2017-09-08

Out of proportion


Ivan Illich, in his 1994 Schumacher lecture on the wisdom of Austrian economist philosopher Leopold Kohr, said,

“Kohr was an eminently unassuming man. I would even go so far as to say that he was radically humble, and this aspect of his thought and character tends to disqualify him from inclusion in textbooks. It may also have contributed to the fact that so few have grasped the core of his argument: the prominence he gives to proportionality [...] But not many of those who applauded him understood the depth of his opposition to current axiomatic certainties [...] Diffidently, he asks you to step outside of what passes for commonly accepted perception [...] To consider what is appropriate or fitting in a certain place leads one directly into reflection on beauty and goodness. The truth of one's resultant judgment will be primarily moral, not economic.”

Attempt to think in the way Kohr depicts Ancient and Mediaeval perception. What may seem like a minor difference or outdated view changes the whole idea of how the world works, what is beautiful, or just, or real, or necessary. Through comparison you can then use this knowledge to better understand the dominant worldview and to develop a different culture.

Kohr's contribution is to be found in his social morphology, says Illich. There, two key words reveal his thought: proportionality or, more precisely, the appropriateness of a relationship. The second is "certain," as when one says, "in a certain way." Taking both "appropriate" and a "certain place" together allows Kohr to see the human social condition as that ever unique and boundary-making limit within which each community can engage in discussion about what ought to be allowed and what ought to be excluded.
This discussion happens within families, villages, towns, and regions, not nation states which are too large and heterogenous. Globalization in particular explodes any possible framework of appropriateness.

Each place has its own culture, and each culture has its own sense of proportions. We arrive at measures through following proportions. A simple example are the historically different lengths of one mile or one cubit which depended on the different proportions of the human body in different ethnicities.
Another example are the different dates for the start of the new year which most often depend on geographical locations and their specific seasons and crop cycles, but also their religious beliefs (14th April in Tamil culture, 11th September in Ethiopia,...)

This notion which has pervaded basically everything from music to cookery to politics to architecture to medicine became extinct through the rationalistic movement that started in the Renaissance. With the victory of Enlightenment in the 18th century it has been completely replaced by absolute sizes and values. Here lies the foundation of modern economics.

Modern economic assumptions based on absolute figures, once incorporated into one's way of perceiving reality and constructing arguments, exclude ethical options whose object is the good, the harmoneous, the just.
Kohr's point is that a good life is not to be found using absolute figures and values but through seeking appropriateness, ie. the right proportions, or the right relationship, and that this can happen only locally, or regionally at largest, because the definition of ethical values (or rather qualities) and their ranking may vary from culture to culture and from case to case.

Kohr knew that not any inclination but a certain awareness and feeling, a certain sensitivity to the appropriate, is the necessary condition of friendship. He knew that the historical loss of this knowledge fosters the emergence of social mutations that can be recognized now as monsters.

2017-08-28

Do something!?


I don't know how those among you with 100+, let alone 1000+ Facebook contacts are handling the incoming stream of headlines, comments, images, and buttons to click on; I guess by ignoring all but a few posts from a handful of people. That's at least the mode I switched to a while ago even if it doesn't make sense. I cannot see a point in amassing all you folks and your potential contributions in the first place. Apart from my personal acquaintances, the majority of my contacts may have added me based on their own interest in my work. I wonder, though, whether that's a healthy relationship given that I cannot give most of your utterances similar attention, if any. Think about it.


Photo by Wikimedia user Colin

There were a few things to say about abrupt climate change, the decline of the biosphere, and the demise of the human species, and maybe those were the subjects that attracted you. For most part, from my perspective, it's 'nuff said. I am feeling very much like standing on the brink of cutting the web completely. The flood of incoming news is so numbing that more of it simply doesn't help with anything. During the last year I have been diving into a sea of information and disinformation on climate change and the related social and political issues. I became more active on Facebook, translated fiction and non-fiction, watched scores of reports, essays, documents, and movies daily and have revived my blog after years of abstinence. Found a few new acquaintances, some only recently, who I really love listening to, and learned a lot both about the world and myself. Great thing, and really worth the time; infact, it was a phase that I needed to go through.

But the mosaic of externalities is more or less complete; additional details fail to improve understanding. And while I am sitting here drowning in facts, opinions and fiction, sharing great writing, and churning out essays myself the real-life dimension all word processing needs to lead back to passes me by, hour by hour by hour. It's mesmerizing, just like trying to earn money in the hopes it would help me liberating myself from having to earn money was mesmerizing back then, before I simply broke the spell and abandoned the rat race. I suggest you try that as well.

Life is about living. And I don't mean the kind of living most people advise me to pursue, like indulging in music, marriage, parties, consumption and other “harmless” distractions. There is a human community around me. There are the farm animals and trees who I love to be with. There are the very few – also very precious – close online friends who deserve attention. There is the path of awakening.
And though the latter can lead anywhere, even through the midst of consuming yellow press articles, I have clear indication that mine has something to do with giving more attention to eye-to eye relationships and observing that-which-is-alive-in-me.

With less time for spending on the web, The Empire Express, naturally, will appear less often. If you feel you found an article worth featuring, let me know somehow. Essays of my own making will continue to get published, probably at a little less frequent rate. Use the “follow” button here or on Facebook to stay up to date on new blog posts.

What I'm trying to say in so many words is, there'll be way less signs of my presence around, especially on Facebook, but this is not an absolute good-bye; it is the beginning of finding a new balance among the many things that make up a life fully lived.

Wolfgang Werminghausen and me have been touching some of what that encompasses in the 16th episode of his podcast Faster Than Expected.

2017-08-18

Underminers: Subverting the Machine


In the last Empire Express I already recommended this book for reading. Today I would like to re-emphasize its meaning as a useful tool in an age of industrialized omnicide. Those regularly following my blog posts might be aware of the concept of "distributed denial of servitude", which is the idea that every person who is aware of the problem of civilization can do something to reduce its destructive impacts on humans and non-humans alike, by withdrawing their time, mind, and energy from the machine in order to direct them at alternate ways of being.
Keith Farnish's book 'Underminers: a practical guide for radical change' describes ways and methods how to succeed with this.

The book consists of three main parts:
The first part uncovers the "tools of disconnection", the many ways by which Mother Culture lures, fools, coaxes, pushes, and forces her children into submission. She makes sure that spite is not turned against her, that all fighting remains infighting among citizens, and that those attempting to leave the herd are getting crushed. Knowledge about her ways is not supposed to rise to awareness because as soon as the illusion of her benevolence falls away people start to turn their backs on her. So becoming aware is already an act of undermining the machine.

With the knowledge of the tools of disconnection in mind the second part describes where and how "the culture of maximum harm" can be undermined actively. The goal is to uncover the illusory nature, pointlessness, and destructiveness of the dominant set of living arrangements to individuals or the general public. There are various options like creating ridiculous situations in which the system's ability to serve its declared goals fails so obviously that people begin to awaken and start to question established thought patterns and institutions. This awakening from illusions is an absolute prerequisite for their being able to reconnect to the real world.
As this activism of a million pin pricks aims at disrupting the machine to the point of its breaking down one could call that -- in the widest sense -- sabotage. Yet in a legal sense, and certainly in moral terms, there is nothing wrong with most of what underminers are doing. The author stresses, though, that the underminer has to take full responsibility for his/her actions and therefore needs to plan carefully to avoid physical harm to living beings.

At one point the system comes crashing down. Whether it is the outcome of undermining, or whether it is the result in of the system's inbuilt weaknesses, or whether it dies from exhaustion of resources is only relevant in terms of what will be left of the world for life to go on. Crashing down it will, and rather sooner than later. You don't want to get cought with your pants down, not knowing what to do. People need a safety net to fall back into. In part three, Keith explains how to extract yourself from the machine's grip so you may live not only more appropriately as a human being, but you also establish a parallel society that today practices the skills needed in the future. John Michael Greer once published a book whose title perfectly carries the sentiment: "Collapse now, avoid the rush."
Community building will be a major undertaking here and, as a side effect of undermining, it becomes easier, through realizing how we got disconnected from each other in the first place.

So, altogether, the book is full of great ideas of where to start -- right now -- with your post-civilized life, and how to help bringing the machine to a halt. Underminers is available from your local or online bookshop, you may read it for free on a webpage, or you can download a free pdf from the same page.


"Cast off our watches (and phones), like my wife has, and it takes very little time to “tune in” to how far along its diurnal path the Earth has rotated, and what point in our wakefulness cycle we are currently at. I can’t see such principles being readily accepted in the world of commerce where time is money and money is the meaning of life, but that’s just one more reason why the commercial world is completely incompatible with human beings. We only have a finite time to spend on this world, with the people we love, doing the things that are truly important. Who the fuck gave anyone the right to steal that time away from us?" -- Underminers, p345

2017-08-04

The Empire Express, 4 August 2017


Editorial

The reason the 'Train of Civilization' cartoon works so well as a running gag is civilization's actually being a train going in a relatively straight line from a beginning to an end at an ever-increasing speed. We are bridging gaps and penetrating obstacles to keep it going where it's heading. This behavioral linearity and this eschatological directedness is mirrored in the inability to explore off-track territory and to turn back to previous, more functional ways of being. The machine is not going to stop speeding up until we are running out of building materials for bridges, or are simply too fast to stay on track, or lose our ability to tunnel into reality's fabric. In any case, the train of civilization is going to catastrophically crash, either by jumping tracks, falling off of a cliff, or hitting a wall at full speed.

Most activists and their supporters and sympathizers may have a sense of such an event coming up rather sooner than later, but how close are we actually, and how will we respond when, finally, the day has arrived?

This recent collection of links has its focus for most part on how to face this world in all its beauty and decay, and whether there is something left for humans to be done. We get diverse answers from the Pentagon, Brian Calvert, Keith Farnish, and Confucius, among others. Words like 'apocalypse', 'dystopian', 'collapse', and 'doom' are popping up a lot, and SF author William Gibson has an explanation for this trend (see below), but the presence of such a word in an article does not keep most writers from promoting an active stance. Let yourself get surprised. The differences in view between the authors presented here are quite telling and I hope they help you make up your mind about where to find your place in the scenery.

Ongoing Assault


The end of the world is universal shorthand for whatever we don’t want to happen. We have very little control over anything much at all, individually, so fantasies of staving off the end of the world are fairly benign fantasies of increased agency.”

Are we doomed? Let's have a conversation – Richard Heinberg, Resilience.org, 20170727
Even if – in all unlikelihood – we tackled every single one of our many converging crises with a technological fix civilization may still crash because of unintended side effects to those fixes. And there is no technical solution for social inequality anyway. So the lifestyle we are used to is basically toast. But that doesn't mean we are doomed, says Heinberg. If we collapsed consciously there'd be something left to rebuild upon. This conversation, though, is happening among few only.

Headline says it all: just your normal climate insanity being confirmed by dumbstruck scientists discovering that Earth's systems are unraveling faster than expected. Make no mistake, it's going to pick up even more speed and will exceed the damage projected in this study.

Withdraw,” Kingsnorth advised, “so that you can allow yourself to sit back quietly and feel, intuit, work out what is right for you and what nature might need from you. Withdraw because refusing to help the machine advance — refusing to tighten the ratchet further — is a deeply moral position.”

The unhappy ape – Ben Kadel, Medium, 20170720
The irony is that a raft of recent research in positive psychology has basically rediscovered everything you already learned in kindergarten: money can’t buy happiness; it’s better to give than to receive; bullies are actually scared wounded souls. Science has confirmed what most traditions already teach about how to live a happy life […] Look around at the excesses and the misery, side-by-side. Look at Trump. This is what it looks like when you only care about yourself.”

Then what is science good for, when the things it teaches us about ourselves and the world just confirm what's commonplace, and when the technology it underlies alienates us from ourselves and the world? The article doesn't provide an answer, but maybe that's also not necessary. The path it promotes may lead you all by itself to some insight about the implications of civilized life.

Not in front of the children: liberal meditations of the apocalypse – Chris Shaw, Wrong Kind of Green, 20170719
The nature, problems, targets, and solutions to climate change are being discussed among middle class white men mainly. They bear the mark of cultural narcissism and fail to involve both decision makers and ordinary folks. A Scottish experiment came to interesting results when breaking these limits.

Men unlike gods – John Michael Greer, Ecosophia, 20170719
Similar to Shaw (see above) JMG explores how the myths of a select few drive the development of societies – into the abyss. Awareness of the drivers may become essential when being confronted with historical patterns.

Our study suggests, first, that thinning permafrost in a warmer climate may not only result in the frequently reported and discussed increased emission of biogenic CH4, but also in increased emissions of geologic CH4, that is currently still trapped under thick, continuous permafrost, as new emission pathways open due to thawing permafrost.”

Which is to say that the findings of Shakhova et al., from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, are being confirmed by research results from other parts of the Arctic. Subsea Methane deposits are already in the process of breaking open, about to release significant amounts of greenhouse gas. The authors conclude that the results indicate that geologic CH4 emissions may contribute strongly to the permafrost-carbon-climate feedback, especially in permafrost areas vulnerable to thawing and therefore warrant much more attention.”
It is to be noted that the data has been collected in 2012/13 already. For an easier to understand description of the issue, read Robin Westenra's article Methane seeps out as Arctic permafrost starts to resemble Swiss cheese.”

The planet is warming. And it's okay to be afraid – Margaret Klein Salamon, Common Dreams, 20170717
While I think both Mann and Holthaus are brilliant scientists who identified some factual problems in the article [“The uninhabitable Earth” by David Wallace-Wells], I strongly disagree with their statements about the role of emotions—namely, fear—in climate communications and politics. I am also skeptical of whether climate scientists should be treated as national arbiters of psychological or political questions, in general. I would like to offer my thoughts as a clinical psychologist […] I hope that every single American, every single human experiences such a crisis of conscience. It is the first step to taking substantial action. Our job is not to protect people from the truth or the feelings that accompany it—it’s to protect them from the climate crisis.”

Brilliant!
There are only two elements here that I disagree with:
a) "dire discussions of the climate crisis should be accompanied with a discussion of solutions." -- What if there are no solutions, or if the problem-solution dichotomy is invalid? That would be part of the truth, wouldn't it?
It is not the duty of Cassandra to discuss escape routes, but to point at the things she alone seems to be able to see.

b) Salamon's "Victory plan" is a top-down approach requiring all the world's political and economic leaders, and especially their superiors to mend their wicked ways. Hand on heart: how likely is that? Are you willing to bet your life – and all life on the planet – on the outside chance that this is going to happen?

While the author correctly proposes that for kicking people into action truth must be told, she basically reduces them to consumers of solutions that Cassandra and the world's leaders are asked to provide. One more example of why someone being able to perform a brilliant situation analysis may not necessarily be as able deducing suitable actions.

Apart from repeating the "2100" myth Wallace-Wells' "The uninhabitable Earth" has done a great job at bringing runaway climate change to public awareness. The hysterical outcry across the whole spectrum confirms as much. The rapidly warming planet will tell the truth about the time frame.

Pentagon study declares American empire is 'collapsing' – Nafeez Ahmed, Insurge Intelligence, 20170717
The US military knows a few things the government denies, but its strategy proposes more of the same elements that brought about the crisis of Empire in the first place.

This is a war, then, between US-led capitalist globalization, and anyone who resists it. And to win it, the document puts forward a combination of strategies: consolidating the U.S. intelligence complex and using it more ruthlessly; intensifying mass surveillance and propaganda to manipulate popular opinion; expanding U.S. military clout to ensure access to 'strategic regions, markets, and resources'.”
The military, of course, wants to justify the budget it got allocated and the actions it is about to take against perceived enemies of US national security. There may be an element of exaggeration in this report, but they might as well understate some of the trouble the government doesn't want the general public to be aware of.

Simultaneous harvest failures in key regions would bring global famine.
'We have found that we are not as resilient as we thought when it comes to crop growing,' said Kirsty Lewis, science manager for the Met Office’s climate security team.”

Not news. Just for the records. Another July article reported an acutal 25% loss in olives and an acutal 75% loss in grains from Italy and Spain. That's a currently happening, observed, real life decline in food supply, due to climate change, and similar events have been reported from all continents.

The truth is that these other beings wouldn't need to be saved if civilization weren't killing them. The truth is that they can't be saved so long as civilization is killing the planet. And the truth is that in this culture there are certain topics which must never be discussed, certain self-perceptions and perceived entitlements which are never negotiable.
We would rather kiss ourselves and the entire planet good-bye than to look honestly at what we have done, what we are doing, and what we will, so long as we have this supremacist mindset, continue to do.”

Voluntary poverty as a way of life is millennia old. Wise men know for a long time already that material wealth has its downsides, especially regarding peace of mind and its consequences on human behaviour. It's true, “some lifestyle choices matter more than others”, yet one has to be careful with jumping to conclusions. Passing judgments is easy, though not at all helpful when deciding how to deal with runaway climate change.

Maybe they would, maybe they wouldn't. The author uses the “BP statistical review of world energy” to graphically emulate the information about how much fuel the world is burning or, in other words, whether anthropogenic carbon emissions actually stopped rising. The bad news is, they didn't. The good news might be, from my understanding, that emissions from natural feedback loops were not as severe as thought – which doesn't mean they haven't been kicked off already. But I guess this doesn't change a tiny thing about our collective inability to stop the runaway train.

The buildup of tensions between US-led countries and Russia comes neither surprisingly nor accidently.

At times, I have found myself performing activism more than doing activism. I’m exhausted, and I’m not even doing the real work I am committed to do. It is a terrible thing to be afraid of my own community members, and know they’re probably just as afraid of me. Ultimately, the quest for political purity is a treacherous distraction for well-intentioned activists.”

A call for tolerance towards different paths rather than black&white points of view.

Pearls Before Swine


As a poet with major depression,” the author writes about seeing an owl in chains, I knew these eyes well. These were the eyes of a creature pushed beyond pain into numbness, overwhelmed with despair, and fading into the void. These were eyes I have seen on the street. These were eyes I have seen in zoos, in aquarium tanks, and in cages. These were eyes I have seen in prison, in psyche wards, and at funerals.
I knew these eyes because I have seen them reflected in the mirrors I have peered into before trying to kill myself. I knew these eyes because I have seen them in myself.”
Viewing human mental health through the lens of deep ecology he writes, We are animals and animals are an ongoing process of relationships. When those relationships become impossible, we lose ourselves. I do not believe I go too far when I write, 'We are no longer human.' By we I mean civilized humans who live much like I do.

Confucian-inspired family values: a moral vision for thee 21st century – Henry Rosemont Jr, Huffington Post, 20160510
The autonomous individual simply does not exist in our daily life. Confucians view other persons not merely accidental or contingent to my goal of living a full life, they are fundamental to it. My life can only have meaning as I contribute to the meaningfulness of the lives of others, and they to me,” Rob de Laet writes in his summary of Rosemont's blog. Gratitude, respect, loyalty are important values that when practiced on a daily basis towards all our relations cultivate their own meaning, their own sense of joy and happiness, so this is not some form of altruism or selflessness. In our yearning for a different society built around collaboration rather than competition we may assume that, Each of us comes from a family, and thus the revolution begins at home.

What does the end of our world look like from a Buddhist perspective? What is left to be done?

Those following my blog do almost certainly see that something is profoundly wrong with our set of living arrangements. Some if not all of you may agree that something must be done about it, and that it were basically better for it to go away. You heard me saying that building alternative structures while starving the old system of our contribution -- distributed denial of servitude -- was the way to go. That does not mean, though, you should fully ignore the system's doings; knowledge about how it works and how you can extract yourself from its grip may be of vital importance in defining your own paradigm and successfully develop into actually living it. The same information may be important when it comes to a showdown, intentionally or not, between your life plan and society's plans for you.

"Underminers" is a seminal comprehensive work in this field. The book which is available as a webpage, as a pdf, or in paper meticulously shows how the system undermined human faculties completely, but also how we in turn may undermine its hold on us and bring it crashing down.

Don't think about going into noble lines of work, think only of doing what you do best. Because that's where you're going to make the most difference in the world.

Action is the antidote to despair. The author of “Ishmael” on the question what every single person on Earth could do.

Cartoon

The train of civilization

“Waiter! There's a fly in my soup"

Famous Last Words

Humans are not like mice!

[previous issue / later issue]

2017-07-31

Return from Friesenheim


Some thoughts on 'the other' and on 'being different'

The following is a synthesis of some thoughts collected at a three-days discussion at the Friesenheimer Sommeruniversität last week-end and at another discussion simultaneously happening at the facebook group “The Six Blind and the Elephant.”

I think it is necessary to point out that, if we are actually desiring human unity, the path to its realization cannot imply divisiveness and fighting-against. In my community we are talking about 'unity in diversity', meaning, we accept that we are born, and have evolved, differently; all of us are diverse expressions of the One, and it doesn't take for all of us to look the same, think the same, act the same. We are already one, whether we notice this or not. In the early stages of becoming aware of it, as an intellectual concept only, there is sometimes the desire to manipulate or force others into complying with this concept. What if we got everybody, every single individual, to accepting this idea? But that's not unity, is it? We'd get a collection of seperate beings at best, mental tyranny at worst, so there is no use in this.

The Universal Consciousness oberves itself through the varied lenses of our individuality. It laughs at our attempts to stuff parts of its infiniteness into arbitrary boxes arranged into random hierarchies of 'better' and 'worse', and it is amused in the same way about efforts to counter the unfolding fragmentation with levelling differences down. Both movements, discrimination of differences and denying differences, are an expression of the notion that we are separate, independent beings.


Mountain Chief
listening to recording
with Frances Densmore
1916 (public domain)
The path to unity leads through acceptance of, and respect for, our many differences, our diversity. There are no two people on the planet, no two stones, no two trees, no two bacteria, or even two electrons that are the same. There is always something to distinguish two entities by, if only by their position in space. There are things that make us alike, though, which allows us to say, This is a human who is sharing common human traits, and this is a tree showing similar characteristics like others of its kind. To focus on the set of attributes which makes each of the readers of this essay a human being means to focus on our fundamental unity as humankind. But to value those attributes over other sets of attributes separates us from other beings. And to value certain characteristics like white skin, leftist ideology, or middle-range income, higher than other characteristics, again, results in separation. Yes, we are diverse; but it's the judgment of our differences as higher or lower, better or worse, that sets us apart and makes us think we were incompatible with each other.

As for 'narcissists', 'thieves', 'destroyers' and other groups we have identified as 'problematic', it helps when we apply different language. Instead of sticking a label to somebody and thus saying that eg. thiefing is a certain person's particular character, we could say that s/he has stolen, or that s/he has shown thiefing behaviour; this small change in grammar changes our own reality big time and allows us to believe that this person has other character traits as well. S/he is not only about stealing and s/he has the capacity to change their way. Instead of prohibiting (and finally eliminating the 'problem', and the person with it) we may ask, which unfulfilled need drives this person or group to acting as they do, and what can I do to help meeting this need differently.

This, of course, takes some time and is a matter of personal interaction; it can rarely be achieved on a large scale with thousands or milliions of people, though a supportive environment may help with fostering change. On the other hand, from what I understand, it is important to know that manipulating somebody into doing something, the top-down approach, and the demand for immediate satisfaction are part of how the world arrived at its current state. Do you see how all of this has implications for what we can or cannot do to establish a more balanced, harmoneous situation?

When we perceive ourselves as different from, let's say a 'thief', or when we are being labelled 'thieves' , it always takes a reference point perceived as 'normal'. But that makes the 'other' and the 'normal' obverse and reverse faces of one and the same leaf. So, in all our diversity we are basically one. We could say that the common denominator of being normal and of being different is being -- what an amazing realization to have...


To the organizers and participants of the Friesenheim event, I'd like to express my thanks for the many questions put, help offered, food shared, kind words spoken, and inspirations given, and all of that so freely. This was one great gathering of people willing to support each other in our search for truth and freedom, and I guess most, if not all of us agree that there is an intimate connection between the two.

I'd love to offer those who'd enjoy to continue our discourse on 'Being Different' -- contact me by commenting to this blog or by writing me a mail. Marianne and Reimer know my address and may pass it on.

On another note, a few copies of my booklet on life in rural Tamil Nadu are still available for free. Would you like to have one?

2017-07-27

Carbon confusion


While climate scientists naturally keep an eye on human carbon emissions as the main driver of global warming, people like Charles Eisenstein have been wondering whether the problem / solution approach makes any sense in handling the planetary crisis. 'Carbon reductionism', as he calls it, is just an expression of the underlying worldview that created and fostered the crisis; our sense of separateness that makes us think we could manipulate and shape the 'external' world according to our likings. We have failed achieving the desired outcome and instead have created a situation that threatens to wipe out millions of species, our own among them. What makes us think we could find our way out of this with just a little more (geo) engineering?

Eisenstein's perspective may not be easy to digest when all you ever believed in were rational thought and scientific research results. But rationality may go wrong and lose its grip on reality quite a bit, especially when its conclusions are founded on assumptions, or doctored data even.

Recently I am running more and more often into the assertion that anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases had peaked and were levelling around 36 Gtons of carbon during the last three years. Trying to find out where this figure is coming from I discovered what I intuited already: that human industrial gas output has not been measured, cannot be measured, and is utterly based on industrial claims about the amount of fossil fuels burnt. It's all paper declarations.

At the same time, greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere have actually been measured and found increasing, with no sign of even the rate of increase reducing. I find it probable that emissions have continued rising exponentially while governments and industries claim they had done their level best to curb them. Nobody can actually know where all the surplus gases in the atmosphere are coming from exactly. We only know they are there, on the rise, and they are here to stay.

Until only weeks ago I did not notice a single article in which the claim that greenhouse gases had levelled off has been questioned in any serious way, and I find this somehow peculiar when there is a lot of cynicism going around regarding corporate sources of information. After all, manipulation of deceptive practices to hide global warming and its source have been well documented.


source: GCP, licence: CC
"This result is part of the annual carbon assessment released today by the Global Carbon Project, a global consortium of scientists and think tanks under the umbrella of Future Earth and sponsored by institutions from around the world," reported 'The Conversation' ("Global carbon emissions have stalled", by Pep Canadell et al., 20161114)

The graph states that the economy is still growing and that the alleged drop in carbon emissions is based on Chinese figures about their coal use.

The industry uses those 'level' figures because they seem to show that the age of fossil fuels is over anyway and that it's not worth people's time to think about regulations. They want their fictional carbon budgets last a little longer.

Governments embrace the figures because they seem to show that their efforts with curbing global warming are gaining traction and that emissions have decoupled from economic growth.

Climate scientists who think civilization can be saved use those numbers to call for more personal action, development of 'green' energy infrastructure, or even financing their pet geo-engineering technology.

And the doomer community, yes, it has an interest in upholding those figures as well; after all, the implied growing discrepancy between stalling industrial emissions and rising atmospheric carbon levels strongly supports the notion that Earth's climate has entered a runaway mode of change.

When government, industry, and various shades of the environmental movement unite in embracing ominous figures, it makes me wonder what's going on. While we cannot expect industry, corporate-controlled governments, and their gate keeping scientists and journalists to tell the truth, truly concerned people need to take a second look at the assumptions connected to above mentioned figures. Please note that I am not saying that non-human feedback loops hadn't been triggered, just that I doubt the figures delivered by governments and industries. Those are very likely twisted, and certainly not based on reliable facts.

An article in the 'National Observer' ("These 'missing charts' may change the way you think about fossil fuel addiction", by Barry Saxifrage in Analysis, Energy, 20170713), for the first time, wonders if those figures make any sense at all. It presents evidence that there is no reason to believe anthropogenic carbon emissions have so much as stopped rising at all. Paul Beckwith, climate scientist at the University of Ottawa, just now also expresses doubt. ("Fossil fuel use is rising like there is no tomorrow" 20170726)

Absent solid data, and regarding the root causes of the planetary predicament, what actually needs to happen is a profound rethinking -- or rather, re-sensing -- of humanity's nature and place in the Universe. If we are to come to our senses all of the distractions which keep the mind busy need to fall away: entertainment, belief systems, career, money, consumerism... you name it. The falling-away of all the confusion they cause would shatter our whole way of life, otherwise called industrial civilization.
What is in the way? Only addiction and fear.
The interesting thing about it is that this is not about doing more but less, and that the way is identical to the goal.

2017-07-21

Divide et impera


(bilingual essay English & Deutsch)

Himba woman (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 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.


India (CC0, public domain)
Die Verwandlung des wilden Menschen in den zivilisierten hat ihn von einer eingebetteten schöpferischen Kraft zu einem bedürftigen Individuum gemacht, dessen ihm zugeteilte Ration davon abhängt, was das moralisch gerechtfertigte Maß erlaubt. Des zivilisierten Menschen Unfreiheit, Bedürftigkeit und Isolation ist das Ergebnis der Annahme, dass er unfrei, bedürftig und isoliert sei.
Es ist also illusorisch anzunehmen, dass eine fortgeschrittenere, gerechtere Zivilisation diesen Zustand durch soziale oder technische Ingenieurskunst beheben könnte, solange diese Annahme gilt.
Der Versuch, die Zivilisation auf eine andere Annahme zu gründen, wiederum, wird dazu führen, dass Zivilisation ganz verschwindet; technischer Fortschritt, monumentale Kunst, Ballungszentren und Wissenschaft sind ohne psychologische und physische Enteignung nicht erreichbar und ohne strukturelle Gewalt nicht haltbar. Ihr Wesen ist Gewalt, also Unfreiheit, Ungleichheit und Unbrüderlichkeit. 'Divide et impera' ist die ihr zugrunde liegende Weltanschauung, keine sonderlich perfide Strategie.
Freiheit, Gleichheit und Brüderlichkeit sind damit als Ideale entlarvt, die in einer Zivilisation weder vorkommen noch verwirklicht werden können, sondern für die Dauer des Bestehens dieser Gesellschaftsform Wunschträume bleiben werden.

2017-07-15

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.

From the 'crisis of perception' to the 'systems view of life' – Daniel Christian Wahl, Medium, 200170708
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

Go shopping!


2017-07-11

All nonsense


They say that if there is no money there is no motivation.
They say that if there is no competition there is no progress.
They say that if there is no fertilizer there is no fruit.
They say that if there is no hope there is no action.

Science has proven it?
I have proven, by living differently, that those assertions are wrong, and I dare everyone to repeat the experiment that has been successfully performed immeasurable many times over, by yourself.

Do not believe me, but do also not believe some corporate-paid strangers who claim experthood on how to live when all they have to offer is highly specialized knowledge in one narrow field of science.

2017-07-08

They are not dumb, they are different


Despite a plethora of supportive reports David Suzuki says we do not have enough data to predict that global warming will definitely bring about human extinction. Derrick Jensen quotes people claiming that millions of years provide not enough data to state that indigenous peoples are living sustainably.
Theoretically, that is true. There is never enough data to predict the future. It's highly unlikely but some undiscovered feedback loop might reverse global warming, and the tribes may kill life on Earth if only we give them enough time to do so.

It's a different thing regarding another claim which concerns present-day matters of fact: that there is not enough data to support the notion of human-like animal intelligence. I'd just turn that around and say, there is not enough data to support the notion of human intelligence superiority. What do we actually know about animals? That they do not write novels? That they do not have a theory of gravity? That they did not paint a Mona Lisa? That they do not conspire to get rid of us? What if they do, but in their own way, a way that we cannot understand because the inquiry into animal intelligence is sort of forbidden terrain? Our inability understanding 'simple' animal communication does not exactly encourage the notion of evolutionary hierarchies.

Lack of understanding is not a one-way street.
Beyond our civilization, most of what we do also makes absolutely no sense, even to humans themselves – those humans who have the privilege of still living outside the Matrix, in aboriginal tribes. They have no use for abstract art or historic novels or mathematical functions or a language built from hundreds of thousands of words, so they don't produce them. Counting to three is enough for some of those tribes, sixty words are enough for others, simple stick figure murals are enough to serve most tribals' needs. They don't need money, they don't measure time, they don't form complex societies. They are capable of more, as we know from individuals who have been abducted and pulled into the Machine, but they don't apply it. And that served them well for millions of years.

So what justifies the notion of our way of life as an expression of human superior intelligence?
Exactly nothing. Looking at all the problems it continues to cause, the opposite may seem more correct. But that does not do humanity justice; we know by the example of the tribes that our problems are cultural phenomenons only. Similarly, the intricacy of our societies, the cleverness of our technology, and the beauty of our arts are cultural in nature rather than expression of humanity's supposedly higher intelligence.

With open eyes intelligence can be seen ranging from a Universal level down to the behaviour of atomic particles, and it is not dependent on the size – or even the presence – of a brain. I find the way everything makes sense truly astounding, though I am aware that this might be so due to my personal bias. But then again, I am in and of this world, a member of the web of life, an offspring of its evolution, and basically one with it. Why would I not be able to intuitively make an accurate guess? There is no doubt in my mind that science's efforts to measure intelligence are heavily distorted by a cultural lens which is farther removed from a direct grasp on reality than my own bias. Science literally claims to observe matter in separation from the observed.

How would I put it more appropriately?
Well, it seems to me that our language, art, music, technology, society etc. are specific applications unique to our culture(s). They naturally vary from culture to culture and from species to species. They are expressing basic faculties common to all of life, plant and animal (including human), even existence as such. One basic faculty is communication, one of its applications is language. Cognition is a faculty, reasoning is an application. Intelligence is a faculty, technology an application.

If the theory of evolution has any root in reality it must follow that human faculties emerged from animal faculties. There is no reason to believe that ours are mounting sky high above everyone else's.