27 April 2005


"For most Americans under 40, the dread that saturated the 1980s is indelible. It was part of the fabric of their childhood."

In reading this article over at Salon, I suddenly had a realization: perhaps the lack of hopeful vision to be found in the Left today has its roots in the generational, um, cloud of doom that the 30 and 40 and 50 somethings lived under during their/our "formative years." I know I grew up always knowing the bombs could come at any time, and that's really a hope-killer. It made sense to plan for post-holocaust survival, but not so much for a future without nuclear doom hanging over us. I find it interesting that the doom scenarios touted by the more extreme forecasters of global warming today are undeniably similar to the nuclear devestation predictions of Jonathan Schell and "The Day After." Not to mention the Apocalyptic fantasies of "Left Behind."

What does it do to one's synapses to be subjected to years of ever-present doomsday? Are there studies on this? Like muscle-memory typing a password, would we not become prone to detouring away from hopeful paths of speculation, to a subconscious lean toward cynicism, to an inability to speculate expansively in love and light?
How does one leave that mental conditioning behind?

I remember reading "Hiroshima" in high school. I had nightmares for weeks, seeing visions of the blast victims' silhouettes, envisioning skin peeling and eyes melted. "The Fate of the Earth" was assigned in my freshman honors seminar, fall 1983. "War Games" was my introduction to computer hacking. The exchange where Matthew Broderick's character is lamenting never learning how to swim, how he thought he'd have time, is still burned into my head.

How do I learn how to dream again? How do we all?

26 April 2005

Monks, Popes and other survivalists

I'm not a regular reader of TechCentralStation, but I found this article to be of interest.

"'What they set themselves to achieve instead -- often not recognizing fully what they were doing -- was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness. If my account of our moral condition is correct, we ought also to conclude that for some time now we too have reached that turning point.'...Having withdrawn from the world, the new Benedictines... would no longer put off others with their sanctimonious, judgmental presences. But those who were drawn to their ethos would know where to look. And if history is any guide, where monasticism fled the world, the world would soon follow. MacIntryre called for a new St. Benedict. Maybe Ratzinger hopes to answer the call."

Hm. The far left and the far right, meeting at the intersection of survivalism street and sustainable living lane. So, Ratzinger's choice of pope name would thus seem to imply that he believes The End Is Near, not in an Apocalyptical/Revelations way but in a New Dark Ages way....? Oh yes, interesting.

22 April 2005

Remember what I was saying about the US projecting hard power when its soft power starts to dwindle?

"Indeed, by some calculations, the United States spends more on defense than all other nations in the world together [emphasis mine]. This is a circumstance without historical precedent. .... On a day-to-day basis, what do these expensive forces exist to do? Simply put, for the Department of Defense and all of its constituent parts, defense per se figures as little more than an afterthought. The primary mission of America's far-flung military establishment is global power projection, a reality tacitly understood in all quarters of American society. .... The new American militarism also manifests itself through an increased propensity to use force, leading, in effect, to the normalization of war."

Greetings, citizens of Rome. Sorry the cities are burning and everyone's crazy from the pollution, but we have the greatest military in the world! I find it sobering to realize the Dark Ages came after the fall of Rome. Fundamentalism and brutality, plagues and poverty, the wheel turns again.

20 April 2005

Well, yeah, it is about the oil.

If you have an economy based in oil, and the oil is running out, and the rest of the world is trying to move away from that economy.....

it seems that one option (of course, not the only one) might be a multipronged plan of obfuscation and covert action, to buy your national economy time and opportunity to change itself before either the external controlled forces (e.g. Europe, China, Iran) gather sufficient strength and awareness to move forward around you, or the external uncontrolled forces (e.g. peak oil, climate change) invoke catastrophe.

I would like to think this might be true. I doubt it, though, because I don't see enough evidence of internal change, except toward a theocratic fundamentalist social agenda. Unless the powers that be are far far more intuitively aware than any of us have previously given them credit for, and they believe the anger and social chaos their own social policies are creating will spur Americans out of their apathy and toward change, in some great sudden shift.

Or it could be that they don't think it possible to prevent the collapse, and instead are banking on a fascist theocracy as the best way to hold the nation together in the coming chaos. Survivalism writ large. Now there's a frightening thought, especially if applicable to the voting in of Pope Benedict. The Catholic Church, although much less directly powerful today, nevertheless has feelers in every aspect of world politics and economics, and would be well situated to forsee global changes in a unique perspective.

As an American, this is profoundly scary. As a world citizen and long thinker, this is utterly fascinating.

Iraq: not about the oil. Well, mostly not.

It's an old article, but well worth reading. Fascinating (in the gut-tightening sense) even if it isn't 100% accurate.

"In this power game, least understood is the role of preserving the dollar as the world reserve currency, as a major driving factor contributing to Washington's power calculus over Iraq in the past months. American domination in the world ultimately rests on two pillars -- its overwhelming military superiority, especially on the seas; and its control of world economic flows through the role of the dollar as the world's reserve currency. More and more it is clear that the Iraq war was more about preserving the second pillar -- the dollar role -- than the first, the military. In the dollar role, oil is a strategic factor."


Not being a trained economist, I can only speculate as to the accuracy of some of the claims made here, yet it "feels" right. Regardless of affected mannerisms, Bush isn't stupid, and certainly his neocon cabal isn't that dumb either (Ashcroft aside). There had to be something important about Iraq to risk so much in open war against it. And does anyone remember what was going on in the news before 9-11? China. The political news stress was "all China all the time." I recall thinking it looked like Bush wanted us to go to war against China! * I started poking around, and uncovered lots of information that US economists were scared that China was going to diversify from its purchases of US Treasury bonds - IOW, stop supporting the dollar-based global economic system - which would have a similar net effect as mentioned in the article above.

Given the apparently precarious position of the US dollar in the world economy, it seems nearly inevitable that there will be a collapse at some point. And what will we, the hubristic possessors of the greatest military in the world, do then? (for a hint, read historic documents on the Weimar Republic's economic woes) Of course, one thing clearly implied in the article but not said openly is that the global economic system once "based" in gold is now based in OIL. And the oil is running out. If you have an economy based in oil, and the oil is running out, and the rest of the world is trying to move away from that economy..... (to be continued)

* All the discussion of Pearl Harbor and the hypercelebration of our WWII victories was also useful for setting an appropriate national tenor for "responding" to 9/11 with a war. Want to real-world scare yourself with a fictional techno-thriller? Read Tom Clancy's "Red Storm Rising." While mentally replacing the Soviets with us.

13 April 2005

screwed is screwed.


"It would be nice if the "remote viewing" Tibetan monks were right (assuming the India Daily story is true), but I am not counting on alien interventionists to save the world from a really bad end in 2012 or any other year. More to the point, I am expecting that we are going to be finding out the hard way just how screwed we are, and that we've no one to blame for it but ourselves, and that it doesn't matter if we're sorry and repent and pray and gnash our teeth and rend our clothes and become all Biblical and shit, because screwed is screwed."

12 April 2005

lighting the spark

it's disturbing to consider how INaccessible much of the world's spiritual thought is to the average American. not physically - sure, anyone can find a book or a website. but intellectually? how does enlightenment appeal versus video games, high-speed internet access, immediate gratification? too much or not enough, this is the dichotomy we have built - but spirit is outside it, a third choice in an either/or function.
the appeal of religion is not spiritual experience - it's about social frameworks. religion and society are two sides of a coin, an interior moral structure to support an external dynamic of collective life. the individual spiritual experience subsumed in the collective, for the good of the whole. the necessary blue meme, the order that has to be, and be transcended...

how do you sell Nirvana to individualistic consumers? how do you evoke individual transcendent experience to a collectively-rooted fundamentalist?

11 April 2005

from fear to fundamentalism

Fear is an inordinately powerful force. Those who are afraid will too often suspend rational thought in favor of whatever options will make them feel safer, stronger - fight or flight. But what of the nebulous threat? or the impossible situation? Global warming, a shaky economy, Peak Oil, terrorism - Americans are being spoon-fed a steady diet of fear, with no point of focus, no specific enemy to fight and nowhere to run. If the whole world is chaotic and unsafe, where or what is left to fill the need for safety and security? The result is an imbalanced collective psychology, and what I would perhaps call a sickness of the spirit... fundamentalism, or religious extremism.

The progressive left seems to have been missing the living room elephant here for a long, long time. The appeal of right-wing ideology is patently irrational, just so: it is not about reason, for reason (in scary situations) only stokes the flames of panic. A plain-spoken God, presented within a "stable" religious structure with clear, internally-consistent definitions of right and wrong and offering a "safe harbor" outside the rational world, is exactly perfect to draw in the fearful masses. Call it what you will, blue-meme, pre-rational, whatever, I think if the Left doesn't get it together and begin to present an alternative "answer" with equivalent spiritual and psychological power to fulfill the same needs, this sort of hard-right, conservative, reactionary fundamentalism is simply going to grow in power. The coming instabilities will be like throwing gas on a fire.

Ken Wilber has spent a lot of time talking about "Boomeritis," and the value of working to further "enlighten" or "evolve" those few in the world who are already acting from a "green-meme" or "post-rational" consciousness. The trick for them, apparently, is to create a critical mass of highly enlightened individuals, who I suppose will then go forth and generate some grand tidal wave of change around the world, influencing their governments and societies to move toward more holistic, Integral actions and viewpoints. Now, while I support the idea that a small group of committed individuals, using their leverage in juuuust the right way at juuust the right time, could and indeed have made significant changes in the world, I am nevertheless disturbed by what seems to me to be a huge blind spot - namely, that there are great masses in the world who not only are going to resist this sort of change, but who are actively and aggressively converting into, or being "recruited" into, fundamentalist religions. And in a world where just one small group of clever or ruthless people can cause great devastation with the flick of a switch, being this far outnumbered is a Very Bad Idea.

I'm not nearly as concerned as to whether global business leaders will "discover" natural capitalism or the value of long-term planning, or whether global-north progressives/Greens will get over their internal multicultural wars long enough to develop a coherent single message. Left alone, they'll get there eventually. I'm far more concerned about the increasing appeal of fundamentalism. The Religious Right in the US has already developed their Critical Mass, and it's moving full steam ahead; coupled with the strength of such religious movements in the global south (which is also likely to grow in the coming years, as the consequences of global warming and economic exploitation become more apparent), years of progress in global institutions stands to be undone, or at least badly damaged.