laziness

"There are two kinds of sufferers in this world: those who suffer from a lack of life, and those who suffer from an overabundance of life... When you come to think of it, almost all human activity and behavior is not essentially different from animal behavior. The most advanced technologies and craftsmanship bring us, at best, up to the super-chimpanzee level. Actually, the gap, between, say, Plato, or Nietzche, and the average human, is greater than the gap between that chimpanzee and the average human. The realm of the real spirit, the true artist, the saint, the philosopher, is rarely achieved. Why so few? Why is world history and evolution not stories of progress, but rather this endless and futile addition of zeroes? No greater values have developed. Hell, the Greeks, 3000 years ago, were just as advanced as we are. So what are these barriers that keep people from reaching anywhere near their real potential? The answer to that can be found in another question, and that's this: which is the most universal human characteristic, fear, or laziness? (From the film by Richard Linklater Waking Life)

IT is precisely here that religions make their living: through fear and laziness---the exploitation of fear and laziness. Congregants and believers are induced to be afraid, "be very afraid," of a wrong outcome, of falling short of the mark, of not being included in some manner, of missing paradise, or worse, of eternal agony---or more accurately, they are made to be afraid of an outcome falling upon them for even their most honest actions and ways of seeing, falling upon them out of punishing retribution. Congregants and believers are induced to laziness out of encouragement toward the natural human propensity for inertia. They become exploited by the demands for uncritical acceptance of assumptions and dogma that are not labeled before them as assumptions and dogma, but as truth.

There is enough nastiness in the world, yes, to go around. Some claim religion is our only check upon that. Look around you. Does that view honestly seem to hold up? People behave well, when they behave well, for reasons entirely other than whatever religious views they hold, whether they justify their good behavior in terms of religion or not. People behave badly for reasons entirely other, too, often justifying their bad behavior in terms of their religious convictions.

Fear how? In letting the real or imagined perils of uncertainty immobilize the will; in allowing some real or imagined displaced event in space or time make one afraid of doing work of "deciding these things" for oneself. Fear and Laziness how? In letting another person or group define what is the good, what is the right, what life is to be lived for. Laziness how? In the moment that a person lets another's view prevail without thinking about it---without thinking and feeling through the reasons for accepting or rejecting the insistence that another's view prevail... that is the moment one relinquishes one's own responsibility out of inertia and laziness. (These are NOT grownup matters better left to someone else, however qualified.)

We should note that many institutions, chief among these, the religions, are perfectly willing to collect a fee for making the fear and the necessity for spiritual work all go away.

Contrary to what they say, this is what they do.

The question is asked, then: Is it possible for certainty about the right way to go to arise from outside religion? The answer to that question is found in another question: When is it ever possible for a person to live outside themselves, outside of their own point of view, outside their own choices?