The arts are no exception (Yurugu series #7)

The Yurugu blog series attempts to uncover some of the myths the dominant culture is based upon. As we have a hard time seeing the things we take for granted the view from outside, through the eyes of a different culture, may help with discovering our biases and enable us to act more consciously.
Marimba Ani, the author of the book Yurugu. An African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior,is not involved in putting up the series and does not necessarily agree to its contents. The series is also not meant to present the book’s central thesis, or to agree one-hundred percent with it; rather the blogs are inspired by the deep thoughts Marimba Ani has put forward, and offer some of them for consideration.

[previous article]

As my readers, by now, may assume – and rightly so – that no part of European thought, life, and culture has escaped Yurugu’s influence, it is safe to say that the arts do have a role to play in exerting power over the “Other.” The forms of expression and the institutions of our civilization are thoroughly shaped in the image of Yurugu.

John Zerzan writes about the origins of art,

Art, like religion, arose from the original sense of disquiet, no doubt subtly but powerfully disturbing in its newness and its encroaching gradualness. In 1900 [Yrgo] Hirn wrote of an early dissatisfaction that motivated the artistic search for a “fuller and deeper expression” as “compensation for new deficiencies of life.” Cultural solutions, however, do not address the deeper dislocations that cultural “solutions” are themselves part of. Conversely, as commentators as diverse as Henry Miller and Theodor Adorno have concluded, there would be no need of art in a disalienated world. What art has ineffectively striven to capture and express would once again be a reality, the false antidote of culture forgotten. – Running on Emptiness: the Failure of Symbolic Thought

As art must reflect the nature of the asiliwe can expect a society deeply split into the haves and have-nots, to produce an equally split-up arts scene. Indeed, observing developmentsover the millennia, we can seea clear division between an elitist “sophisticated” conception of arts on the one hand, and the “kitsch” itemsthat ordinary folkscreate on the other. Of folk music, I once heard somebody say that, “Pigs can’t help oinking.”
While professional forms of art historically often served to establish a certain story of people’s nature and place in the (hostile) Universe, namely their position in a society’s hierarchy, today’s arts degrade the vast majority of people to consumers. The artist, though, cannot perceive herselfas a pure dominator. She, in turn, is subject to the overarching power of economy, and she is, thanks to the strong premise of separation, fundamentally alone with herself. When she expresses her visions in her art she will help to proliferate that premise. Her expression is perceived as uniquely hers. Whether she can reach anybody else, and whether anybody else is able to deeply relate to what she expresses, cannot be made sure. Following the fashion of the day is the only way how she hasa chance that she can make a living from her work. Marimba Ani writes,

European art becomes increasingly “a commodity manufactured for the market” tending toward the vulgar. We should point out that the interesting contradiction in European culture is that its art may be commercially inspired (“the artist must live, after all”), geared to consumption, inspired by the desire for recognition, and at the same time remain an elitist form, that is, essentially separated from the people, because the art, like culture, creates (controls) the people, rather than the reverse. According to Sorokin, in the artist’s tendency to disregard religious and moral values, the art itself

“comes to be more and more divorced from truly cultural values and turns into an empty art known euphemistically as ‘art for art’s sake,’ at once amoral, nonreligious, and nonsocial, and often antimoral, antireligious, and antisocial.” [Pitirim Sorokin, The Crisis of our Age, 1941, p56]

(Marimba Ani: Yurugu. An African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior,1994, p205)

Strolling through Indian villages, the only obvious kind of art we can see consists of expressions of the religious. The notion that people, nature, and gods are closely interrelated, is still very strong in rural areas. Yet in the cities – the gates through which the floodwaters of Western civilization press into the lives of average Indians – the scenery has become overgrown by a jungle of industrial design – advertisements, economic buildings of concrete, steel and glass, and political monuments – to which the spectator is no one but a subject to power: the power to dictate order, and the power to trigger desire. Bearing only few reminiscences to India’s pre-colonial culture, the form which art, music and design take are dictated by international standards nowadays.
It sometimes seems impossible to escape the omnipresent public cacophony of such products, and I wonder why all these people here simply accept the violation of their mind space. Perhaps they cannot stand the emptiness of a plain surface, or the loudness of silence any longer. Perhaps the lack of attention-grabbing artifacts would make them aware of that other gaping, hurtful void – the one inside. So, “It’s got to be Rock’n’Roll to fill the hole in your soul.” (ABBA). When the flooding of the senses ceases to work, when one day it “doesn’t bring the same reaction from inside your brain” (Savatage), it’s time to end that specific kind of division of labour which condemns the majority of people to stay passive consumers of the arts.
Let music, fine arts, sculpture, architecture, theatrical play, and storytelling come into existence by using your own imagination. What are the values of your community, what are the stories that connect and empower people in your place, and what is the fertile ground on which humanity’s purpose in the Universe can grow? Wouldn’t you like to express, for once, something that is truly important to you? What would art look like when it works towards the ending of the need for art?

[next article in the series]

The Yoga of Reconnection

This is the transcript of my second interview with Wolfgang Werminghausen, for his podcast Faster Than Expected, episode 20, which has been published last night. Smaller corrections have been made to clarify the core message and to give a more pleasant reading.
Originally, the conversation was supposed to happen as part of the 19th FTE podcast with Kevin Hester co-hosting but was postponed due to technical problems.
FTE: I want to talk with Jürgen about living with animals. Since some years Jürgen is living in India in the small town Auroville. There he is working as a farmer and librarian. We had a talk in the 16th episode of the Faster Than Expected podcast.
How does working as a farmer and living with goats and other animals change your life?
Me: Hi Wolfgang, thanks for the opportunity to throw a few words into the conversation. I really appreciate that.
I’d like to add that it’s an organic farm within a spiritual commune, which is not at all comparable to industrial agriculture. I think that organic farming and industrial agriculture are actually two very different activities that only can be seen on the same level if you think both of them are about keeping animals or planting food crops. Apart from that, they got nothing in common. Our animals are part of the family, which means we have a symbiotic relationship, not the kind of exploit-then-throw away situation of a typical cowcentration camp.
On a physical level my work is of course completely different from anything I ever did within my life as a wage slave or as a self-employed retailer. It sort of reconnected me with the realm of true life, basic needs, eye-to-eye interaction and so on; these elements in our lives have been largely lost. I can say that because I am currently going through the experience of regaining them, finding them again in my life, and finding a place for them in my life.
The work takes some discipline, the kind I expect Kevin to know closely, because as much as you sometimes would like to leave the boat – to jump ship – you can’t. Kevin has physical barriers in the way; there is a vast ocean all around, and I have emotional barriers which I cannot cross.
FTE: Like a lifeboat.
Me: Yes. You got to be there, day by day, event by event, whatever happens. It’s three o’clock in the night and I hear some of the animals shouting in some sort of distress, eg. there is a predator in the cage or someone stepped on their toe. Whatever it is, I go there and look. I can’t say, “It’s night time, I want to sleep and my working hours are long past.”
And it’s a very direct thing: There is no space for electronic gadgets, or complex ideas. Another element that is also important from that perspective is: We use to throw money at a problem, like, something is missing and you go into the shop to buy what we need. That’s not possible in this case. You can’t throw money at a problem an animal has, or at a problem you have with an animal, and make the animal behave as you want it to. Meeting their needs, that’stheir currency, and to become aware of what the need of the moment might be I have to be with them, meaning, I have to be with them very often, repeatedly, and also mentally I have to be prepared to be present with them to understand what’s up. By that practice I learn their expressions, the signing, the body language, and communicate with them. Though it’s not like the twitch of one eye means the word so-and-so, and the blinking of the other eye means, I’m hungry. It’s not as direct as human language, rather some intuitive kind of communication. It’s not coherently the same all the time. The same sign may mean something different in a different context. Understanding is a matter of intuition, I think. By being together with the animals they learn what I am up to. Do I understand them? Am I ready to meet their need? Or am I rejecting it?
I am entering into a mutual relationship with them which means, I acknowledge them as people, as characters, as unique personalities. It’s not all that complicated and you could compare it to instances when people understand each other without words. Everybody has them. You have a friend, a partner… you don’t need to speak but you know what the other person is thinking or what they want to do. Like in a good rock band, the guitarist and the drummer know exactly their timing. We like to refer to this as „magic moments“, but that’s really just because spoken and written language has so removed us from our original state of consciousness and from the things that truly matter. Ok, in a way it’s “magic” because it’s not rational, but it’s not special in the sense of being a rare thing. You could have it every day.
So I highly recommend people to consciously enter into close relationships with someone whose psyche is not fucked up by civilized thinking and by thinking in linguistic terms. We find those very rarely. When are you able to get in contact with a wild person – with a tribal human? It’s hard to find them anywhere. So the only people left that are sort of unspoilt are animals who are available to us for that purpose.
If you let yourself – just for a minute – feel the sorrows of another being you get an understanding of the heaviness of the burden that’s hanging from the world’s neck, this civilized madness which is to me a mental disorder, a derangement even. I don’t know how else to get rid of this. It’s something no shrink can ever heal. To me, the way out of this madness is to reconnect through beings that are less impaired by it.
The fate of the biosphere is depending on us because we are the dominant species – or rather, the dominant culture, because it’s not humans as such, it’s our culture, civilization, that’s fucking up the planet, and therefore we do have a responsibility for the wellbeing of everyone else: plants, animals, ourselves of course, for the pain, the suffering, and the survival of everyone else in this world, just like we do have a responsibility for our children and our pets, or to phrase it in another way, we have a responsibility for the captive children and the animals that we domesticate for civilized use; that’s what we do to our own species even.
FTE: Thank you very much for your touching and impressive words. In Western industrial agriculture animals are a product kind of thing. Is there a different way to view animals in India?
Blister beetle devouring an ocra flower
Me: Yes, certainly. There is this funny story told by Arnold Stadler, about a calves extermination program that an agricultural minister of the German Green party has set up to curb an outbreak of BSE. I think it happened in 2001, I’m not sure. 400 000 cow babies were to be culled, meaning, killed for health issues; potential health issues even, to stop an epidemic, and most of those cow babies were not actually sick. In India, there were people and organizations who thought about how to save those animals from their pointless death. Like there is civil war in some foreign country and we think about how we could help these people. The Indians were thinking about how to help these animals that we were mindlessly killing.
To understand the Indian way of seeing animals one may look into Karma. Karma means that the depth of your insights gained throughout your lifetime and the extent at which you are putting those into practice define the situation into which you are going to be reborn. For Indians, life does not end with death; it doesn’t start with birth either. It’s an endless cycle in which we come back again and again, and that can be as a demon, a god, an animal of some kind, or as a human.
That means that animals are regarded as relatives. It expresses in language, when, in Tamil, we call a young female animal ‘paapa’, younger sister and a young male animal ‘thambi’, younger brother.
Indian philosophy has it that physical pain is a normal, natural phenomenon. Our nerve endings help us sense the world, see the world, hear the world. The same nerve that can feel the texture of a book or a peace of clothing can also feel pain which is just an increase in intensity of the same impression. Pain happens to everyone and it cannot be avoided. So it does not matter much if we beat a cow or keep a calf from having its milk and make it feel hungry, because this pain is a natural thing. Our duty in our karma as living beings is to understand this and to surrender to the necessity of pain. To understand this necessity and surrender to it means that you do your yoga.
If we don’t do our yoga, if we don’t understand, we suffer psychologically. Suffering and pain are different. The suffering is in your own responsibility. You cannot avoid pain but you can avoid suffering by understanding the necessity of pain. And as long as we suffer we cannot leave the wheel of rebirth. We are caught in the world of pain.
But as all life is also yoga, ie. the search for the Divine, Ultimate Consciousness, God – however you want to call it – and therefore we must not interrupt this search by cutting a life short. Sure, you can do it anyway but it has an impact on your karma. That’s why people on one hand have no problem with heavily beating a cow while on the other hand making efforts to saving its life, no matter how miserable that life is.
[To repeat a story given in my last blog here:] Just a few days ago I came to the house of my Tamil sister where two hibiscus bushes are standing in front of the door which were a gift from one of our friends. The flowers were full of blister beetles which were eating the flowers. I said, “Look!” by just pointing at them. She replied: “What shall I do? They are hungry and they need to eat. We can’t just go around and kill everyone.” This illustrates their view on animals, encompassing both the domestic and the wild animals. This is of course going away the more India gets industrialized but it is still present within the countryfolk.
FTE: I see. We can learn very much from the Indian attitude towards animals and towards life. Thanks for your insightful words and the metaphors; now I imagine you with a goat rock band in a lifeboat[both chuckle]with your brothers and sisters. Thank you very much for this talk.

Me: Thank you for having me on the show!

P.S.
Karma is, of course, a way more complex topic than described here, and the ramifications of inflicting pain and causing sufferings on others must not be neglected, but killing weighs heavy on the karmic balance sheet.
With all the generalizations made here, I must amend that, for anything you may say about India, the exact opposite is true as well. Its culture is enormously rich and diverse; as a civilization, it is almost as old as the Western cultural lineage. Indians’ basic assumptions on the nature of existence and therefore on the proper way of treating the living planet, as fundamentally different as they are from Western views, are certainly not perfect but at least they keep the door open for each individual life to improve its situation. With the influx of Western ideas and technologies, though, this culture is developing into one of the most explosive population bombs the world has seen.
 
 Sheila Chandra: Lament of McCrimmon/Song of the Banshee

The Empire Express, 28 June 2017

Editorial

Three distinct areas have emerged as today’s focus points: clear indication of the climate’s rapid deterioration, studies in anthropology and sociology, and the battle to bring down the Megamachine. You might also express it in terms of observation – realization – action; or, past – present – future.
A lot of that has close relationship to food supply which is absolutely no surprise to anyone who pays attention to their basic needs.
The question of how to deal with the dire realities of today’s world permeates many publications even when their main topics seem harmless. The threat of a global war, nuclear war even, and the collapse of our culture is hovering over our heads; anarchists, anti-imperialists, environmentalists and primitivists are pondering the role of violence in their struggle to save whatever they are out saving. Does pacifism equal collaboration with the omnicidal System? Is there a moral obligation to use violence against things and/or people? Or is there another way?
I think those belong among the most burning questions of our times, and while I personally tend to favour nonviolent liberation I do suppose that some situations might require the application of force. Can’t plan this beforehand, though, because it depends on the specifics of the moment. In any case, let compassion prevail. Don’t act from a place of hate.

Ongoing Assault

Recent news
Climate scientists reveal their fears for the future – Kerry Brewster, ABC news, 20170627
An Australian climate scientist studying heat waves says, “I don’t like to scare people but the future’s not looking very good.“She and many of hercolleagues have second thoughts about having children and they are moving to places like Tasmania where temperatures are lower – as do many of the rich and powerful. If you need reliable indication of an impending climate collapse, here tweetsyour canary.
Carbon in atmosphere Is rising, even as emissions stabilize– Justin Gillis, New York Times, 20170627
That raises a conundrum: If the amount of the gas that people are putting out has stopped rising, how can the amount that stays in the air be going up faster than ever?”
If you are aware that various tipping points have been reached beyond which self-reinforcing feedback loops kick in you do not need to read this article. Just share it with people who wonder what is going on.
Both climate change and political issues may interrupt global trade at any moment now. A number of African countries depend heavily on food imports, but the problem is not theirs alone. The failure of raw materials and fossil fuel supply is sure to fell the economies of developed countries in no time. The whole situation is a threat to all of global industrial civilization and has a potential to bring it down permanently – which is why big harbours, channels, and straits have been identified as trouble areas by the anti-capitalist movement.
Subsea permafrost on East Siberian Arctic Shelf in accelerated decline – interview by Nick Breeze with Dr Natalia Shakhova and Dr Igor Semiletov, Envisionation, 20170624
Latest research results show that the threat of a multi-gigaton outburst of methane from the ESAS is real and would have severe and immediate impact on the world’s climate.
The twilight of anthropolatry – John Michael Greer, Ecosophia, 20170621
Check out any other issue where the survival of industrial society is at stake, and you’ll see the same thing. In case after case, it takes very little work to identify the habits and lifestyle choices that are dragging our civilization to ruin, and only a few moments of clear thinking to realize that the way to avert an ugly future has to begin with giving up those habits and lifestyle choices. Yet that last step is unthinkable to most people. It’s not just that they refuse to take it, for whatever reason; it’s that they don’t seem to be able to wrap their brains around the idea at all.”
Then what is it that keeps people from acting according to their best knowledge? After all, civilized humans deem themselves the most intelligent species on Earth by far. We even call ourselves homo sapiens, wise apes. The author thinks that we cannot believe anything will ever be able to come and bite us because of “A paradigm that insists that human beings are above nature—in the full literal sense of the word, supernatural—and therefore can’t possibly need to rethink their own choices for nature’s sake.”
Though the concept is not exactly new JMG puts it in a way that helps with reconsidering humanity’s place in the greater scheme of things. We are divine, but no more so than squirrels and apple trees.
Forbes’ “Go Bust” prescription for Indian farmers is a death warrant– Colin Todhunter & Binu Mathew, Countercurrents, 20170614
A piece in one of the ‘finest’ business magazines, on the need to industrialize Indian agriculture, led to this systematic rebuttal of both the analysis and the conclusion of Forbes’ neoliberal line of argument. Well written, but I am missing the insight that, very soon, the world is running into a food crisis and no one is going to eat if farming productivity is getting measured in financial rather than nutritional value.
The business model of big agribusiness in the US is based on overproduction and huge taxpayer subsidies which allow it to rake in huge profits. However, it drives a model of agriculture that merely serves to produce bad food, creates food deficit regions globally, destroys health, impoverishes small farms, leads to less diverse diets and less nutritious food, is less productive than small farms, creates water scarcity, destroys soil and fuels/benefits from World Bank/WTO policies that create dependency and debt […]
While [Forbes author Tim] Worstall argues that unproductive agriculture is a burden on society, it is not agriculture that has been the subsidy-sucking failure he imagines it to be. It has been starved of investment while the corporates secure the handouts. If anything, farmers have been sacrificed for the benefit of the urban middle classes whose food has been kept cheap and whose disposable income and consumer spending provides the illusion of growth.”
Earth is not in the midst of a sixth mass extinction – Peter Brannen, The Atlantic, 20170613
Interesting read. But palaeontologist Doug Erwin’s argument does not convince. First of all, mass extinctions may have similarities to failing power grids but they are not that, not pieces of technology. It’s simply an analogy like, comparing civilization to a ship, or seeing life as a journey, and it might be just as wrong as the computer/brain analogy. Secondly, previous mass extinction events played out over thousands or even millions of years before the collapse was complete. As we cannot foresee how the extinction of a certain species affects the web of life as a whole, we cannot tell whether key species of today have already vanished or not. We might already be over the edge (or we might not, agreed). Saying that today’s ecosystems don’t look like they were 90% collapsed is like driving a car at top speed over a cliff saying, a crashed car wouldn’t make one hundred miles per hour. From the figures I know the world has lost more than 90% of its vertebrates and insects populations within the last 100 years, and that is a pretty close call for extinction. Add to this the increasing speed at which we eat up living beings and destroy habitats, then look at ocean acidification, abrupt climate change, global pollution, and disastrous technological events, and do not forget to include the general disregard for non-human beings when money enters the game; then tell me again about being alarmist.
Mandsaur agitation: how demonetisation brought MP farmers onto streets – Aman Sethi & Punya Priya Mitra, Hindustan Times, 20170612
Humanity’s behaviour towards the world we inhabit is often described as ‘soiling our nest’. Most civilized people definitely got mental issues when it comes to natural processes, even when they are being adapted for human use, like in agriculture. The average consumer looks down upon their farmers, and generally feels that food prices are too high. But those who produce the vital goods each and every one of us depends upon work the hardest and longest, earn the least, and take the highest risks. Some of the governments know very well that they cannot stay in power if the farmers become aware of their potential leverage. That’s why they are getting shot at while the general public doesn’t care. People don’t care in Delhi, they don’t care in Auroville, they don’t care in Berlin or New York or Buenos Aires or Cairo. They don’t care in your home town, and likely you don’t care either, do you?
Maybe you should. Because when the day of food shortage comes it’s the farmers who will eat, if anyone. I say ‘If anyone’ because it seems more likely that, with all the obstacles and hardships put on the farmers, and with all the destruction brought upon the landbase, no one will eat.
Paris 2 degree rise relates to 1750 – Paul Beckwith, 20170610
The Canadian climate scientist explains where some of the confusion about the actual rise in global average temperature comes from.
It’s habitat, habitat, habitat, stupid – Robin Westenra, Seemorerocks, 20170607
An essay discussing our crop plants’ dependence on habitat, and the dependence of civilization on crop plants.
Vanessa Beeley on White Helmets, Syria – Sane Progressive, 20170526
It is thanks to a handful of independent investigative journalists that we can see the extent to which the public is being fooled into believing that governments were fighting morally good wars. The war in Syria not only shows that this is true for the West’s attack against yet another sovereign nation, but for the whole so-called War on Terror which is really only a deadly sham. In Syria, it is no longer ISIS or al-Qaeda who are being bombed by Western troops. Vanessa Beeley, Eva Bartlett and others did a great job describing how the so-called terrorists are being financed by Saudi, Israeli, US, and UK governments. Especially disgusting is the role of the White Helmets that our media style into angels. But listen to the reporter for yourself.
Now: The Invisible Committee – Non (copyriot.com), 20170520
This world is no longer to be commented on, criticised, denounced. We live surrounded by a fog of commentaries and of commentaries on commentaries, of criticisms and of criticisms of criticisms, of revelations that trigger nothing, except revelations about revelations. And this fog takes away from us any hold on the world. There is nothing to criticise in Donald Trump. The worst that one can say about him, he has already absorbed, incorporated. He embodies it. He wears as a necklace all of the grievances that one could ever imagine holding against him. He is his own caricature, and he is proud.”
This is not an essay about the US president.
The truth is not something towards which we would tend, but a non-evasive relation to what there is. It is not a “problem” except for those who already see life as a problem. It is not something that one professes, but a way of being in the world. It is therefore not something that is possessed, or accumulated. It is given in a situation, from moment to moment.”
It is a call for an anarchist revolution, written by an “Invisible Committee” of authors that has, ten years ago, published “The coming insurrection.” Its analysis of the global predicament goes deep, its scope of interest is wide, and although I am really not a friend of applied violence I have to admit that its place in the grander scheme of things seems properly defined.

Pearls Before Swine

A collection of older articles that – obviously – didn’t change the world.
The demoralized mind – John F. Shumaker, Newint, 201604
Unlike most forms of depression, demoralization is a realistic response to the circumstances impinging on the person’s life […]
Research shows that, in contrast to earlier times, most people today are unable to identify any sort of philosophy of life or set of guiding principles. Without an existential compass, the commercialized mind gravitates toward a ‘philosophy of futility’, as Noam Chomsky calls it, in which people feel naked of power and significance beyond their conditioned role as pliant consumers. Lacking substance and depth, and adrift from others and themselves, the thin and fragile consumer self is easily fragmented and dispirited […]
Cultural deprogramming is essential, along with ‘culture proofing’, disobedience training and character development strategies, all aimed at constructing a worldview that better connects the person to self, others and the natural world.”
International migration flows: tracking the trends – Down To Earth, based on UN international migrant stock 2015
In 2015, the world saw the highest levels of forced displacement recorded since World War II. There was a dramatic surge in the number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people across the world.”
Ho’oponopono for beginners.
Thinking on a clean slate: preface to the human story – M. J. John, Human First – Thinking Beyond Industrial Civilization, 20141208
Nothing could be more misleading than the idea that computer technology introduced the age of information. The printing press began that age, and we have not been free of it ever since.
[…] Everything from telegraphy and photography in the 19th century to the silicon chip in the twentieth has amplified the din of information, until matters have reached such proportions today that for the average person, information no longer has any relation to the solution of problems.
[…] For most humans living today, it is hard to imagine life without technology – without second-hand intelligence-dependency. But on the scale of human history, the
Internet and mobile devices are recent inventions, a few decades back, and the modern science and technology a few centuries back. Until just 5,000 years ago, we lived in small groups, hunting and gathering. While that life might seem to be ancient, it is also the life for which our bodies and our brains are adapted. So, we have something to learn from people who still live naturally, as we did for almost 99.9% of human life here on Mother Earth.
[…] In ancient Greece, even slaves had a deep social role as part of a household, unlike even higher class modern workers, who are valued as things, interchangeable as parts in engines of profit. Medieval serfs worked fewer hours than modern people, at a slower pace, and passed less of their money up the hierarchy. We declare our lives better than theirs in terms of our own cultural values. If medieval people could visit us, I think they would be impressed by our advances in alcohol, pornography, and sweet foods, and appalled at our biophobia, our fences, the lifelessness of our physical spaces, the meaninglessness and stress of our existence, our lack of practical skills, and the extent to which we let our lords (leaders of religion, government and market) regulate our every activity. They are sure to consider us as pitiful creatures.
[…] Supposing there were no books, TV, radio, the newspapers, phone and the Internet, we would know very little of what went on or is going on in the world. We would have fewer thoughts, fewer second-hand ideas. Being less cluttered up mentally, we would be better able to concentrate on things near at hand. We would be able to live more intensely. Perhaps we would be closer to REALITY, the real knowledge or the TRUTH. This was, of course, the condition of our ancestors in bygone days, even as it is still the condition of many people untouched by industrial civilization in some of the so-called ‘undeveloped’ countries.”
A veeery long essay taken from the book “Life on meltdown: exposing the root of this genocidal collective stupidity”by M. J. John, and it has, of course much more to tell, beyond critisizing industrial civilization. I chose to quote these passages, especially at such length, because, for the resolving message to come across, it takes for the reader to let go, just one moment, of the idea that humanity is living at the apex of its abilities. There aremassive amounts of evidence today that both human intelligence and human sensory and memory functions are actually in decline. Think of it.
An anthropologist’s presentation regarding tribes of the Northern Congo basin, explaining the locals’ understanding of equality and its rootedness in different kinds of blood. Beyond the social equality – between men and women, old and young people, strangers and family, and all kinds of other dichotomies – there is also equality between human and non-human populations in their forest. I found it interesting to see how the concept of equality differs between civilized and tribal nations. Profound differences in lifestyle result from that.
This book is about fighting back. The dominant culture—civilization—is killing the planet, and it is long past time for those of us who care about life on earth to begin taking the actions necessary to stop this culture from destroying every living being […] it won’t stop doing so because we ask nicely.”

Cartoon

The train of civilization
“Must go faster!”

Famous Last Words

It can’t happen to us.

The limits to reason

How did humans get to the idea that they could domesticate plants and animals for food prdoduction? How did they do it, and what were the implications? What has changed over the millennia and how did this affect people, plants, animals and the land?
Many among us may think they know the story, but what we actually heard was the narration of the agricultural perpetrators. The picture they paint gives rationales and justifications for modern industrial agriculture, based on utilitarian materialistic notions of bottom lines and benefits. What is missing from their picture is the suffering caused by rapist practises that sprang from rapist minds. While this may sound like a harsh judgment, consider that the rapist is separating himself from his victim, and he objectifies it so he can use it for his own benefit. The victim’s “bottom line” does play no role in his calculations. In his mind, there is no soul, no heartache, no dignity, no connectedness, no oneness, no sacredness.
In various publications Daniel Quinn pointed out that this rapist totalitarian agriculture is but one way of growing food. Other ways are not about production in the first place; they help embed humans into the web of life. Experience from organic gardening and farming does support this notion, but the case may also be made historically and etymologically.
The morpheme agri- is derived from a Latin word and means “field”. -culture, again from the Latin, means “to till, to inhabit, to protect, to nurture, to worship, to honour.” The relationship expressed in the word Agriculture is therefore a close, nurturing, loving one, originally.
What we commonly understand, today by the word agriculture, because its practices have become so ubiquitous, is a subduing of the Earth, forcing our will upon soil, plants, and animals so they deliver what we demand of them. Totalitarian agriculture is the starting point and main driver of the physical destruction of the biosphere as well as the emotional and spiritual destruction of human beings.

TENDING OUR LAND. A new story. By M. G. Jackson & Nyla Coelho
By NASA Langley Research Center, public domain

Focussing on the history of Indian farming and agriculture practices since the dawn of civilization, Jackson and Coelho give a new account of the succession of ideas and notions around tending the land. This is at the same time a history of modern science and its failures to grasp what almost every culture on Earth understood: that humans are an integral part of the world, not separate from it, and that the way we relate to it has consequences on a material level; that in fact relationships are the actual substance of reality.

“17th century specialists assumed that they were impartial observers of the objects and events they study. Such findings are thus objective, free from personal bias, and thus reveal the true nature of the phenomena studied. This assumption is based on the concept of a duality of body and mind formulated by Rene Descartes.”(p73f)
But the duality between free mind and causally-determined matter makes no sense, says Whitehead (quoted after Tending our land):
“Western peoples exhibit … two attitudes [that] are really inconsistent … A scientific realism, based upon mechanism, is conjoined with an unwavering belief in the world of man and higher animals as being composed of self-determining organisms. The radical inconsistency at the base of modern thought accounts for much that is half-hearted and wavering in our civilization.” [A. N. Whitehead, Science and the modern world, 1925, p76]
Jackson and Coelho express that there is no clear separation between the observer and the observed, so,
“In view of this assumption about the process of observation — who observes, what is observed and how — it would only be prudent to doubt the entire edifice of 17th century science. It seems likely that the specialists, in fact, see what they expect to see based on their assumptions about the nature of the world. Since they are unaware of the assumptions they hold they think they are seeing ‘the’ world as it ‘really’ is.” (p73)
In other words, the world of clearly separate entities, entities which consist of lifeless inert mass, entities which can be used and manipulated as humans please, is basically a delusion. The case can be made for things the size of galaxies, as well as for atoms, and everything inbetween.
“Size, volume, shape, density, position and velocity are not attributes of the atoms themselves, but refer to the relationships among them […] abstracted from this reference frame, an atom cannot be described; it cannot even be said to exist.” (p69)
“Another way of describing the unreality of physical entities is to say that in the world we construct from our experiences there are no spatial boundaries. If there are no boundaries there cannot be any independently-existing entities”, (p70f)
because it requires a defined area or volume for them to exist.
And really, particle physicists have been unable to discover such entities. The same goes for the macroscopic level. Can soil exist or be seen without the organisms living in it, of it, and creating it? Can a human being exist without the myriads of microspecies living on our skin, off our hair, in our bowels? Can a planet exist in and of itself, without its gravity field and the gravity fields of its neighbouring celestial bodies? With everything so tightly interlinked as to be inseparable the scientific description of relational dynamics becomes utterly ridiculous.
by MLWatts, public domain

“It is not possible to describe the simultaneous interactions of three or more bodies in one equation; say for example, the sun, planet, and the planet’s moon, or the entire solar configuration, or a human body or a landscape” (p73)

Though we can point at “things” and though we canroughly or with relative precision predict those things’ near-term development, truly exact forecasts are simply impossible. But,
“If we assume that what we observe are relationships and not objects, the appropriate research protocol is to describe these relationships. It is a process of synthesis rather than of analysis.” (p72)
So if we described the world in terms of relationships like some Eastern, and almost all indigenous, cultures used to rather than in terms of forces and masses, the outcome might be quite different. It certainly makes a difference regarding our behaviour, and our relationship to the living planet. And that in turn might mean all the difference in view of the future course of the global crisis we are currently undergoing. If what happens, eg. to the climate, is the outcome of humanity’s impoverished, disrespecting and abusive relationship towards basically everything — and how could we deny that the uglification, the exploitation, the pollution etc of the planet are just that — then re-establishing a loving relationship with the universe might result in a ‘miraculous’ healing.
“Everything in the universe we [Indians] are told is not only living, but is also sacred. What does it mean to say that life is sacred? Sacredness is a feeling, not a concept. How, or from where, does it arise? We can only say: from a sense of mystery. It will not do to say that the ancients lacked our present particular knowledge and so fell back on superstitious belief. Rather we must admit, as they did, that there is a limit to human reason. Admitting this humbles us and gives rise to a sense of awe in the face of the universal mystery of manifestation; awe and reverence are the very essence of the sacred.” (p61f)
A miracle is not something we can hope for. Similarly, sacredness is not something we can work for. Both would arise from a change in our deepest understanding, therefore today’s science would be unable to explain it. From a rational point of view, reducing emissions or cleaning up pollution would have done the job (though we know already that it’s too late for this to have any significant effect), but what would have actually happened is the mending of broken ties through re-establishing the sacred dimension of things.
Our actions are the result of inner — mental, emotional, spiritual — states and processes. Whether physical actions are effective elements in a cause-and-effect mechanism, or if they are merely symptoms of inner processes is one of the great differences in worldview between East and West, and it might be the difference between a living and a dead planet.

See also:

Towards an ethics of permanenceNyla Coelho & Dr. M.G. Jackson, Ecologise, 20170510.
An essay made from excerpts from the book Tending Our Land: A New Story, Earthcare books, Kolkata, 2016

Messing with habitat

The founder of our settlement provided a general idea of how the future city was supposed to look like. An architect came up with a few models one of which imitated the shape of a galaxy. Based on that, a layout for the city, the so-called masterplan has been drawn by our town planning group. Population development in the surrounding villages and land speculation are now massively interfering with said plan, but also an increasingly bold environmental movement within our community itself is making the realization of infrastructure according to the masterplan more difficult. Currently under discussion is, imposing a government-approved land use plan through the application of authority, but —

“There’s an issue which almost nobody writes about or talks about, and yet it’s perhaps more fundamental than any other issue at all, which is soil. Soil is the basis of human civilization. Soil is the basis of human existence. We do not exist without soil. Everything we eat, everything which contributes to our body mass comes from soil. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation we have 60 years of harvest left at current rates of soil loss and degradation. And this is a marginal issue. It doesn’t feature in politics, it doesn’t feature in debate, it’s not on the news. No one is talking about this, yet it’s the most fundamental issue of all […] the biggest bias is the bias against relevance. Those things that are objectively most relevant to our lives are marginalised while trivia is put in their space, is put front and center as the thing we ought to obsess about.” — George Monbiot, author of “How did we get into this mess? Politics, equality, nature” in an interview with Verso
A few days ago I had the privilege of getting a glimpse of the discussion around the NTDA* for our township here. The mail exchange I saw – I hope the authors are going to share it with a wider audience as well – left absolutely no doubt that forcing the masterplan into practice is a pretty bad idea.
Without going into the details of their convincing arguments I would like to point out that our physical bodies require physical habitat for their survival, habitat which allows for the growth of food, collection of water, and regulation of body temperature. Habitat is not the supermarket shelves most of us refer to for food, not the money we possess, not the technology we use, not the good books we read, nor the inspiring ideas and visions we derive from them. Habitat consists of the landbase with its shape, its hydrology, its soil, and its living organisms and their larger cultures and communities (what we call ecosystems). Habitat is what provides us with food, water, oxygen, shelter and literally everything else that is absolutely essential for our survival. The elements herein are not interchangeable, none of them dispensible, and one cannot manipulate any of the variables without affecting the whole habitat. You mess with it — you don’t eat, period.
Much of the future city’s area still looks like this.

Our founder centered the city around a banyan tree on top of a hill, and that led to massive reforestation of the local watershed, as the first settlers needed shade urgently. I don’t know whether the founder was aware of it — most pioneers certainly weren’t, and the advocates of the masterplan still aren’t — but the new ecosystem came into existence in exactly the right spot for most of our basic needs to get met — provided we respect what has developed over the last 50 years on this once barren plateau. Tremendous effort by thousands of people contributing countless hours of hard physical work went not only into the re-creation of this forest of several million wooden souls with its diverse fauna; the same is true for many of our farms as well, where committed people enabled natural processes to heal the wounds human ‘development’ had cut. Thanks to half a century of organic farming some places have built up not just inches but a foot and more of healthy, carbon-rich top soil.

To sacrifice these achievements in order to build paved roads, offices, factories, and houses in their place is not merely disrespecting of the creative energy of humans and non-humans alike — what kind of spirituality is this supposed to be? — it is highly destructive when it comes to habitat. As long as we dismiss the information and understandings painfully gained through the history of civilization we better dare not speak of higher consciousness. We cannot impose abstract visions on a real landscape and expect to have a habitat tomorrow. Global environmental degradation forbids us to trade habitat for development any longer without immediately endangering our very existence up here. The city on the hill would become home to the fool on the hill… a dead fool, for that matter.
It is our duty to act according to our best knowledge and our highest consciousness as a species. Knowing what we know about watersheds, climate change, aquifers, ecosystems and their degradation, and so forth, a new vision for our township is urgently needed, a vision that does not speak of imposition of structure — dead geometrical objects — upon a living ecosystem with its human and non-human community. What we need is the (re-) enactment of an understanding how to (re-) integrate the human sphere into the community of life. The brackets point out that historical precedence for non-separation does exist.
The galaxy model was never meant to constitute the ultimate word on the settlement’s shape. Our founder did not say, Repeat after me. Instead, we have been called to take advantage of new developments and pieces of knowledge as we proceed. We are supposed to work out the functioning of our society as we are walking forward — on the go, so to speak — and that certainly includes the physical manifestation of “the city at the service of truth”. Barring a direct lie, you cannot strive farther from truth than dwelling in architectural dreams that are denying the significance of habitat and that have no connection with what-is: ground reality, empirical reality, the reality of the land.

Letting go of control

Kelly Brogan, psychiatrist, on a trip to Rajasthan, India, collected impressions that resonate with my own sense of being (here). A lot of what she describes got already lost for many a native, due to the fast-progressing urbanisation, mechanisation, automisation, utilisation and exploding consumption, but it is still somehow present in rural areas and can be felt, especially when I perform one of those quick leaps back and forth to Germany.
In her article Spirituality and Mental Illness, Kelly writes:

“They showed us the fact that loving creation allows them to love each other, and to love all that comes in their path. When the son asked me about my job, I seized up, certain that the notion of a psychiatrist would make no sense whatsoever to him. The idea that there are professionals trained to manage and alter the human experience through pharmaceutical drugs – to someone who has faith in all that comes, in the many ways that divinity can be expressed, and in the dividends of a commitment to integrity…to this person, Prozac would not compute. 
This is what India showed me.
It showed me what my American soul had forgotten…which is that there is something more beautiful, more sacred, more wondrous available when we live connected to our trust in something larger. Because this something larger lifts us up out of our limitations, our smallness, our distractions, and holds us in a web of the collective so that there is never something random, awful, and unlucky that can simply just happen. So that there is always meaning and ok-ness.”

Regarding psychiatry, she quotes Charles Eisenstein who said, “The reason that conventional psychiatry – whether pharmaceutical or psychoanalytic – is powerless to substantially help the vast majority of patients is that it does not, and cannot, recognize the wrongness of the world we live in,” and I really couldn’t agree more. Though, in some way, there is no wrong or right, there is just existence as such, on a certain level we are beings that need a framework to live within. Some frames work better than others, and some are utterly destructive because they are dysfunctional from the start:

“It has never been more clear to me that the Guild of Psychiatry is one of the greatest threats to a soul’s journey, perhaps simply because there is no acknowledgement of the soul. This is why I believe that avoiding and coming off of psychiatric medications is the greatest form of initiation to self that exists in the West today.”

An article worth reading, an author worth following.

India without monsoon is like a fish without water

What climate change looks like on the ground in Southern India, in the federate states of Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. With crops failing catastrophically, and fisheries getting suffocated and depleted, what are people going to eat?


– “The situation is certainly going from bad to worse. At this rate, the water will last for only the next 90 days in most places. We are taking all possible measures, but irrigation is perhaps the last thing on our minds now as we need to save water for all other purposes […] The [Kerala] government decided to, for the first time ever, impose a water rationing system across households and industries.”

“Farmers in Mandya district, part of the Krishnaraja Sagar dam ayacut area [Karnataka], have failed to harvest even a single paddy crop this year.”

[In Tamil Nadu], “around 40 farmers protested outside the Trichy collector’s office, holding dead rats in their mouths, stating that over 47 farmers had committed suicide in the state in the last two months. [Chief minister] Panneerselvam declared all 32 districts drought-affected […] with the deficit [rainfall] ranging from 35% to 81%”

“The numbers in the three states have raised alarm bells everywhere, and what is even more worrying is what they indisputably portend — the coming water wars that will stem from Tamil Nadu’s dependence on its neighbours.”

This is just for starters. We didn’t have a Blue Ocean Event yet, and we have merely seen a 1.6°C rise in global average temperature. 

Beside seafood and grains, the third leg of human nutrition, veggies and fruits, is in decline as well, thanks to pollinator’s struggle for survival.

People need to be prepared, carefully, to expect this, and worse, to extend into the forseeable future, and to find ways to live on less. And not just in India — also in all other countries in the world, especially the industrialised regions. No one is going to deliver food into the cities when farmers are starving, themselves.

Good grief!

Tamil Nadu stares at water crisis as rain fails

“Tamil Nadu is staring at one of its worst water crises. Going by data put out by the public works department, the major irrigation reservoirs in the state have a combined storage of only 15% of its total capacity, which continues to dwindle. The northeast monsoon has been deficient in most districts with the meteorological department recording a 66% deficiency. The state had [already] suffered a deficit rainfall during the southwest monsoon between June and September this year. ‘Both agriculture and water supply will be adversely affected given the present scenario,’ said a senior government official, seeking anonymity.”Times of India, 16 Nov 2016

India has severe problems with a Monsoon that has become increasingly erratic over the last two decades. Two months after the Winter Monsoon’s regular starting date, 1st October, the local plateau here has seen but a handful of rainy days, only one of which resembled somehow seasonally normal conditions.
Yesterday we had a full-day powercut which low pressure in the hydroelectric powerplants may have contributed to. As the farm is allowed to pump water from the well only every other day, and as – thanks to a biased arbitration decision – we have lost all storage capacity to neighbours who are making no proper use of those, nor of the land we had to hand over to them, this poses a threat to the existence of the place. And it is just the beginning of what seems to be part of a steep decline into global destruction. Forget about food security in a town where the little farming we have receives an abundance of contempt from a society in which a sizeable fraction of the population believes tourists’ money and government grants equal sustainable living.
I know that the Californian drought is going on for more than five years already, causing almonds and nuts shortages and price spikes in farwaway Germany. I know that places on the American plains and elsewhere in the World have been hit much earlier and much harder already than Southeast India, but that newspaper article, which I read only yesterday in the evening drove it home; drove it home to the deeper place where it belongs, beyond the mind.

I read it, and I cried.
I remembered having looked at sea ice graphs and global temperature figures and jetstream projections and polar weather maps just a few hours before, and I cried.
I looked up at the starlit raintree canope in front of my hut, and I cried.
I am not afraid of dying, and I know that all things shall pass; yet I cried for the untimely demise of all that beauty, considering how each of us has contributed – and is perpetually contributing – to its impending extinction. The cows, the crickets; the goats, the grass; the hares, the humans; the paddy birds and the palmyra; this beautiful, garbage-strewn, sun-baked land of India which in the not-so-distant future might face civil war over precious water crossing hate-based state borders.

I can feel how quite a few believe that I’m nuts (likely not those who made it this far into the text; thanks for still being with me). I am very aware of the fact that I am standing in a millennia-old tradition of doomsayers, all of which have been graced with being spared the real thing; 2012, after all, has come and passed not that long ago. And this as well is part of why I am crying: because the writing’s on the wall, in capital letters, everywhere around us, still everyone carries on as if those were just minor glitches on a TV screen. Seen it before; won’t happen to me. It’s a conversation you can’t have unless you seek to run into a wall of escapism, denial, and unfounded hopes.

I have been grieving before and I have been crying before. Understanding the inescapability and necessity of it all leaves no other choice, apart from closing my eyes. I do close my eyes sometimes, though not for a childlike kind of hiding; it is to connect to the joy of being alive, to focus on the love from which right action will come, and to be present for what needs to be witnessed.

Twenty-three billion banknotes invalid

Google News Germany – Nine headlines on the US election, none on India. India’s PM Modi has declared last night at 10pm that all of the 23 billion Rs500 and Rs1000 notes are demonetized as of midnight. Banks and ATMs stay closed for today, some places also tomorrow. This is supposed to have happened as a blow at forged and black money which have been used for terrorist activities and corruption, all of which are blamed on activities “across the border”, meaning Pakistan. One trillion two hundred fifty billion Rupees of black money have supposedly been found recently.
Gives me the creeps, because this is not only risking to destabilize the financial sector and the economy, but threatens social peace as well and fires yet another affront towards the fragile relationship with Pakistan, a country in possession of nuclear weaponry.
In the evening, people have stormed ATMs, and today nobody is accepting 500s and 1000s any longer. Transactions in cash, even big ones like for cars or shop equipment, are way more common in India than in Europe or America. Many people don’t have bank accounts, just cash money. They pay hospital stays and medicine, for enstance, in cash, and are now facing treatment being denied to them. Farmers delivering to markets cannot get paid for their food – which will spoil now while people all over the place cannot afford a meal. Many shops won’t make any money within the next few days because they cannot refill their stocks, or their customers have no valid money to spend – like me. I actually wanted to spend ten thousand Rupees today on printing my book and getting a water pump for the farm. It has to wait another week – provided the situation is not escalating. I doubt that there are enough Rs50 notes in circulation for bridging the immediate need, e.g. for paying wages. Civil unrest or an economic crisis in India may well destabilize the global system – which sure has to happen, and cannot be avoided anyway, in the not-so-distant future. It would be a witty end, though, coming from an unexpected angle, provided that there are at least a dozen or so elements that are more likely to break civilization’s back. “It will cause some hardship to you….Let us ignore these hardships”, the PM said regarding his decision.

I love my India

Have you seen the “This Happens Only In INDIA” album?
Damn, this not only makes me laugh out loud, it makes me emotional with feeling so intensely at home in India. Those photographs are the counterpiece to my returning to Germany and obersving how much people take care to avoid any potentially dangerous or embarrassing situation, how they go to great lenghts explaining to others what the rules are and how things are supposed to be, and how they police others into surrendering e.g. to traffic rules or neighbourly behaviour. What a miserable neighbourhood that is.

In India, so much is being done without using the mind, without referring to regulations, without anxiousness about future reverberations.
Yes, there are rules. Masses and masses of rules, and laws and regulations. But where there is no prosecutor, there is no judge – a saying from a tiny 80-Million-folks country called Germany that is most widely applied in an India of 1.3 billion, and guess what – they still don’t have anarchy there.
And yes, things are breaking down. Falling out of order all the time. Not working out in the first place, thanks to human error. But who cares; for sooner or later it would have happened anyway due to the demanding climate and the countless disintegrating animals the Tamils call ‘poochi’ which show us all too clearly that there is little benefit in looking far ahead. Indians can advise every Western punk what it truly means to live a no-future attitude.

When I see all those efforts made regarding standardization of tools, improving food hygiene, or forcing people into wearing helmets on their motorbikes, it really makes me sad how energy is wasted on creating a false safety that has no basis in this clime and culture. But I guess it only follows that first step of India having swallowed the consumerist lure.
Please, please, India. Get tired of it faster than me.