Amazon Elder’s Plea for Survival

Climate Denial Crock of the Week

Raoni Metuktire, Chief of the indigenous Brazilian Kayapó people, in the Guardian:

For many years we, the indigenous leaders and peoples of the Amazon, have been warning you, our brothers who have brought so much damage to our forests. What you are doing will change the whole world and will destroy our home – and it will destroy your home too.

We have set aside our divided history to come together. Only a generation ago, many of our tribes were fighting each other, but now we are together, fighting together against our common enemy. And that common enemy is you, the non-indigenous peoples who have invaded our lands and are now burning even those small parts of the forests where we live that you have left for us. President Bolsonaro of Brazil is encouraging the farm owners near our lands to clear the forest – and he is…

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An American-African at the Crossroad of Despair and Hope

Crossroad Forest.jpg

UPDATE

Here’s an essay that also urges having hope and taking action in the face of imminent catastrophe:

On the Cusp of the Coming ‘Perfect Storm’

by

Dennis Oliver

June 27, 2019

ORIGINAL ESSAY

I live through the filters of three worldviews – that of a US white male, atheist, liberal progressive; that of an adopted Ugandan for the past 36 years; and that of an anthropologist.

I have lived and worked in rural and urban Africa off and on, for extended periods, from 1980 to the present. I have led major grassroots international development assistance programs in Swaziland, Tanzania, and Ghana. I have led refugee resettlement programs in Kenya, and from there visited and worked for extended periods in cities and deep rural areas of over twenty African countries. I have seen hope and despair firsthand in the eyes of Africa’s rural impoverished; seen hope realized and lost in African cities and suburbs; listened to African refugee stories of torturous persecution; and led young Americans in their succeeding and failing efforts to restore hope in the education and rural development sectors of Africa. A summary of my work is here.

In retirement since 2007, I read voraciously, have written an ethnography on the Bamasaaba of Uganda, and write frequently on my blogs. Of all my fellow retired, freethinking professional friends here in north central Georgia, USA I have for a long time been known as the one with the most optimism and hope for Humankind’s survival and flourishing.

Not any more. My hope has gone into a marked decline since the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency in November 2016. And my descent has become more acute and my feelings hardened toward most of my fellow humans.

In fact, I’m at a point where I live in a state somewhere between despondency and despair each day that Trump and his regime take action to dismantle our institutions, undermine our laws, restrict our rights, and sow and grow racial, religious and class division in the US population. Plainly speaking, my level of hope is somewhere between an incapacity for the exercise of hope (despondency) and the utter abandonment of hope (despair).

I’m prodded all the time by my beloved freethinker friends, here and elsewhere, to retain hope. They repeatedly try to convince me that the capitalist-ecological course we are on can be corrected and reformed through social mobilization and technology.

But I’ve seen a fair bit of the course of Western civilization’s modernity and its spread to Africa and elsewhere beyond the West. Unquestionably, there has been great improvement in material living and the reduction of hunger, locally and globally. But the cost has been high in terms of the Earth’s life-sustainability and our local and international relations. I’ve written about these up and down sides here:

Knowledge is Power?

http://jameselassiter.blogspot.com/2019/07/knowledge-is-power.html?m=1

Suffering and Injustice Revisited

http://jameselassiter.blogspot.com/2019/07/suffering-and-injustice-revisited.html?m=1

Economics – The Queen of the Social Sciences is Dead! Long Live the Queen!?

http://jameselassiter.blogspot.com/2019/06/economics-queen-of-social-sciences-is_26.html?m=1

Enlightenment Lost

http://jameselassiter.blogspot.com/2018/11/enlightenment-lost-faustian-exchange-of.html?m=1

The Dark Mountain Project

http://jameselassiter.blogspot.com/2018/07/the-dark-mountain-project-owl-ibis.html?m=1

How much more must I read, observe, think, feel, and work to spread hope yet not conclude that hope in the Western, and rapidly becoming global, capitalist-earth-exploitative system’s destruction is so far downstream that catastrophes and collapse are inevitable?

What exactly does it mean to have hope in what is an objective and near certain to be hopeless situation?

I asked a very dear and close friend living in Cape Town, South Africa this question in the following essay, “There’s a Problem.” He replied in so many words that there is always wiggle room right up to the end. He made me think of how baseball player sage Yogi Berra put it regarding a nine-inning game, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”

This is true. And the Stoic dichotomy of control and Viktor Frankl’s thoughts on hope and meaning have helped.

My friend in South Africa suggested a 2011 university commencement address given by physicist and ecologist Amory Lovins at the University of California at Berkeley. And that has also helped.

So, at the crossroad of despair and hope I have taken the road to hope despite the arguments and evidence supporting its futility. I’ve done so because for some intuitive reason it seems better to approach the abyss of human destruction having done one’s best to avert it than to have made no effort at all.

Why? Because of the slight chance that things might just work out and Humankind will survive and flourish despite itself. Stranger, more unlikely things have happened in the evolution of the universe and during the course of life on Earth. Why should we exclude Humankind from its chance to eke by and not lend a hand in helping to create favorable conditions for such, one personal thought and act at a time?

So, today is a new day and way forward for me. What follows is my initial note to my friend followed by Lovins’s commencement address.

I hope you find something useful and hope-inspiring in both.

~ ~ ~

There’s a Problem

July 17, 2019

Ecological collapse is all but certain. Westerners think impoverished areas such as rural areas and urban slums in Africa are likely to survive the coming catastrophes for their occupants are hardened.

Maybe.

But if my long and deep experience of village life in rural eastern Uganda and elsewhere on the continent is a microcosm, and what I hear about the similar direction of rural life elsewhere on the continent is true, Humankind’s local-based reset, rural and urban, is not going to be idyllic to put it mildly.

It won’t simply be a going back to precolonial African village communalism and a subsistence economy. For there is a troublesome, ill-fated mixture of the traditional and modern in the minds of most Africans. A toxic brew of modernism, individualism, materialism, and Abrahamic theism.

There is no going back to traditional African ways for they are all amalgamated with and dis-eased by modernity. Many of the best educated, rural and urban, believe in, fear, and engage in witchcraft. Born-again Christians, many having university degrees, idly, smilingly sleep-walk through each day certain Jesus will provide them their all including their personal financial prosperity. They too fear and some participate in witchcraft.

Mainstream believers faithfully attend church and mosque, and pray. Traditionalists in society, peasants and profs, believers and atheists, bemoan the decline of traditional culture in the maw of modernity.

Population density, abetted by successive land subdivision inheritance into ever smaller and smaller plots, poverty, greed, alcoholism, and material and financial envy make extended family unity and all forms of local cooperation almost impossible.

Mob justice in Africa, as horrid as it is to observe as I’ve done on several occasions, is becoming less of a deterrent to many would be robbers and other increasingly violent criminals.

There’s no fix. There’s no purging of the modernity dis-ease, no redirecting this Titanic. There can be no soft landing.

We old ones, Africans and adopted Africans like me, can only wait, and enjoy what’s at hand and our loved ones close to our hearts, then die.

I have no advice for the younger ones who will be forced to live through it. Those that survive the collapse and reset will certainly have a very different notion of what it means to be human than the one we live by today.

Love, hope, social cooperation will survive, but they will be more hardened and guarded than ever before. I can only offer future generations an apology for not doing more to leave the world better, and my best wishes for their survival and flourishing. – JL

~ ~ ~

Amory Lovins Speaks at 2011 Commencement

University of California, Berkeley

May 18, 2011

‘I’m not an optimist, and I’m not a pessimist. Both are different forms of fatalism, in which you treat the future as fate not choice and you don’t take responsibility for creating the future you want. So I prefer to live in the spirit of applied hope.’

– Amory Lovins

Applied Hope

The early bioneer Bill McLarney was stirring a vat of algae in his Costa Rica research center when a brassy North American lady strode in. What, she demanded, was he doing stirring a vat of green goo when what the world really needs is love? “There’s theoretical love,” Bill replied, “and then there’s applied love”–and kept on stirring.

Many of us here stir and strive in the spirit of applied hope. We work to make the world better, not from some airy theoretical hope, but in the pragmatic and grounded conviction that starting with hope and acting out of hope can cultivate a different kind of world worth being hopeful about, reinforcing itself in a virtuous spiral. Applied hope is not about some vague, far-off future but is expressed and created moment by moment through our choices.

Hope, said Frances Moore Lappé, “is a stance, not an assessment.” But applied hope is not mere glandular optimism. The optimist treats the future as fate, not choice, and thus fails to take responsibility for making the world we want. Applied hope is a deliberate choice of heart and head. The optimist, says David Orr, has his feet up on the desk and a satisfied smirk knowing the deck is stacked. The person living in hope has her sleeves rolled up and is fighting hard to change or beat the odds. Optimism can easily mask cowardice. Applied hope requires fearlessness.

Fear of specific and avoidable dangers has evolutionary value. Nobody has ancestors who weren’t mindful of saber-toothed tigers. But pervasive dread, lately promoted by some who want to keep us pickled in fear, is numbing and demotivating. When I give a talk, sometimes a questioner details the many bad things happening in the world, all the suffering in the universe, and asks how dare I propose solutions: isn’t resistance futile? The only response I’ve found is to ask, as gently as I can, “I can see why you feel that way. Does it make you more effective?”

In a recent college class, one young woman bemoaned so many global problems that she said she’d lost all hope and couldn’t imagine bringing a child into such a world. But discussion quickly revealed to us both that she hadn’t lost hope at all; she knew exactly where she’d left it.

The most solid foundation for feeling better about the future is to improve it–tangibly, durably, reproducibly, and scalably. So now is the time to be practitioners, not theorists; to be synthesists, not specialists; to do solutions, not problems; to do transformation, not incrementalism. Or as my mentor Edwin Land said, “Don’t undertake a project unless it is manifestly important and nearly impossible.” It’s time to shift our language and action, as my wife Judy says, from “Somebody should” to “I will,” to do real work on real projects, and to go to scale. As that early activist St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.”

In a world short of both hope and time, we need to practice Raymond Williams’s truth that “To be truly radical is to make hope possible, not despair convincing.” Hope becomes possible, practical–even profitable–when advanced resource efficiency turns scarcity into plenitude.

David Whyte’s poem “Loaves and Fishes” captures that goal thus:

This is not the age of information.

This is not the age of information.

Forget the news, and the radio, and the blurred screen.

This is the time of loaves and fishes.

People are hungry, and one good word is bread for a thousand. So with the world so finely balanced between fear and hope, with the outcome in suspense and a whiff of imminent shift in the air, let us choose to add the small stubborn ounces of our weight on the side of applied hope. As Zen master Gatta put it, “Infinite gratitude toward all things past; infinite service to all things present; infinite responsibility to all things future.”

This mission is challenging. It requires you to combine sizzle in your brain, fire in your belly, perseverance rooted like a redwood, and soul as light as a butterfly. According to the Internet, one Michael C. Muhammad said: “Everything works out right in the end. If things are not working right, it isn’t the end yet. Don’t let it bother you–relax and keep on going.”

So in this tranquil but unwavering spirit of applied hope, let me tell you a story.

In the early 1950s, the Dayak people in Borneo had malaria. The World Health Organization had a solution: spray DDT. They did; mosquitoes died; malaria declined; so far, so good. But there were side-effects. House roofs started falling down on people’s heads, because the DDT also killed tiny parasitic wasps that had previously controlled thatch-eating caterpillars. The colonial government gave people sheet-metal roofs, but the noise of the tropical rain on the tin roofs kept people awake. Meanwhile, the DDT-poisoned bugs were eaten by geckoes, which were eaten by cats. The DDT built up in the food chain and killed the cats. Without the cats, the rats flourished and multiplied. Soon the World Health Organization was threatened with potential outbreaks of typhus and plague, which it would itself have created, and had to call in RAF Singapore to conduct Operation Cat Drop–parachuting a great many live cats into Borneo.

This story–our guiding parable at Rocky Mountain Institute–shows that if you don’t understand how things are connected, often the cause of problems is solutions. Most of today’s problems are like that. But we can harness hidden connections so the cause of solutions is solutions: we solve, or better still avoid, not just one problem but many, without making new ones, before someone has to go parachuting more cats. So join me in envisioning where these linked, multiplying solutions can lead if you apply and extend what you’ve learned and take responsibility for creating the world you want. Details of this business-led future will be described this autumn in a book my team and I are now finishing, called Reinventing Fire.

Imagine a world, a few short generations hence, where spacious, peppy, ultrasafe, 125- to 260-mpg cars whisper through revitalized cities and towns, convivial suburbs, and fertile, prosperous countryside, burning no oil and emitting pure drinking water–or nothing; where sprawl is no longer mandated or subsidized, so stronger families eat better food on front porches and kids free of obesity, diabetes, and asthma play in thriving neighborhoods; where new buildings and plugged-in parked cars produce enough surplus energy to power the now-efficient old buildings; and where buildings make people healthier, happier, and more productive, creating delight when entered, serenity when occupied, and regret when departed.

Imagine a world where oil and coal and nuclear energy have all been phased out, all vanquished by the competitors whose lower costs and risks have already enabled them to capture most of the world’s market for new electrical services–energy efficiency, distributed renewables, combined-heat-and-power–and optionally by small amounts of advanced biofuels that use no cropland and move carbon from air to tilth; where resilient, right-sized energy systems make major failures impossible, not inevitable; where the collapse of oil’s demand and price has defunded enemies, undermined dictatorship and corruption, and doused the Mideast tinderbox; where our advanced economy is no longer fueled at all by the rotted remains of primeval swamp goo and dinosaur droppings; where energy policy is no longer a gloomy multiple-choice test–do you prefer to die from (a) climate change, (b) oil wars, or (c) nuclear holocaust? We choose (d) none of the above.

Imagine, therefore, a world where carbon emissions have long been steadily declining–at a handsome profit, because saving fuel costs less than buying fuel; where global climate has stabilized and repair has begun; and where this planetary near-death experience has finally made antisocial and unacceptable the arrogance that let cleverness imperil the whole human prospect by outrunning wisdom.

Imagine a world where the successful industries, rather than wasting 99.98% of their materials, follow Ray C. Anderson’s lead: they take nothing, waste nothing, and do no harm; where the cost of waste is driving unnatural capitalism extinct; where service providers and their customers prosper by doing more and better with less for longer, so products become ever more efficient to make and to use; where integrative engineering and biomimicry create abundance by design; and where elegant frugality turns scarcities and conflicts about energy, water, land, and minerals into enough, for all, for ever.

Imagine a world where the war against the Earth is over; where we’ve stopped treating soil like dirt; where forests are expanding, farms emulate natural ecosystems, rivers run clean, oceans are starting to recover, fish and wildlife are returning, and a stabilizing, radically resource-efficient human population needs ever less of the world’s land and metabolism, leaving more for all the relatives who give us life.

Imagine a world where we don’t just know more–we also know better; where overspecialization and reductionism have gone from thrillingly fashionable to unaffordably foolish; where Darwin finally beat Descartes; where vision across boundaries triumphs, simply because it works better and costs less.

Imagine a world secure, free from fear of privation or attack: where conflict prevention is as normal as fire prevention; where conflicts not avoided are peacefully resolved through strengthened international laws, norms, and institutions; where threatened aggression is reliably deterred or defeated by nonprovocative defense that makes others feel and be more secure, not less; where all people can be nourished, healthy, and educated; and where all know Dr. King’s truth that “Peace is not the absence of war; it is the presence of justice.”

Imagine a world where reason, diversity, tolerance, and democracy are once more ascendant; where economic and religious fundamentalism are obsolete; where tyranny is odious, rare, failing, and dwindling; and where global consciousness has transcended fear to live and strive in hope.

This is the astonishing world we are all gradually creating together. It’s being built before our eyes by many of you and a myriad other world-weavers. Brains, as Gifford and Libba Pinchot note, are evenly distributed, one per person. Thus most of the world’s brains are in the South, half are in the heads of women, and most are in the heads of poor people. As an emerging global nervous system and millions of new civil-society organizations start to knit together that collective intelligence–the most powerful thing we know in the Universe–innovation and collaboration are starting to overcome stagnation and squabbles. The search for intelligent life on Earth continues, but as we all strive to become much higher primates, some promising specimens are turning up just in time: each of you here today.

In their many ways, they’re mobilizing society’s most potent forces–businesses in mindful markets and citizens in vibrant civil society–to do what is necessary at this pivotal moment, the most important moment since we walked out of Africa: the moment when humanity has exactly enough time, starting now.

Each of you can choose to be one of those unusual people who–with humor and courage, chutzpah and humility, eager enthusiasm and relentless patience who are composing their lives and combining their efforts to make it so.

Here we are. And now imagine the power of all of us together to make it so.

– Amory Lovins

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Straight Shootin’ Info: The History of US Gun Rights/Gun Control by Pam Dewey

Gun and Constitution

Straight Shootin’ Info: The History of US Gun Rights/Gun Control

by

Pam Dewey

This three-part series by author, blogger and master videographer Pam Dewey explores the historical tension between gun rights and gun control in the United States. I highly recommend it. JEL

Part 1 – Setting the Stage: Pre-History of the 2nd Amendment & Early History of the NRA

https://youtu.be/jdhXap2jGVM

Part 2 – “Collision Course: 2nd Amendment, the First 2 Centuries & The NRA, the Second Century”

https://youtu.be/L9F9BHN0shQ

Part 3: “A Nation Divided: Examining the Modern Battle Lines & Looking for Common Ground”

https://youtu.be/EdhceR32tYI  

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WORLD’S FAIRS EXPOSed by Pam Dewey

Great Exhibition London 1851

Illustration of the Great Exhibition, London, 1851

WORLD’S FAIRS EXPOSed

by

Pam Dewey

Episode 1 – “Fair Enough: The “Great Exhibition,” London, 1851

https://youtu.be/mfwtwlfwvaU

Episode 2 – “Yankee Doodle Palace: The New York World’s Fair, 1853-1854”

https://youtu.be/D_hFbKrTI3A

Episode 3 – “The ‘Happy Birthday’ World’s Fair: Visiting the Centennial Exhibition of 1876”

https://youtu.be/mv_QmiMsSkg

Episode 4 – “1893 Chicago World’s Fair, Part 1: Uncle Sam Welcomes the World”

https://youtu.be/rXvX5QxzC2w

This four-part presentation on world fairs by author, blogger and master videographer Pam Dewey is an outstanding exposé on the visual and material display of nations and cultures. Here is Pam’s description of her production contained in the YouTube posting of Episode 1:

“This is an introductory video to a DocuCommentary series entitled “WORLD’S FAIRS EXPOSed,” which focuses primarily on the World’s Fairs held in the United States since 1853. The London Great Exhibition of 1851 was the first ever World’s Fair, and led directly to the establishment of periodic World’s Fairs as a feature of American history for the next century and more. Each video in the series first provides an informative and entertaining overview of a specific fair from the point of view of the visitors of the era. Then it explores behind the scenes, to consider how the fair both reflected, and AFFECTED, the social, cultural, economic, political, and philosophical aspects of the America of its time. It also considers what long-lasting influence what particular fairs may have had on the future of the country up to the 21st century.”

While watching each episode, in the back of my mind, I kept trying to tie fairs, of all kinds, to culture. That is, culture as an anthropological concept.

The fairs, all of them touched on generally and specifically by Dewey, especially beginning in 1851, attempt to show material manifestations and representations of the beliefs, values, methods and products (the culture) of nations. Each seems to do so to various ends – education, national pride, internationalism, and others. Notable, I think, was the American omission of slavery in its exhibit at the 1851 fair in London.

But fairs also seem to have a role in enculturation, the learning of one’s culture, that parenting, schools, books, various media, anthropology monographs don’t. They are highly sensory and experiential. They also have a generalizing, unifying societal goal to them, a goal that is usually achieved to one degree or another in every fair goer. Fairs also seem to have an astonishingly strong and deep impact on individuals who attend them. I seldom think of culture, cultures or societies displayed on grand unifying scales as they are at fairs.

I guess on one hand unifying a people, a nation or society, or even the world for that matter, at least for a short time ever few years through fairs, is a good thing. Well, if not a good thing then it is clearly not a bad thing. On the other hand, unless it contributes to ethnocentrism, jingoism, uber-nationalism, racism, militancy, etc.

For me, the best fairs are those that stress cosmopolitanism, globalism, and the accomplishments, shortcomings and noble unifying goals of Humankind as whole. In this regard consider the teachings of the Bahá’í, “the earth is one country, and mankind its citizens;” or Socrates who said “I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world;” and later, similarly, Diogenes declared he too was “a citizen of the world.”

I think national and world fairs are of better to service to Humankind as a whole than those that give priority to national pride boosterism and sci-tech accomplishments. That said, I’ve attended a number of trade fairs in Africa over the years that to some degree contributed to national pride and showcased the use and availability of science and technology as means of national and local community development.

I’m like many others. I like going to a fair ever so often but always come away a bit confused as to what impact they have had on me – awe, new knowledge, excitement, patriotism, propaganda. The purposes of fairs are as various as the people and institutions that stage them; and reactions are as varied as the people who attend them.

I like fairs yet feel a little manipulated or indoctrinated by them. That’s a good thing. They unsettle me and that is usually a good state of mind for me to do some learning, and growing.

Enjoy!

JL

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Knowledge is Power?

Logos Tallis 03

Humankind has allowed itself to be ‘progressed’ into a cul de sac of inhumanity and enslavement. Collectively, we have acquired lots of material stuff and knowledge, but little personal wisdom, empowerment, and contentment.

This path was laid out for us long ago in the Middle East by our very first rich and powerful elites. That is, the kings who took power beginning when Humankind transitioned from nomadic hunting and gathering and pastoralism, to settled agriculture and urban living.

Very soon humans had wealth (food) surpluses for the first time. That contributed to a perceived need to take strong control of such wealth, and the land and people that produced it, through laws, money, and corporeal and supernatural enforcement.

This was quickly followed by the tactical and strategic use of power against neighboring lands and peoples. And this, in turn, lead to an unquenchable desire among the new ruling elites for ever more wealth, land and power. This was the beginning of actual and threatened inter-state warfare and exploitation, methods elites have relied on above all other options up to the present.

It also marked the beginning of the decline of personal freedom, equality and brother/sisterhood. The early autocratic state collectives, and their often self-proclaimed divine elites, were given our allegiance; a shifting of our focus, our primal personal bonds, away from each other.

Thus began a tilting of the natural human balance between individualism and collectivism toward various forms of ever-stronger and irreversible state-centered collectivism. We had embarked on the road to what we would later call ‘modernity.’ Learn more about the evolution of individualism, collectivism and modernity here and here.

The European Renaissance and its successor the Enlightenment offered a lifeline to recover our surrendered humanity; that is, a vision of a sustainable balance between individualism and collectivism.

We grasped it but lost our grip because the powerful current of industrial and state-controlled living that soon followed was too strong, and later the tempting comforts of consumerism were beyond our ability to resist. For more on this see my essay “Enlightenment Lost.”

The corral, the trap, where the flickering embers of our humanity, our forsaken good balance between individual freedom and collective direction, would eventually go to die was built by the controlling industrial-political elite, and stocked with the enticing addictive bait of consumer goods that flowed from the Industrial Revolution.

These early 20th Century manufactured goods were redefined, through the gushing, language-massaging mass media, from desirables for those who could afford them to necessities for the masses who would be allowed to buy them on credit. The Age of Consumerism was born.

Man, were we living then! We individuals were really something special! Thus advised Edward Bernays and the multimedia mass advertising industry he started. Why, it was only right to excel, we were told. In fact, it was ‘natural,’ to shoulder above, out-compete, outshine our fellows in terms of possessions and appearances. Darwin himself said so, we thought.

Eisenhower on Military-Industrial Complex

During the rest of the 20th Century the gate to that human corral was locked and the manacles of law and social expectation applied to our bodies and minds by the wealthy and powerful controllers of the military-industrial complex. We came to tolerate our neighbors but sought meaning and purpose for our daily living mostly through the elite-controlled media, consumer goods, and the elite’s myths of progress, exceptionalism and eternal life.

So here we are now, entrapped in the kraal of our corporate masters and their political cronies. Enslaved by comfortable but, for most of us, unbreakable chains – sated, filled with myths of racial-tribal supremacy, hope and prosperity, inspired by patriotism, and praying for Heavens to come; yet, when we think honestly about it, truly powerless and sadly longing for deep personal meaning, purpose and contentment in our lives, but finding little.

Our neighbors are still there. But, most often, we don’t look to them for meaning and purpose. We’ve forgotten how to find personal meaning and purpose in the lives of neighbors and our local communities. Most of us only seriously engage others through institutions and the media. It’s the only way we know, the way we’ve been taught. But it’s not working for us, personally. The promise of modern goods, institutions and the media have failed us. We don’t know what else to do. We don’t trust the basic humanity of our neighbors enough to meaningfully engage them because many of them have been led to worldviews and habits we don’t share and fear. And they don’t trust us.

Meanwhile, a climate emergency and economic fragility threaten. Yet the band plays on featuring the elite’s and now the mass’s favorite tune, We Can Work It Out (Through Science, Technology And Politics As Usual).

Humans are occasionally ‘unleashed’ in their corral but only for the purpose of making more knowledge, consumer goods, and evermore powerful tools and weapons; and to serve as cannon fodder in never ending wars. Or we slip the leash when we can, and rebel and run off by ourselves on a long solitary walk in nature to think, to listen. And we do that alone, not with a neighbor.

Walking Away

English MD, neurologist, and philosopher Raymond Tallis, someone whose books I’ve learned much from and referred to often on my blog, Being Human, has a fairly new book with some insights and suggestions that may be useful for our current personal and global predicament.

Here are two excerpts from a good review of Tallis’s latest book Logos: The Mystery of How We Make Sense of the World (2018):

“We are sometimes slow to recognize any downside to our modern age’s mad enthusiasm for scientific achievement, technological advancement, globalization, bureaucratic rationalization and the proliferation of information. But philosophers have highlighted the paradox of the proportional diminishment of the human: knowledge is increased, but the genuinely human recedes. Measurement replaces mere human judgment. General theories are established by the elimination of the particular, the exceptional. Globalization eliminates key markers of individual identity: ethnicity, nationality, locality. Government institutions render communal action redundant. Technological innovation replaces the body. We are more powerful, but less personal. The paradox is that for knowledge to count as knowledge at all, it must be processed in an individual consciousness. From the one who makes the discovery to the community of persons who recognize and implement it, to the person ultimately receiving the knowledge, the entire process is shot through with the participation of particular human beings. Therefore, any reduction of the role of people in the production and  circulation of knowledge is not a step in the direction of wisdom: rather, it is evidence of a kind of amnesia about what we’re doing. If today we fail to marvel at the world, this is only a signal of how far our loss of self-awareness has progressed.”

“For Tallis, the key is that knowledge is a relational property. There is both a real reality ‘out there’ and a genuine knower ‘in here’. Eliminate one, and you’ve stultified human knowledge. Knowledge is not the one-sided material disposition of the human cranium, nor is it a mere figment of the imagination of a ghost inside a phantom machine. Rather, it is a kind of dance, a production of the constant dynamic of human consciousness moving between the internal world of experience and the real, resistant, physical world. The imperfections and challenges of this process, far from being signals of failure or any reason to abandon hope, are actually the indispensable preconditions of human knowledge. Moreover, there’s a community of knowers ‘out there’ too; and we cannot reckon without them: individually, we will only ever know partly, imperfectly, incompletely, no matter how full the stock of human knowledge grows. Essentially, then, Tallis calls for an end to the unfruitful antagonism perceived to exist between the human dimension of knowledge and the hard facts of objective reality. It is only by accepting the reality of both, and by paying more attention to the dynamic interplay between them, that we are able to make sense of things.”

~ ~ ~

This review may sound unorthodox and obscure but I am going to read the book anyway because conventional mainstream thinking isn’t offering me much hope for a survivable, sustainable way forward for Humankind.

Maybe a little unorthodox philosophy will offer some hope and insight that current politics and economics, least of all the theories and methods of political ‘science’ and economic ‘science,’ are not.

Maybe we’ll one day return to valuing that very personal “inner world of experience,” that appreciation for individual agency and dignity, Tallis writes about.

Colonies 04

Colonies 03

The Colonies, The Handmaid’s Tale, Hulu TV

Hopefully it will not become necessary to look for it while staggering among the smoldering rubble of what’s left of the environment, and the remains of our halls of power, banks, and factories. Or in the toxic, militia-patrolled ‘wild’ areas between gated, armed and bunkered communities.

Answers: Extinction RebellionGreen New DealDemocratic Socialism. Education.

Review of Tallis’s book:

https://philosophynow.org/issues/131/Logos_by_Raymond_Tallis

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Suffering and Injustice Revisited

Leopoldo Mendez Print

Print by Leopoldo Mendéz

Here’s something I wrote in 2014, two years before Trump was elected:

‘Suffering and Injustice – Whose Awe, Truth, and Hope Will Prevail?

http://jameselassiter.blogspot.com/2014/06/suffering-and-injustice-whose-awe-truth.html

Trump and what has now become his Republican Party epitomize the very defiance of Humankind’s ‘cultural human nature’ I was writing about five years ago.

But, as the saying goes, the band plays on. After all, who reads, much less heeds, the run-on sentences of an agnostic-atheist philosophical ethnographer? Much less one not affiliated with a major university, think tank, or political party. An old retired guy who happily spent most of his working life in Trump’s so-called ‘shithole’ countries. A language blessed/cursed primate whose every thought and written word is not peer-reviewed or influenced by a craving for academic tenure and book deals? An unorthodox emotional guy, a sometimes loose cannon?

Cannon

When politics in a society, that of the US in particular, becomes as it is now, bent irretrievably to the will of those seeking racial and religious supremacy, absolute power, and obscene wealth accumulation to such a degree that the social system is legally and morally unaccountable and unreformable, it may just be the time for unorthodoxy, emotion and letting cannons roll on decks. Arrr! Avast and stand to shipmates, the cannons may at times point at thee!

White Supremacy

If such people as Trump and the current incarnation of the GOP continue in power and the path Humankind is now on to capitalist and ecological collapse remains irreversible, as many far more knowledgeable and wiser than me believe it will, our descendants in the US are very likely to live in a theocratic totalitarian society similar to that depicted in Hulu TV’s take on Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale novel, or worse.

There are good, evidence-supported arguments by eminent academics and on many credible Internet sites saying that the US may very likely be headed toward such a Gileadian society.

If you think that’s too far fetched try and recall the certainty you felt in early-mid 2016 that Trump had no chance of winning the presidency. Then, the numb disbelief, fear and dread you felt the day after his victory, and have felt to a greater or lesser degree every day since. Those feelings will be nothing compared to the hysteria, panic and criminality each of us will see in others and experience ourselves if/when the global economy and ecology collapse.

The 2020 US election will be a crucial turning point for the US and likely, in turn, for all of Humankind – a survival-sustainability or extinction-planet death fork in the evolutionary road of Homo sapiens and Earth.

All humanistic and true freedom and justice-committed Americans, regardless of their political and religious affiliations or leanings, must resist, as a moral and ecological duty, efforts to take us further down the road to catastrophe and totalitarianism we are currently on.

Mankind Luckovich

Resistance must begin now, simultaneously on at least four fronts:

1) take nonviolent action to disrupt all actions of all those, in the private and public sectors, who refuse to immediately and fully address the current catastrophic economic and ecological threat to Humankind and Earth;

2) take political action at all levels to oppose, not nominate and electorally defeat all political facilitators of the current emergency regardless of their party affiliation;

3) support all science, technology and governance efforts to reverse all current harmful ecological and economic actions through a Green New Deal;

4) support all media, activist organizations and education efforts that are committed to 1-3 through financial support and/or active participation.

As one Extinction Rebellion banner in Atlanta recently put it: ‘We’re F***ed, Fight Anyway.’ I agree.

EXCERPT FROM ‘SUFFERING AND INJUSTICE’

Suffering and Injustice Original Image

“Imagine the Earth populated by humans who cannot or will not reason; whose knowledge is not informed by objective truth; and who have no capacity for compassion beyond that for their own kind. All who eschew or misuse reason, reject or misrepresent objective truth, restrict their compassion to the like-minded, and lead or force others along this path, live in defiance of Human Nature. When they do so in order to advance their privilege, power, religion, ideology, or nation above that of all others, they subvert the freedom of every member of Humankind to pursue an awe, truth, and hope different from their own.”

“It is our ability to communicate about the consequences of our behavior in the past and potential behavior in the future, and the collective, protective covenant we entered into with each other at the dawn of humanity hundreds of thousands of years ago, that still distinguish us and represent, so far, our species’ greatest achievements. The core principle of that covenant is acceptance of the need to agree and act upon standards related to the avoidance and alleviation of suffering and those of fairness and justice, writ large. This, in the face of threatening events in the ever-challenging, ever-changing physical and social environments, is indispensable to our humanity, to enlightened, civilized life.”

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Major Fault Line in Jonathan Haidt’s “Moral Foundation Theory” of Human Evolution

Human Nature

The Well-Meaning Bad Ideas Spoiling a Generation

Psychologist Jonathan Haidt on politics, morality, and the coddling of the American mind.

Brian Gallagher

Nautilus

March 7, 2019

Above is an interview of Jonathan Haidt. It’s pretty good on some things like his latest book The Coddling of the American Mind. I think he may be better on this topic than “human nature” and things such as the evolutionary emergence of human morality, values he contends we are hard-wired for and therefore compelled to express.

The following excerpted statement of his from the interview caught my attention in that it is revealing in terms of my critique of his book, The Righteous Mind. He’s asked to account for the now Trumpian Republican Party. Haidt’s response raises this question: If his moral foundation theory is as powerful and useful as he leads us to believe in his book, how could one election and one president, Trump, in effect debunk it?

JH: “Trump has shifted a lot of things around. The Republican Party is no longer the social conservative party. I believe, in other research I’ve published with Karen Stenner, a political scientist in Australia, Trump is appealing to more authoritarian tendencies. It’s very hard to see how Donald Trump is a conservative. So the psychology that I just described a moment ago [moral foundation theory] no longer quite applies. [Italics mine.] The Republican Party, I don’t know what’s happening to it [shouldn’t his moral foundation theory provide some answers?], but it is bringing in elements that are overtly racist. It is bringing in desires for rapid change, which is not a conservative virtue, generally.”

Haidt hitching his moral foundation theory to evolutionary human nature remains a problem for me.

Equally unsatisfactory is his claim in his The Righteous Mind that Democrats are less loyal and less patriotic than Republicans just doesn’t hold water. Since Trump’s election who, really, is proving to be the greater patriot, Nancy Pelosi or Mitch McConnell? I’ve gone over these two main points and others here:

Critique: The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

and here:

The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt: Critique Postscript

I think a good theory of cultural evolution, one I’m working on, would tell us a lot more about how humans became what we are and why we behave as we do than Haidt’s moral foundation theory.

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