Universalism as power (Yurugu series #4)

Frantz Fanon

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]

Throughout the elaborations of this series it shows that universal values take a problematic position in the matrix of European civilization. We believe that values, such as “freedom,” “equality,” “humanism,” “rationality,” etc., are not just the values of our culture; we claim their universal validity, i.e., other peoples must naturally want them and abide by them.

This expectation plays a role in international relations, when our so-called Western “community of shared values” demands of other governments that they respect the civil rights of citizens. Very few governments squarely rebuke that notion, among them China which holds that her culture functions in different ways. Now China is a nuclear power, a state of more than one billion people which cannot be bullied into submission. Other nations for most part cannot afford open rebellion against “universal” values. They usually resort to paying lip service when they rather tend to disagree.
Think of the United Nations’ “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”in 1948: “Of the then 58 members of the United Nations, 48 voted in favor, none against, eight abstained, and two did not vote”[Wikipedia
It’sa case study of cultural falsehood in which neither Mao’s China (aye vote) nor the Apartheid state of South Africa (abstained) nor the autocratic regime of Caríasin Honduras (no vote) dared to disagree. In each of these and all othercases the intent to disregard civil & human rights was clear from before the declaration’s coming into effect. Then why did nobody vote “nay”?

As Marimba Ani explained in her introduction to the book Yurugu. An African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior,

The secret Europeans discovered early in their history is that culture carries rules for thinking, and that if you could impose your culture on your victims you could limit the creativity of their vision, destroying their ability to act with will and intent and in their own interest. (Yurugu, p1)

Lip service works fine when it comes to adhering “universal ethical values,” as globalized Western civilization is not based on their proclaimed values; those in power heavily rely on them for veiling their true intents from the general population both inside and outside of their immediate sphere of influence.

Within the logic of European humanism one can talk about “morality” that is not reflected in behavior. One is considered to be highly moral if the language that one uses is couched in the syntax of abstraction and of universality; that is, of disinterest. This makes no sense in other cultures where morality is concerned with behavior only and is meaningless unless it is indicative of a behavioral norm. Which is the more “human” – the way of life that dictates respectful behavior or the one that attempts to encourage an “abstract affection for humanity at large,” which has no relationship to behavior and to which the individual cannot relate? (Yurugu, p543)

Well, the answer seems obvious to me. In the same way, I have no doubt about freedom, equality, and brotherhood, as defined by our culture, being just carrots on a stick, meant to give hope in the light of an everlasting enslavement, inequality, and competition which are intrinsic “qualities” of Western civilization from its very beginning.
I know that words like “freedom” do have a deeper meaning, or else they would not have inspired widespread revolutions; yet the values can never come to true actualization under the paradigm of the forked tongue. As the French of the late 18th century acted from the same basic assumptions as the parasitic elite they overthrew it is no wonder their revolution so quickly turned into immense bloodshed, devouring its own children.
Fanon says in his famous testament which we also find quoted within Yurugu:

Europe talks… and kills. And while Fanon, like Marima Ani, speaksto people of African origin, the same logic goes for us Europeans (I assume here that most, or all, of my readers are of Caucasian origin, or, like many people of colour today, live by the same basic “universal” values). Our liberation must start with noticing the harmful European asili, the core of the dominant culture, then continue by its wholesale rejection and its replacement by an asili of sanity.

We cannot mobilize for effective resistance to our physical destruction unless we are ideologically liberated. What impedes that liberation is cultural imperialism. European “universalism” and its attendant spurious “humanism” are very dangerous and effective forms of European cultural imperialism.

Universalism, when translated scientifically, becomes objectification. The illusion of objectivity promotes the myth of universalistic commitment, that is, it is a stance that disavows political or group interest. It thereby services group interest more subtly by calling it something other than what it is. We can conclude that this universalism semantically represents European value, is not a universally valid goal and, as an “imperative” serves the interest of European cultural imperialism. (Yurugu, p551)

Real revolution, which Jiddu Krishnamurti so famously coined as a term, is not concerned with people taking to the streets, in the first place; it is a revolution of the mind – not in order to fill it with new contents, but to make different use of human consciousness. Translated into everyday behaviour, we would livein closely interrelated community, rather than talk about community in terms of a collection of individuals (as in, European Community, United Nations, Facebook community etc.), with similar implications for other words like “prosperity,” “democracy,” “brotherhood,” “peace,” “love,” and so forth, which, today, are merely hollow shells, shallow concepts being invokedwithout consequence.

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* Frantz Fanon (1925-1961), photograph taken by Pacha J. Willka, Wikimedia Commons. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Frantz Fanon*

Leave this Europe where th

In Churchill’s words

“No man is free if he fears death. But the minute you proffer the fear, at that momentyou are free.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

When people speak of Gandhi and Martin Luther King with great reverence, as role models for successful non-violent resistance, what is often being overlooked is the fact that not only did those resistance leaders apply counter-intuitive methods and not only did they speak with great charisma. What made those protests successful back then was the protesters’ complete determination to their goals, a determination so complete they would go to great length and would take all kinds of personal discomforts and disadvantages on themselves, willing even to go to death for their conviction. The symbols of freedom they created and held up have not just been mere declarations of preference, taste, ideas, or moral indignation. It was the protesters’ perseverance in complete determination to their goals that gave power to those symbols, and only through determination was it that they were able to touch the hearts and minds of their fellow men, and inspired them to support their plea.

The situation today is of similar urgency, yet we don’t see that kind of determination and perseverance much these days. Have we given up the struggle for social and environmental justice because we’re tired? Is it because we don’t believe in our cause any longer? Are we, as a society, as mankind, too fragmented, too deeply lost in identity politics, in selfish strive for personal happiness? Is it that we believe, instead, in a materialistic world view which has all but killed life’s spirit within us? It might be one of those, or, more likely, all of them together. The Gandhis and Luther-Kings of today run by the name of Vandana Shiva, or Arik Ascherman, or Ahed Tamimi, people who did not surrender to injustice, did not get scared into silence by threat of violence, will continue to speak up for what they know is right, and continuously take action in favour of their proclaimed goals. It’s not that their number was small – it isn’t. What is missing, though, is the support on the streets, with the determination to withstand anything it takes to end the evil system which is devouring the world.

As a protest, Standing Rock has been standing out because there was an urgency to it, and an international solidarity rarely seen these days. Standing Rock has also been a complete disaster, not because they’ve been overrun, but because there has been no public outcry, no follow-up activities, no spreading of civil disobedience across the US and other industrialized countries.

In the same way, Occupy and its sympathizers have failed to continually block and boycott the powers they were up against. It’s like the late sixties all over again, like the stone-throwing student protester Joschka Fischer who, thirty years later, as Germany’s first Green Party foreign minister, in breach of international law, sent soldiers to Serbia, into the country’s first war after WW II. This transition from fringe opposition to conformity just happens so much faster now. All of us, we’re back to work; all of us, we’re populating shops and malls and sales, as if our indignation and our lust for something new had been just a passing phase and as if our continued functioning as cogwheels in the Machine didn’t contribute to the very injustices we’ve been pointing out. As if it weren’t our lives that are at stake now. Or aren’t they? Is this just me making up worst-case scenarios or is our planet actually getting dismantled right at this moment? And if this is so, would we let ourselves get shepherded to the butcher’s block, or would we rather stand up and shout at the top of our lungs, “I shall not surrender! We will never surrender!”, just like the people of Palestine do in their seventy-year struggle against Israeli occupation and apartheid policy?

I’m not saying that, “if everyone had joined the protests the problem would have been solved”, for the fact remains that this kind of logic doesn’t work, neither hypothetically nor actually. Still, there lingers the question why, at a time when our survival as individuals, as a community, and as a species stands under immediate threat, our eyes and ears stay closed, our minds stay numb, our mouths stay shut, our hands stay deeply stuffed within our pockets.

Is it because we’ve sold our bodies to the man for a little bit of dough, we’ve sold our minds to the establishment for a little bit of hope, and we’ve sold our spirit to the likes of Adam Smith and Richard Dawkins, for the promise that selfishness will continue to make the world go round?

If you plan on not letting yourself get silently led into the dark, bloody night of the slaughterhouse, your time for making a statement is exactly now, and you better make it a matter of life and death – because that’s what it actually is.

The age of benightedness

When Neal Gabler, in his essay published on December 13, 2017 on billmoyers.com, foresaw a second civil war in the US, he used the phrase in a rather metaphorical way. Myself, I was, and I am still, more confident that either the US or its controversial president may not survive this presidential term. But predictions are idle, and so are political analyses. I won’t discuss them here. The reason why I am picking up a topic from politics of the day is the huge public outrage about Donald Trump’s visit to Russia and the alleged meddling of Vladimir Putin in Trump’s election.
Once again, I am not interested in who makes a better case, and if you intend to discuss any of the details with me I’m going to delete your comment as it is wasting my time. As a matter of fact, it is wasting everybody’s time – which is already the core of the matter.
James Gillray: The pinnacle of liberty
Like probably tens of thousands of other people I spent most of yesterday’s day following the news and the screeching, cursing and shouting on Facebook. Since a few months ago I’ve unfollowed most of my “friends” channels and all but two groups; still, the noise was deafening. So much fucking and frigging and bloodying and fooling and idiotizing going on… hell, where is this rage coming from? Unlike many others, I hadn’t invested in one side or the other; it was just immensely amusing to see people losing their minds over something that, had it occurred in “my country”, I would have found it laughable. Actually, “my” government and people took it quite cool when Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the NSA’s wiretapping Frau Merkel’s phone: not much of a public tantrum, no media outcry, no Snowden hearing, no consequences for the perpetrators, no “traitor” shouting at Angie for shrugging it off; just a quick return to realpolitik.
What happened yesterday, July 17 2018, as opposed to back then in Germany’s chancery, is best explained by quoting Derrick Jensen:

Civilization is based on a clearly defined and widely accepted yet often unarticulated hierarchy. Violence done by those higher on the hierarchy to those lower is nearly always invisible, that is, unnoticed. When it is noticed, it is fully rationalized. Violence done by those lower on the hierarchy to those higher is unthinkable, and when it does occur is regarded with shock, horror, and the fetishization of the victims.

Obviously, the public in the US does not perceive Russia as a legitimate violator, while the public in Germany does so with regard to the US.
The hierarchy is obvious to anybody who would look, and it is thoroughly internalized by those who wouldn’t. Empire, as needs re-emphasizing over and over again, is not just tanks and prisons and government buildings and barbed wire and tributes paid; empire is first and foremost a state of mind. By imagining empire it becomes a force; those who are able to unthink empire are able to take coercion-free decisions. They may get imprisoned or tortured or killed, but one cannot force them into compliance. Therefore Empire’s very existence depends on schools and academia, mass media and think tanks, to hammer-in the one idea which civilization permits: You are a distinct and separate human being who is selfishly competing against other separate beings for survival, and your society is the hierarchical structure that curbs the fight within civil limits.
Believing any of the excretions of these or other civilized institutions is a crime against your own freedom. And this is what transpired from yesterday’s disproportionate reactions to the happy news that we’ve been gifted with another day on which we haven’t been nuked over the petty squibbles of a bunch of governing psychopaths.
So who are the psychopaths, just Trump and Putin? No.
Rulers are psychopaths, politicians are psychopaths, CEO’s are psychopaths, military folks are psychopaths, secret agents are psychopaths, leading mainstream journalists are psychopaths, and anybody who wants to take their place is one as well. Indeed, many among us ordinary folks are, too, and even me, I cannot vouch for my own sanity.
Yesterday, people have collectively abdicated their freedom in a footstomping kneewobbling headbanging handwringing religious frenzy of mass surrender to Empire’s hierarchy, and even some who could know better wasted their breath on rationalizing the significance of the Helsinki meeting. May they be forgiven, may I be forgiven for having been amused, may the psychopaths be forgiven as well, for we knew not what we’ve been doing. As far as the rising consciousness on this planet is concerned we missed our moment of glory by some inch or another. What Gabler wrote about the Trump camp some months ago is true for his vociferous opponents as well, as it is applicable to ANY side in ANY mental division:

Through a process of simplification, [the demagogues] purport to tell their followers what happened and who is responsible. In short, they provide cosmology, not for the purpose of enlightenment, but for the opposite — benightedness.

When we define humanity’s nature and place in the Universe as one of Interbeing, what is our natural response to the kind of crises we’ve seen during the Trump administration, or, in fact, since the moment when civilization made time begin? A shootout???

Repeat until liberated

Seeing the necessity to stop the runaway train to extinction, how can we accomplish the shift from materialistic to holistic worldview? The question is relevant because not only are people physically entangled in the traplines of civilized life, it makes them also think that ‘beauty’ and ‘sacred’ and ‘joy’ were merely empty words which cannot afford them a living. But this is just a matter of perception. The task, from my understanding, is to provide opportunity for seeing things differently, by getting in touch with that more beautiful life. This goes beyond convincing others that “I am right”. First of all, it is also about proving to ourselves that we can actually stop the destruction within our own sphere of influence. Secondly, I think, the most convincing point in a debate is an argument which relates to an actual experience, so this experience has to be facilitated if it doesn’t already exist.
Thirdly, with only a minimum of contemplation and inquiry, it becomes unquestionably clear that at the basis of our many problems lies money; at the basis of money lies civilization; and at the basis of civilization lies the mindset of separation, of division and control and manipulation and selfishness. By liberating ourselves from the grip of that mindset, and by cutting ties with its manifestations in society, we can literally end the nightmare, one person at a time. This is by no means theoretical gibberish. It has been done millions of times over the millennia, it’s being done by people right now.

My practical advice is a one-and-a-half steps program which I and others like me have gone through. I wasn’t conscious about it back then, but the urge to get out of the machine made me do what was necessary. It has been nicely explained by Keith Farnish in chapters 9 & 10 of his book “Underminers” which is freely available from the web. The advice runs something like this:

1. Reduce time on wage slavery by reducing the need for money,

a) by cutting the acquisition of goods and services we do not really need, eg arranging our housing and job such that we can reduce petrol or even sell the car, and
b) by reducing the spending on things we might do or create ourselves, eg gathering a group of friends and neighbours who are looking after children rather than paying for day care; growing food instead of buying it; observing plants and animals instead of watching TV or cinema.

This has already the effect of bringing us closer to understanding the foundation of our existence, and of building an alternate social structure we may fall back upon when the machine collapses. It’s the first step to reconnecting to the holistic worldview, it reduces our consumption (with all that this implies, eg. exploitation, pollution, sickness), it gives us more power over our lives, and it’s a self-reinforcing feedback loop: The money we save can be translated into time we reduce on wage slavery.

The following half step is using the time we saved on wage slavery, to better connect with people around us for further common projects, to help others who are in need, to ask the bigger questions in life (eg. what is important to me, and who is me anyway?) and to research how to do more things ourselves, like how to avoid or deal with health issues, how to repair the sink, how to accomplish tasks without using high tech, how to build simple structures, how to resolve conflict… None of this is rocket science. By applying the newly-gathered knowledge, we reduce the need for money even further.

Repeat until liberated.

To those who feel like jumping at me, replying, “All good and well, BUT…!” — just continue with your life as before. What you want is change happening without your having to change your life. We need to accept that good things don’t come ready-made, by pressing a button and ordering from a menu. Though a different feel to life will arise immediately, the process takes some time till we’re out of the worst, and there will be challenges. Only if we possess the urge to make a leap will we gain confidence in our abilities; only then will it become a self-perpetuating, empowering process instead of a drag.

Most fellow travellers say that their lives have simplified amazingly; they mention a deep sense of liberation as a result; it is often coming along with a feeling of sacredness within all of creation, a joy of being alive. One begins to feel at home in a caring world rather than being driven by having to compete for the last crumbs. We can then say, “I feel fine, I am satisfied, I don’t need anything.” Hence we will become free to act without expecting anything in return. We can spend time on urgent or beautiful or helpful things although there might be no money in it. And we won’t waste it any longer, on falling prey to battle cries, advertisement, xenophobia, blind belief in authorities, dreams of consumption, and delusions of grandeur.

Live Bait Armenia

According to Arka News Agency, the reaction of the Russian government to the so-called revolution in Armenia was:

“We hope that the situation will develop exclusively in the legal and constitutional field, and all political forces will show responsibility and readiness for a constructive dialogue. We are convinced that the prompt return of life in the country to normal and the restoration of public accord meet the fundamental interests of the fraternal Armenia.”

Other governments reacted in similar ways. According to Wikipedia, the U.S. State Department expressed hope that the successor of the resigned prime minister will be chosen in a transparent and constitutional manner. And haven’t we heard it all too often when there was a disaster unfolding, “Peace is the citizen’s first obligation”?
Let me spell it out clearly: The governments of the world do not care who is running another country, in the first place. No matter who takes over the show (sic!), they can get bribed, coopted, cajoled, coerced, or forced into singing with the choir. Very few consistently reject to play along, and the mainstream press calls them ‘dictators’ while you will find their countries’ names on the list of ‘rogue’ states.
What governments, first and foremost, care about is that each regime has their people under control. They cannot have folks discover that they fared better without life-sucking dimbulbs above their heads, who are wrecking society and habitat at the same time.

All governments are occupying forces. They are tyrannies, all of them, and this includes the so-called democracies. For how can you be free while you are following orders, rules, laws, and constitutions? The earlier this is understood, the better.
Thinking that people need governance is a clear sign of having been brainwashed into an addiction from civilization. None of the wild cultures around the world would tolerate the rule of some over all the others; that’s what wild’ means; that’s what ’free’means; that’s what ’egalitarian’means; that’s what ‘fraternal’means.
We don’t need another system: Anarchism worked well for humans for next to three million years.

Human nature – the fucked-up ape?

How many times did I hear people talk about human natureas if they wanted to say, “Sorry, shit happens”? As if humans were like that: greedy, competitive, murderous, meat-eating bastards, a species innately flawed and incorrigibly evil. As if humans had no positive characteristics – other than their superior intelligence gone ape, of course. If they had, it couldn’t be part of human nature, could it?

Well, I don’t know… The way that term human natureis normally used, “human nature, being what it is…,” appears to me like a cheap excuse by the speaker for not being willing or able to change any of their fucked-up habits
 
It’s funny, anyway, that you can meet people all over the world who just don’t fit into any of the patterns human natureis said to contain. If there is such a thing as human nature, there’s certainly not just one of its kind. Rather a multitude of natures, like there is a multitude of cultures. Nobody speaks of “the” human culture. Have you ever heard that expression outside Iain Banks’ science fiction novels? I haven’t.

With people showing all kinds of virtues, the observation I made in them – and in me – is that we have the ability to act in beneficial or damaging ways, to nurture or to consume, to love or to hate, to be aware of our True Self or to be selfish, to be curious or to be indifferent etc. We have the whole range of ways of living in us, and it depends on a variety of factors during our immature years how we are coming of age. 
 
Observation may tell you that, as adults, again, we are not stuck with what growing up in this gruesome culture of ours has made of us. We may awaken, we may change our ways, we may learn to think and speak and act differently, and that means that we are not victims of human nature, no matter what human nature is meant to imply
 
So if human nature,independently of what it supposedly is, has no ultimate power over us, it is a pointless, useless concept to consider when we discuss ways of addressing the challenges of our time. Chuck it in the waste bin.

Surrender or suffer

How can the independence of human volition be harmonized with the fact that we are integral parts of a universe which is subject to the rigid order of nature’s laws?”, asked Max Planck. (emphases mine… so proud of it)
Wow, that’s three assumptions in one sentence, and one hell of a question to ask… usually put forward during the small hours, after one long drunken party night, when it’s just the host and his best friend sitting on a sofa in a candle-lit room. But people are ruminating something like this since forever. Open any philosophy primer you got it there, right in the center of the presentation, no matter who wrote the volume.
Leaving aside premise two – humans are integral parts of the Universe; we’ll come back to this in a minute – can we do as we please or are the gods, or chance events, or the laws of physics – force majeureanyway – determining what’s going on? (and what is the role of the CIA, or the Vatican’s here?)
Good question! I said that already, right. And like every ordinary history-of-science edutainment programme, I’ll get you stranded with more of those questions than you had before, I believe. Weird hypotheses and unprovable theories, here we go.
One of them being that either determinism or free will might be an illusion. Likely both.
Free will is the sensation of making a choice. The sensation is real, but the choice seems illusory,” said Brian Greene, an American theoretical physicist, mathematician, and string theorist. Russian geologist Vladimir Vernadsky joined him by asking: “Thought isn’t a form of energy. So how on Earth can it change material processes?”
There is this thing about premises: once you start looking out for them they are popping up left and right. Can real sensations have illusory content? Does thought have no substance / energy to it? I am not buying into these assumptions just like that. In some way they sound true enough, because you cannot see or touch mental activities. Viewed from an Asian perspective, though, reality does not merely consist of forces and matter, as described before (see also Cognitive justice: science and the sacred). When we feel free, or bound, this feeling expresses the state of a relationship. And it touches right into what many cultures regard as the building… uhm… blocks of reality.
Freedom also lies at the heart of every spiritual tradition there is, yet not in the form of civil rights, free choice, free enterprise, or free thought. To put it bluntly, according to those traditions freedom is the freedom from being ruled by one’s desires, or, in other words, the freedom to want what you get because you love what-is.
Does that sound awful to you? I guess it does, even to those who live by it because I so horribly oversimplified the matter. But I’m serious here. What I am trying to point at is that we need to have a look at hidden assumptions because they define what we mean by ‘freedom’. That’s a difficult task. They often dwell in the subconscious parts of our mind, together with all the rotten stuff about peculiar sex fetishes and gory violent phantasies. Yet they may become conscious when they get confronted with surprisingly different sets of premises. For the sake of this argument, let’s just take a quote from the American teacher Adyashanti, on the relationship between reality, thought, and suffering:
[The idea of control over one’s life] is based on a fundamental misunderstanding. It is based on an understanding that you are a separate individual person, human being, separate from the whole, separate from others and separate from life, and you need to make sure that your life and your car get where you want it to get. If there is a prescription for suffering, I’d say, that’s about as accurate as you can get. Funny thing is that the very prescription for suffering is the very thing that we think is the prescription for happiness.”
–Adyashanti – Surrender or suffer, 29:20
People who believe in the individual’s freedom of will and choice hate this kind of speech. Not only does it mention the premises that usually nobody talks about because they seem so self-evident. To them, it sounds like saying, “Freedom is slavery”. And that hits the nail right on the head, though not in the Orwellian sense: According to the Buddha, their misunderstood freedom of choice makes them slaves to their desires. Such slavery comes with all sorts of nasty ramifications like, suffering from lack of ice cream in the presence of huge amounts of milk shakes.

Is Adyashanti a determinist? Not at all. His Zen-based, Non-dualism shaped understanding teaches that we make a conceptual mistake when, in our mind, we pit freedom against determinism. Separated from each other both notions are illusory. As we are one with all of existence there is no separate me that could manipulate an external reality or get controlled by it. It only appears this way. To make it more interesting, ie. confusing, Buddhists believe that their lives are determined by karmic forces… and they get encouraged to alter those through right action and right thinking.

So, when neither free will nor deterministic philosophy are convincing models for how the world works, can we imagine a both-and relationship instead?
The Norman Cousins quote (see image) points in one possible direction.
In a book I recently read and presented here (see essay The limits to reason) I found a similar, yet slightly different thought that conciliates determinism and free will into a holistic view:
We, like any other entity, are an element in Nature’s round. The notion that we have the freedom to do as we like is an illusion. Each of us do as we must do as part of Nature’s round. We have a free will only to the extent that we can choose to recognise our embeddedness in the round and participate willingly or be dragged along unwillingly, live joyfully or miserably.”
Tending our land, by M. G. Jackson & Nyla Coelho. Kolkata, Earthcare, 2016, p125
So your fate depends on what you make of it. This works on two levels simultaneously. Surrendering to the suchness of existence removes the element of suffering. Suffering comes into existence when I desire something which I cannot have, or when I get something that I do not exactly desire. When I am free of desires, or when I feel no obligation to follow those I have, I am liberated. I have no choice over what happens, but I have choice over how it affects my feelings. The stories we tell about what happened to us vary very much depending on how we feel about events — and vice versa. If you asked me today to tell the story of my divorce I’d give you a completely different account of it than I would have five years ago or back then when it happened. Yet I would have insisted each time when I told each different story that this is what I really experienced. (No. DON’T ask!)
From this follows what happens on the second level: having changed my view from victim to observer or to active participant – which is a freedom I have – my actions and responses change accordingly. Within each worldview – victim, observer, actor – I have no choice over my reactions to outside stimuli. Hypothetically I might have done something else, yet I didn’t; I chose to do what I did because I thought what I thought, and that’s it. From there on, it’s all deterministic. Sounds interesting enough to me to run some experiments with this assumption as a basis, although I suspect that Adyashanti got it more accurate.
Proof? I can prove the both-and hypothesis no more than any of the deterministic and free-will philosophers could prove their favourite view, but I may take this idea and compare it to my perceived reality. If I’m lucky I can verify it as a functioning model for my everyday life, but most likely I’ll find exceptions to the rule, and the inquiry into the nature of truth and reality goes on – which I’m fine with.
Use? I’d say the question whether someone is responsible for their actions or not makes a big difference. If my actions are determined, there is no place for worry, shame, guilt, and punishment; can’t be held accountable for something that was not under my control. No use feeling bad about it either.
And if freedom is our true, deepest nature, there, too, is no place for worry, shame, guilt, or punishment; for what kind of freedom were that if I wasn’t free to make mistakes? After all, I can choose to mend my ways anytime.
So why do I often choose not to?
O dear, don’t get me started.

Divide et impera

CC0, public domain
The transformation of the wild human into a civilized being has deprived him/her of embeddedness and creative empowerment, leaving the needy individual struggling for rations others have allowed for according to morally justifiable standards. A civilized human’s bondage, neediness, and isolation are the consequence of the assumption that s/he were bonded, needy and isolated.

As long as this assumption is in place it is illusory to believe that a more advanced and just civilization, through social and technical engineering, were a

The transformation of the wild human into a civilized being has deprived him/her of embeddedness and creative empowerment, leaving the needy individual struggling for rations others have allowed for according to morally justifiable standards. A civilized human’s bondage, neediness, and isolation are the consequence of the assumption that s/he were bonded, needy and isolated.
As long as this assumption is in place it is illusory to believe that a more advanced and just civilization, through social and technical engineering, were able to remedy humanity’s predicament.
Trying to build civilization on different assumptions, in turn, will result in its utter dissolution. Technological, economic, and scientific progress, arts as a profession, monumental architecture, and cities, among other things, can neither be achieved without physical appropriation nor be maintained without structural violence. At the heart of every institution there is violence, and this means it promotes slavery, inequality and disharmony. Sometimes this is explicitly expressed in slogans like ‘divide et impera’ but these are rather brief summaries of a worldview than wicked strategies for getting what you want.
We are demanding so hard for liberty, equality and fraternity all the time because we are missing them from our lives. And this is also why they are ideals that have no place in any civilization and can never be achieved by civilized means. They will remain illusory forever, until we decide to end this set of living arrangements.

ble to remedy humanity’s predicament.

Trying to build civilization on different assumptions, in turn, will result in its utter dissolution. Technological, economic, and scientific progress, arts as a profession, monumental architecture, and cities, among other things, can neither be achieved without physical appropriation nor be maintained without structural violence. At the heart of every institution there is violence, and this means it promotes slavery, inequality and disharmony. Sometimes this is explicitly expressed in slogans like ‘divide et impera’ but these are rather brief summaries of a worldview than wicked strategies for getting what you want.

We are demanding so hard for liberty, equality and fraternity all the time because we are missing them from our lives. And this is also why they are ideals that have no place in any civilization and can never be achieved by civilized means. They will remain illusory forever, until we decide to end this set of living arrangements.

The Empire Express, 15 July 2017

Editorial

What transpires from many of the following items is the indication, the plea, the outcry, and even the demand for rising up before too long. The writers, speakers, and interviewees agree more or less in their view of the complete corruption of civilization’s institutions but they differ in what to do about it. The more despair is involved the more violence is being calculated into the equation. The more compassion rules the more the change becomes a matter of individual inner liberation.
Jensen, Hedges, Eisenstein, Adyashanti, and Macy each make solid points for their case. Some are giving a flaming speech, some are invoking kindness; all of them are asking, Will you be a part of the solution?

Ongoing Assault

Barbarians, that’s what the Elite calls the general population. A long read.
The uninhabitable Earth (annotated edition) – David Wallace-Wells, New York magazine, 20170714
Now that major magazines and newspapers are picking up on reporting from the climate front articles like this (first issued July 9th) come as less of a surprise. Still, there was an outcry both in the mainstream media, and the scientific press, not to talk about the dumbstruck ignorant population, about how someone dare painting such a dire picture (“climate change porn”) and thus found a “suicide cult”, without substantiation. On July 14th, five days later, the magazine issued an annotaded version which provided sources for the information given.
Though the threat of human extinction still looms at the comfortable distance of almost a century to go the description of the consequences of global warming in this long essay feel more realistic than most of what can be read elsewhere.
Heat increases municipal crime rates, and swearing on social media, and the likelihood that a major-league pitcher, coming to the mound after his teammate has been hit by a pitch, will hit an opposing batter in retaliation.”
Ok, quoting this paragraph wasn’t fair of me. The extent and depth of what climate change will mean to us as a civilization and as a species has been covered as good as it gets. That is because the author has obviously done some research and also spoken to a number of scientists personally. If you’ve seen the piece about those four Australian concerned climatologists, this is your follow-up story, this is what they are scared about.
The old paradigm is crumbling, something new emerges. I am not entirely sure whether the author would agree with seeing ecosystems in terms of communities or if we have to take the word ‘system’ in its mechanistic sense in which humans still can ‘trigger’ desired events, but the general direction sounds fine.
Some very practical consequences of global warming: How is life changing in Alaska (and Canada and Siberia), what becomes of human settlements and infrastructure? Remote was yesterday.
Documents expose how Hollywood promotes war on behalf of the Pentagon, CIA and NSA – Tom Secker & Matthew Alford, InsurgeIntelligence, 20170704
US military intelligence agencies have influenced over 1,800 movies and TV shows”
Imagine– Derrick Jensen, Tlaxcala, 20170703
Jensen straight forward in his critique of industrial civilization and people’s lack of imagination that stands in the way of overcoming it:
‘Imagine for a moment that we weren’t suffering from this lack of imagination. Imagine a public official saying not that he cannot imagine living without electricity, but that he cannot imagine living with it, that what he can’t imagine living without are polar bears.”
Humans in 2167: Internet implants and no sleep – Bryan Gaensler, Down To Earth, 20170630
From an author who is affiliated to the University of Toronto, Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, comes a vision for the next 150 years that misses out on none of the classic memes of science fiction. Among the many excellent articles featured by Down To Earth this is one of incredible naiveté. Sorry for spoiling the party, but Earth is already going through the early stages of her sixth mass extinction to which humans are not exactly immune, while the future envisioned here simply extrapolates the destructive course of civilization into the next century as if there were infinite resources allowing for infinite growth on this finite planet. The article describes an impossible future that fails to amaze me with its dull promise of technological progress and a lifestyle that is completely devoid of meaning. I cannot find it “sad” at all that this “will never happen in the real world.”
Take it as a reminder that, despite the trillionfold pain afflicted to life’s community by visions like this, this is still the official story of Empire’s destiny and that, as long as you are dreaming of technological golden ages, you are literally asleep to what’s real.
There will be an extremely painful oil supply shortfall sometime between 2018 and 2020. It will be highly disruptive to our over-leveraged global financial system.”
The convergence of crises reaching its peak point.
Corrected satellite data show 30 percent increase in global warming – Jason Samenow, Washington Post, 20170630
Orbital mechanics and other overlooked factors influencing satellite observation led to a difference of 0.17°C in temperature measurements. The actual global average temperature thus amounts likely to around 1.7 to 2°C, depending on the baseline applied.
When ideas become a commodity public intellectuals like Chomsky have a hard time. On the other hand, though, hard times are the fertile ground on which ideas thrive organically. Out of all the confusion created by an overabundance of ratcatchers emerges a growing certainty;
What intellectuals need is the same as what everyone else needs: a society that prioritizes human flourishing over private profit, and strong political networks that guard public goods against the prophets of an atomized, high-tech future. However difficult that society may be to achieve, one thing about the present gives hope. We are finally getting clear about who its enemies are.”
Stop Fascism – Chris Hedges, 20170526
His Portland speech finds clear words for what civilization has done to the planet, calling for strong resistance to the madness which has taken over governments, corporations, and all of humanity’s institutions.

Pearls Before Swine

Personality; not just for people anymore – Carl Safina, Huffington Post, 20160828
Humans have human minds. But believing that only humans have minds is like believing that because only humans have human skeletons, only humans have skeletons,” the Stanford professor says.
He is talking about insights gained from wildlife observation, and I concur because my experience with farm animals like goats, cows, and chickens completely matches Safina’s descriptions.
We usually see “elephants”—or “wolves” or “killer whales” or “chimps” or “ravens” and so on—as interchangeable representatives of their kind. But the instant we focus on individuals, we see an elephant named Echo with exceptional leadership qualities; we see wolf 755 struggling to survive the death of his mate and exile from his family; we see a lost and lonely killer whale named Luna who is humorous and stunningly gentle. We see individuality. It’s a fact of life. And it runs deep. Very deep […] Humans are not unique in having personalities, minds and feelings.”
I find it important to stress that individuality does not equal separateness of the individual from her environment. But that is a story for another day.
After one became three: working the work that is love – Elizabeth Boleman-Herring, 20160822
An autobiographical account of one human being’s place in the web of life that is not about living in the green. A love story that is rather enchanting than romantic, addressing climate change without counting carbon molecules.
Darcia Narvaez – Derrick Jensen, Resistance Radio, 20160228
An interview with the professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame, IN, on child rearing in primitive and in civilized communities, and how the differences affect the moral development of human beings. To me this is one of the Wow! sources with regard to the human condition.
Grief and carbon reductionism– Charles Eisenstein, 20160203
Here is what I want everyone in the climate change movement to hear: People are not going to be frightened into caring. Scientific evidence-based predictions about what will happen 10, 20, or 50 years in the future are not going to make them care, not enough. What we need is the level of activism and energy that we are seeing now in Flint. That requires making it personal. And that requires facing the reality of loss. And that requires experiencing grief. There is no other way.”

Ruminants and methane: not the fault of the animals – Alan Broughton, Green Left Weekly, 20160115

I suspected as much. Something must be done about greenhouse gas emissions. But bovines are an integral part of Earth’s life community. If there is any harm in what they are doing it is the result of our abusive relationship to them. This goes not only for ‘cow farts’ but also for goats as desert makers, and other myths. Our hysteria with finding someone to blame for Earth’s predicament is twisting the discussion and hurts those who have done least to bring it about: subsistence farmers and their symbiotic species.

Earth has lost a third of arable land in past 40 years, scientists say– Oliver Milman, The Guardian, 20151202

Less destructive forms of forestry and nurturing kinds of food creation could do a lot to stop or even reverse the trend. But ask yourself: Can that happen within a system that depends on economic growth? Does morality have a chance below the bottom line of profit? Will we apply technology to restore what we have pushed off-balance for the sake of better technology? Can we ever prefer the well-being of other beings over our own as long as we believe in our own superior importance?
The courage to see, the power to choose – Joanna Macy, Naropa University, 20141017
What if we could look the pain, the suffering, the fear in the eye? Are we able to overcome the paralysis that befell us and do something about the rampaging injustice and the destruction of the living world? A celebration of the joy of being alive – and the grief that brings it about.
The space race is over – Paul Kingsworth, Global Oneness Project, 20140501
What is to be done about this? The answer to this question, as so often, seems to me to be personal rather than political. There is no way to prevent this society from Romanticizing progress and technology, and there is no way to prevent it coming down hard on visions of human-scale and ecological development. It will continue to do this until its own intellectual framework, and probably its physical framework, collapses under its own weight […]
But what we can do, when presented with a vision which projects an ideal onto either the future or the past, is examine our own personal need to be deluded […]
This is the work of a lifetime, but perhaps in the end it is the only work.”
The essay could have been written in response to the above-listed article about humans in 2167 but it is three years older and it can be applied to anything we identify with, from apocalyptic warrior to space age hero.
Adyashanti: complete interview– Global Oneness Project, 2009
The interviewee describes how in the development of human consciousness, there comes a shift from a sense of a separate self toward the experience of unity. He points out that the fear of losing our individual identity keeps us from making this shift. I’d have named this piece “On fear,” though it might as well be called “On activism.”

Cartoon

The train of civilization
“Last orders, please!”

Famous Last Words

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