A Necessary Foundation?

(2 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

(also published to DKOS)

I don’t like occupying myself with politics very much. It’s a part of life but a relatively minor part for me. If I had my druthers I would and pursue my real love which is art in all its forms. I am attuned and immersed in beauty not politics, business or economic life.  However, political issues have to be front and center for all of us right now.

We are faced with such overwhelming collective issues that no one can stay on the sidelines-we must all carry some weight in the struggles we are facing. The most obvious and critical issue we face is the matter of climate-change. Because the Earth is a very complex system it is hard to arrive at any conclusive finding on what the results of human activity on climate are. In short, the science of any complex system can only be approximate and even then there’s always a possibility that the opposite of what we think is true may be true due to one critical detail we missed in our analysis. Such is the nature of complex systems. It is also a matter of philosophy that there is always dramatically more to life than we can ever know even if science were to systematically chart all possible avenues from here to eternity. I will not go through why I have come to that conclusion but that’s the conclusion I’ve come to from a lifetime of questioning, searching and, frankly, finding what I can only call “the mysterious.”  

So why be concerned about climate-change? Because to the best of our ability using the latest science and risk-assessment (based on game-theory) techniques we know climate-change presents us with a risk that is clearly and obviously unacceptable. The most likely scenario is that we will, within the next decade, begin a series of positive-feedback loops that will result in catastrophic climate-change that will likely kill perhaps millions of people from the catastrophes and the disorder that will follow. I say that based on the latest science (I’m reading The End of the Long Summer: Why We Must Remake Our Civilization to Survive on a Volatile Earth by Diane Dumanoski) we are in deep shit. It is possible that scientists are missing something-the discovery of some kind of morphic field or some alien force observing us who will step in at the last moment to save us etc., etc. But that’s not the point. In business you act on the basis of your best risk-analysis and there is no way you can come to a different conclusion that catastrophes are more likely to happen than not. This should be obvious after this past year of thousand year floods and extreme and unprecedented events that were predicted by scientists back in the late 1980’s.

As we face this challenge to all of humanity, at the same time, we have a global political establishment that is not reacting at all to the crisis. Some token steps have been taken mainly in Europe but in this country the issue has no resonance at all either with the power-elite or the populace as a whole. As much as climate change is a real threat this tendency of human beings in this culture to ignore the most significant threat we face in favor of some fantasy of a War on Terror show me that the culture we live in is suffering from collective mental illness-I am more certain of that fact than I am certain of a coming period of climate catastrophes.

This is why I often write that the problem is not the oligarchs or capitalism or the political system but the problem is deep within the culture. I will often say that the problem is two-fold:  (1) too much information without the conceptual frameworks needed to digest and make useful the full scope of facts and ideas which results in mass confusion and, frankly psychic trauma on an unprecedented scale-folks, we are in completely and radically different territory here that human beings have never even come close to experiencing before; and (2) a culture of narcissism that is a result of the modern condition and its trauma along with the loss of certainty, traditions and community-also critical is the availability of quick escape valves stemming from  the resulting alienation, i.e., drugs, addictions, consumerism, sex and porno, fantasies, mass entertainment, sports, online virtual life and so on.

To me it kind of irrelevant what kinds of political or economic system we live in when the goal of the culture is to take the blue pill. If our goal in life is to live in comfort (and therefore ignorance) then we are lost and we can leave the Earth to the cockroaches. The critical question for all of us is deeply philosophical and we need to articulate those questions at least to ourselves. Who are we? What do we want to do? What is the meaning of life? Are we or are we not connected to all life (science itself tells us we are all deeply connected to each other on this Earth)? Separation and selfishness is absolutely not just anti-nature but anti-human-we are hard wired to be connected. That humanness must be articulated and championed or we have no basis for any of our political ideas.

To sum up, we must start with a general philosophy of life that is solid and robust or we are building on shifting sands. It is not right to just say about the Wall Street oligarchs that they are bad or that they’re not being fair or whatever.  We must articulate some reason why we see them that way. Why should they not take all the money they can? Why should they share? Just because you say so? If you want to take away their privileges they will fight you and they have the resources to hire armies and most can’t match them in that; we have to appeal to something deeper within them as well as resist them. When we find something deep within us that we know to be solid (to the degree such solidity is even possible) then we come from a position of strength that can prevail over those whose consciousness is more split. For me one of the most vital examples of this is the practice of Aikido-in that Zen-influenced martial arts you concentrate on “one point” which is your center and, at the same time, the center of the universe itself. From that solid place you can do amazing things. For me the greatest solidity has come from embracing mystery itself–the Chinese call it the Dao and other traditions call that experience other things (in the Bible it’s called “I am that I am”)-but that experience of the mystery is common to all major cultural traditions-all of them! This fact should give us reassurance.

I believe that the role of economics and politics is to serve and strengthen us as individuals and collectives-both are interwoven and inseparable-the Ayn Rand bullshit philosophy is a structure made for twelve-year olds. To me, a culture that features consumerism, escape and narcissism is destructive to the individual as well as society-now, I believe that, historically speaking, we had to pass through this phase for reasons I do not want to go through at this time in order to catapult us to the next phase of human development (which is indeed a phase change).

The crises we face starting with climate change includes dealing with an Empire dedicated to enriching the few and enslaving the rest of us are insurmountable without the quick evolution of a humanity that is dramatically stronger than what we see today. Fortunately we have all the tools right now at our disposal-all we lack is the will to take the risks needed and to drop our old way of life. If we aren’t willing to do that then the blue pill is my recommendation.