A reckoning is inevitable. It will come one of two ways. Soon, as an act of collective awakening, or too late.
It will involve a fundamental shift in our relationships, with each other and with the planet.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Bill Bradley's Blind Spot

I was engaged by Scott Shafer's interview with Bill Bradley on KQED. I thought the digressions onto hoops and Trayvon Martin were unnecessary and distracting. It was very good to get caught up with his thinking. I have recognized and respected his voice since he served as Senator. I agree with most of his take and will buy his book.

I continue to be appalled however, and it happens all too regularly, to hear such interviews go down without a single mention from either party on Global Warming and the broader Global Eco-Crisis. For sure the paralysis in government, the economy, and international politics are important. But if anyone listens to the scientists - does Scott? - does Bill? - the Global Environmental Crisis is soon going to overtake all three of those issues and others, in urgency, in its impact on state, national and international politics and most extremely on the national and global economies. But, without drastic action, say in the coming decade, by the time the crisis pops up on the public’s radar, it will be too late to do anything meaningful.

Extreme weather continues to increase exponentially. Droughts and floods and fires place ever increasing demands on emergency services and will continue to upset the stability of agriculture globally. Supplies of fresh water will continue to diminish. The oceans are already in a crisis state and large sections of the oceans will start to die off. Fisheries are already depleted. Population will continue to spiral to 9 or 10 billion. Only in a few countries in N. Europe, and in a few other isolated areas around the world do we see anyone talking about or beginning to deal with this accelerating emergency.

The United States has lead the world down the path of war, waste, exploitation and eco-destruction, without the slightest nod to unintended consequences or a long term plan. It is our moral and pragmatic responsibility to admit the depth and breadth of our mismanagement and poor stewardship, and take a lead in reforming the global economy on a model of sustainability and economic justice. Before we are forced to follow.

It is the duty of journalists like Scott Shafer and writers and thinkers like Bill Bradley to - at the very least - factor the Eco-Crisis into your conversations. The corporate “press” in the U.S. has done an abysmally bad job at cutting through the denial and delay. What is the explanation for YOUR denial? Do you two think your elite status will protect you? It is deeply disheartening to listen to another hour of experts ignoring the most serious crisis mankind has ever faced.

There is a deep structural relationship between politics, economics, the information media and the Eco-Crisis. Do you not see it?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Different Conclusion

The time is rapidly approaching when what passes for the Left in the U.S. will be forced to name and expose the fundamental thrust of the Right wing ideology.

Background? OK. The Left has been conned into moving into the position of “center right” by the insidious pull of the Right toward the extreme right. By trying to play by the rules of honesty and fairness, compromise and the common good, the Left has allowed themselves to be co-opted and undercut by a less honest, less fair, less flexible and more damaging mindset: an adherence to a formulated, reactionary ideology that refuses to consider science, fact, reason, the public good, or a long term vision. With any luck, the merger of Fox and the blind ideologues will finally kill the GOP and bury its cancerous mental frame.

In the Huffington Post, author Chris Mooney cites and summarizes a total of 18 scientific and academic studies that define psychological trends that cohere with political alignment. People who hold Conservative and Liberal views divide along a growing and more detailed list of psychological tendencies. This is not the point here, only background, so you can look them up yourself. (Bill Moyers recently featured one not on Mooney’s list: by social psychologist Jonathan Heidt.) But to summarize the trends: Conservatives are: more likely to hold to traditional or familiar beliefs even in the face of contradictory facts; more driven in their basic psychological reactions by fear, including fear of the new; less likely to respond to or use irony or to value a sense of humor; less sympathetic or empathetic to less fortunate or disadvantaged people; more likely to justify wealth than economic fairness; less willing to acknowledge negative aspects of U.S. history; more likely to be strictly religious and less tolerant of other religions, and so on. Liberals are more: empathetic; open to new experiences; curious and creative; flexible in their thinking, more willing to question their own assumptions, and tolerant of other points of view (often to a fault); appreciative of art, irony, humor and the ambiguous in literature; and so on. Some of the studies suggest obvious causes like parental influence or life experiences that push the various thinking trends. Other studies attempt even to show hereditary differences in the way Liberal and Conservative brains are structured (similar to differences between males and females).

Analysts and commentators come up with a fairly broad range of conclusions. Some have the courage simply to ask (but not to assert) “are conservatives stupid?” Others suggest these trends should bring greater tolerance for the views of others. This is based on the assumption that some of the preferences are involuntary and extremely difficult to alter, either by choice or external pressure. And a pervasive tendency is to assume that these differences exist at similar “levels of thinking,” “levels of intelligence,” “levels of complexity,” or “stages of moral or ethical advancement.” This false assumption leads to another: that these different “mindsets” are therefore objectively comparable. And it is here that I jump off the Liberal “tolerance train.” Because I am sick, exhausted and angry at having my life compromised and my world destroyed by fear-obsessed, stupid, closed-minded (not to mention corrupt) people who think their beliefs are inherently superior to mine.

It must be said that two these trends represent nothing less than two stages in American intellectual and moral evolution: one more primitive, destructive, ignorant, immoral and inferior, one more advanced, wise, ethically superior and sustainable.

It’s time to call out the fear-based false patriotism and the hypocritical righteousness and to reverse the dumbing-down of the general public initiated in the Reagan years, and to elevate the value - the indispensable importance - of knowledge, rationality, insight, complex and flexible thinking in general, to their rightful place among American ideological values. Democracy is founded on the principle that an intelligent, aware and well-informed populace can be trusted to choose its own path into the future. When a national party and pseudo-intellectual movement base their authoritarian and backward-looking platform on willful ignorance, fear and an allegiance to dead ideas, they should be publicly shamed and run out of the political arena altogether.

So many commentators, right, left and center, are snickering up their sleeves at the absolute lack of competence among the candidates, it looks like the Republicans are on track to demolish themselves. Best case scenario: the Titanic right wing is heading, blindly and at full speed, toward the iceberg that is its own paralyzed thought process.

Friday, January 13, 2012

HuffPosts' questionable "Good News"

For all the good work Arianna does, her 'moderators' have an apparent bias against anything that questions or offers alternate visions to their 'experts.' My comment to Huffington re: their new 'Good News' page, has been edited out and not posted:

This is all well and good. But. Surely it's a good thing to feature good news in this, what I see as nearly the darkest chapter in our de-evolution. But it's tinged with a cloud of denial when we are not really dealing with the bad new on any substantive level. To wit: the fact that there is not an "ECO-CRISIS" heading up there. Aside from and prior to this complaint, I will criticize almost every 'news' outlet over the ceaseless numbing and dumbing-down created by the juxtaposition of bad news, good news, election news, dirty campaign news, cute pet news, abused animal news, titilating fashion news, domestic abuse news, war news, et f#%$King cetera. The juxtaposition, I argue, has the ultimate impact of trivializing all the news and numbing us to the worst of it, b/c we see there's a happy distraction after or under the next ad. The Global Environmental Crisis is, again, IMHO, the only issue worth citing, bad news mostly, good news rarely, solutions delayed so far into the future that they are unlikely to matter. Good news can only be appreciated or understood in the context of the worst case scenarios, which less than 1% seem willing to observe.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Occupying my Attention

The OWS project gives every indication it’s here to stay. There could not be a more optimistic note, in this slice of an age with so many compound crises. The fact that it spawned in the U.S. and has spread internationally only raises its potential. It appears it was inspired in part by the “Arab Spring,” which has many difficult hurdles ahead. Surely OWS will hit its own snags. The revolution in thinking it triggers faces a staggering task, if it is ever to be implemented. Another optimistic note is the buy-in that came rather rapidly from the mid- to leftist media and many politicians across the spectrum. The various lists of demands being formulated within and around OWS are incredibly inspiring. Things I only fantasized about are clearly articulated, like a total global cancellation of all debt.

There are two questions that seem to be bubbling near the surface among the many issues and demands. To me they seem unavoidable, obvious and inevitable. They involve nothing less than connecting the last two dots. Let’s call them The Pathology of Greed (or “what’s the matter with those people?”) and Zero Sum (or “how did the wealth get distributed in the first place?”)

Never mind that “green” is already considered hackneyed and trite. There’s no better bite to reflect the Global Environmental Crisis. OWS has some green initiatives among its demands, but for me they need to be at the top of the list. And OWS has yet to clearly state the most fundamental, most damning and most predictive connection. There is a “Zero Sum” balance between: 1. the total accumulated wealth in the world, and 2. the total value extracted from and damage done to the planet and human rights. So anytime anyone is accused of wanting to “redistribute the wealth,” it begs the “distributed?” question above. Surely the market hype has some grain of truth. Efficiency, initiative, re-investment and the creative uses of capital created some of the wealth. And much of the wealth has been used creatively. But I argue that most of it - global wealth - is the product of cheap and stolen resources, inhumane labor conditions, the economic benefit of war, and the “externalization” of waste, from Plutonium to CO2. Somebody please do the math. If it’s possible to imagine all the debt in the world cancelled, there’s a dollar amount there that can be totaled. It’s equally possible to estimate the cost of reclaiming global environmental damage, and of building, from near scratch, a sustainable global economy. We know for example that 15% of the U.S. military budget for one year could build permanent fresh water infrastructure for the third of the world that needs it. (If the ongoing industrial waste of water, and global warming, don’t preclude it.)

The total accumulated wealth of the world, one large hunk of which represents global debt, is an equivalent of the dual sum: total eco-damage done, and the cost of reclamation / reparation.

And now finally maybe someone will ask that most taboo of questions, “What is the nature of the mental pathology that drives the 1% to skim the margin of sustainable life from the rest of the world?” It should be clear that there’s a completely distorted competition for egoistic superiority, an uncontrollable, unquestioned and unlimited lust to have a bigger stack of illusionistic power than those others guys, the Koch’s for example. It’s the current version of the Master Race. It’s somewhat murkier to try to understand greed as a mask for fear. Somewhere in us the need to hold and hoard resources is innate. It’s a survival impulse. It represents an accumulation of both real and symbolic power. A hedge against the future ... and fear.

Power and fear, I argue here and elsewhere, lie side by side at the base of the human unconscious. Fight or flee. The reptile brain - we all have one. The fight or balance between them is at the heart of every human conflict. And those conflicts get out of control when their true source impulses are denied. And boy are we experts at denial. When real power in any form - personal, physical, mechanical, monetary or weaponized - begins to take on that inflated unconscious NEED for symbolic power, all other values are open to distortion and corruption. When real fear in any form - of death, disease, pain, poverty or rejection - is amplified into artificial symbols of fear, then fear itself becomes a bogeyman mask that can sell any product or disguise any kind of propaganda. Think WMD.

So the situation we face, the one that OWS has so brilliantly and courageously confronted, involves nothing less than this ultimate paradox. A few powerful people - unwilling and unable to examine their own motivations, incapable of empathy, categorically unquestioning of their assumptions - define and delimit the destiny of the human experiment and the future of life on the planet. If we believe ultimately in democracy, the ability of an educated and informed public to choose a path to the common good, it is insane to allow this power structure - the pathologically corrupt over the rest of the world - to continue.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Another Lib / Cons brain difference

Posted by Agence France Presse at AlterNet, a study that shows another difference between brain structure in liberals and conservatives: liberals have greater brain size in the areas that deal with complexity, ambiguity, and tolerance for uncertainty (and change perhaps?). And that conservatives have larger brain regions for fear in general. My response, posted there:

I've been arguing this difference for years. One great study showed that Liberals had much greater understanding and usage of irony than conservatives and that this difference coincides with an ability to empathize (stronger in liberals). This dual coherence suggests an ability to move between "levels of thinking" (think Einstein's warning), mental flexibility and an aptitude for complexity. There's also a coherent tendency toward a sense of humor or lack of it (positive for liberals, negative for conservatives). BUT NOW, seeing this post comes from Agence FRANCE Presse, I have to revise or reject all my previous assumptions. The Frenchies simply CAN'T be right. I have no empathy for them. I see no irony in my comments. They do nothing to relieve my deep seated fear of difference, contradiction, self-questioning, change, or complexity. Merde!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Spade is a Spade is a Spade.

Executives at NPR are forced out of their jobs for telling the truth. Obama dodges responsibility to lead at every turn. The spineless, corrupt Democrats pass for a ‘centrist’ position, when they clearly represent the Republicans’ bitch. Voices of the progressive left are shouted down and out of the public conversation, while the neo-fascist shills at Fox continue to pass for sane. Truth tellers like Chris Hedges are crowded off the edge of the platform and “liberals” continue to back away from their core beliefs. Discouraging? Just slightly.

Let’s not mince words or dice the truth. The Tea Parties are dominated by uneducated, scared racists. The few who don’t fit that profile have simply (and justifiably) lost faith in the ability of government to function in their behalf, or for anyone other than the moneyed elite. Did one of those NPR execs make some reference to their “stupidity”? Oh dear. We are watching what will likely be seen as the final battle between human intelligence and human ignorance, willful ignorance, fear and denial. It’s the top of the 8th, and stupidity is up by ten.

There are peer-reviewed studies, documented and reproduced, that demonstrate significant patterns of difference between those who hold the conservative mindset and those who identify as liberal / progressive. Those on the left are better educated, less materialistic, less nationalistic, more in favor of human rights and humanistic values, and more open-minded, more flexible in their thinking, more creative and appreciative of culture. Sadly they are more inclined to play by the rules, even when their opponents are cheating at every opportunity. Conservatives are motivated, in general, across their experience, more by fear than confidence in the future or hope. They are more resistant to change AS change, regardless of the reasons for change. They are less willing to question their assumptions or prejudices. DUH. Liberals are conversely all too willing, continually, to question their assumptions, values, goals, strategies, clothing choices, religious beliefs and diet. To a fault. To THE fault that pushes human civilization and humanity toward the brink: the tipping point of global eco-disaster. Every statement here is already established fact, or provable tendency.

Chris Hedges, in a “book talk,” links the global financial fraud with the global eco-crisis. He sees that they are two sides of the same issue. He acknowledges that we can’t address one without addressing both. He points out that at the root of both problems - the environment at risk and the economy sucked dry - are the same corrupting influence of money on “democratic” politics, protected by corporate controlled information.

My words, not his: There is a zero-sum equation between the dollar value of total global ecological (and human rights) damage, and the total of accumulated, stolen, exploited and hoarded global wealth. Clues are emerging everywhere, to the only trend that can save us. The middle east rebellions demand punishment for political criminals and the return of the wealth the dictators stole from their own people. Progressives here continue to speak of the shameful refusal to tax the rich or to force corporations to obey tax law. No mention of the eco-damage as yet. One can only hope, that additional link will be established and that rebellions for basic rights will continue to spread.

My last letter to Obama

This is my last message to you, and my last comment on your behalf. I gave money and volunteered for your campaign. I cried with joy when you were elected. I am a life long Democrat and environmental activist. And right now you are my worst nightmare: someone who promised hope and change and has allied with the corrupt corporate state. Someone who is in a position to shift the direction of the global economy from inevitable eco-disaster to a sustainable model, yet who ignores that essential role. You will, as I feared, go down in history ONLY as the first black president and "better than Bush." You are abdicating the most important responsibility any president in history has seen. I'm back to where I was in '68: consider voting for the Conservative in the hope it will bring down the system, rather than continue to be fooled by fake progressives. I did not do that then, but I will in 2012. The apparent fact that you will win re-election is further evidence of the opportunity you are, with your inaction and cowardice, killing.