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While We Still Have Time

In spite of the grimness of the times in which we live, there is still hope. If you feel, like I do, that the usual discourse about matters of critical concern tends to be superficial, misguided, and false, then you might find some solace and inspiration here. I will try to offer insight and a holistic perspective on events and issues, and hopefully serve as a catalyst for raising the level of dialogue on this planet.

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Location: Madison, Wisconsin, United States

I was born in 1945, shortly before atom bombs were dropped on Japan. I served in the U.S. Army from 1968 to 1971. I earned master's degrees in Economics and Educational Psychology, and certificates in Web Page Design and as a Teacher of English as a Second Language. I followed an Indian guru for eight years, which immersed me in meditative practices and an attitude of reaching a higher level of being. A blog post listing the meditative practices I have pursued can be seen here.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Muttering and making faces

Death merchantsIf you have ever spent any length of time at a large university, you probably noticed one or more people walking around muttering to themselves and making facial gyrations. When I lived in Ann Arbor there was a guy like that, and he dressed accordingly, in what I described at the time as "philosophy student eccentric." To me this type of person was a form of disconnected personality, so completely intellectual that they go into a kind of psychosis of pure thought.

A few years later, in my second go-around in graduate school, the walking mutterer of the campus was in my department, Educational Psychology. The difference with this mutterer was that he muttered angrily, and went through a variety of irate facial gyrations. He was in a few of my classes, and I got to know him a bit. He fit what I had observed earlier: purely intellectual, erratic behavior, and before very long in a conversation would say something outlandish. In yogic lore, it’s the psychotic’s way of taking your energy. I had experienced this behavior pattern in psychotics before, and developed my own method of dealing with it. Say something even more outlandish. Agree with them, and take it a step farther. It works every time, often comically.

One day I got in a conversation with the fellow-student about our dependency on fossil fuels, and the eventual decline in oil supplies. In his typical out-of-the-blue fashion, he blurted out that scientists at the greatest university in America, of all places the University of Alabama (He was from Alabama), have discovered a new layer of oil supplies, and they will yield limitless quantities of oil. I asked him if the oil supplies were infinite. I could see the cognitive dissonance churning away in his disturbed mind, and he had no option but to say that yes, the oil supplies were infinite. I then asked if there is more oil than there is Planet Earth – is the oil supply bigger than the planet? This finally brought the level of absurdity to the breaking point, and he bolted away.

What reminded me of this encounter was a network TV show I watched the other night, "20/20" with John Stossel. He has written a book, "Myths, lies, and downright stupidity," an "expose" of conventional wisdom about modern society. Stossel contends that radiation, DDT, and toxic chemicals are actually good for you, that second-hand smoke doesn’t cause cancer, and lo, that oil supplies are virtually limitless. New research is showing vastly greater quantities of oil than was ever dreamed about.

If you look through Stossel’s list of myth debunkings, you find that what he does is challenge the exaggerations of known scientific knowledge, exaggerates anomalies – exceptions to known cause and effect relationships, and finds one scientist who dissents from the consensus view. Some of his arguments are worthy of further analysis, but in the overall sense it is clear that what John Stossel represents is a desperate, and, yes, psychotic attempt to create acceptance, compliance, belief and trust in the corporate state. Corporations are forces of good on this planet, and they have your interests at heart.

Without going too deeply into the great ideas of John Stossel, I can at least do a bit of debunking of his debunking about oil supplies. Whatever amount of oil is under the surface of the earth, it is a finite amount. It will not last forever. What Barry Commoner pointed out a couple of decades ago in "The Poverty of Power" is that entrepreneurs in the petroleum industry drill for the easiest to find oil first – the oil closest to the Earth’s surface. Over time, as the easy-to-find oil is depleted, they go for the harder to find oil, and have to drill ever deeper. Eventually, the energy used to extract the oil exceeds the energy available from the oil extracted – the cost is greater than the gain.

Stossel claims that new technologies are making the cost of extraction irrelevant, that we can now drill deeper, especially under the oceans, seemingly without risk. And toads can fly. The big rock candy mountain is around the next bend in the road. I wasn’t paying close enough to the show to hear whether this research was done at the University of Alabama, but it would be no surprise. It’s the old horn of plenty argument, the cornucopia, the gift-giving tree. The perpetual motion machine.

What I recommend to anyone concerned about the future of the planet and your own place in it is to start by observing the circumstances of your own life. If you drive to work, think about the congestion, the dead-stop traffic you may or may not experience at rush hour, the enormous amounts of energy consumed by people going nowhere. Think about the experience of driving, how it makes you feel, the aggression you take on just to survive the experience.

Then there is the experience of work, once you have survived the drive to get there. Do you find the work rewarding, uplifting, meaningful, and mutually supportive in the American workplace? Is the environment of the workplace healthy, or does it make you ill? Do you crave freedom, the end of the day and week, a better job, retirement, even a disability in order not to have to work any more?

From the immediate circumstances of your own life you can broaden your observation to how they connect with the larger society, and the ways that it creates the mythology that holds it together. This is done mainly through the mass information media: TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, movies, popular music, and the Internet. The most powerful influence is television. The dramas shown follow a typical theme of upsets or threats to social order – crime, disease, disaster – and conclude with the threat being conquered, and society holding together, with truth, justice, and the American way prevailing.

On TV news shows the underlying theme is that the United States of America is the center of the Universe, and that all that matters in the Universe depends on its relationship to the U.S. Within the United States, meaning is derived by how events relate to the inherent goodness and worthiness of the mythology of American life. Corporations plant stories about scientific research that yields wonder products, new medicines allow people to live longer, grow hair, have greater sexual "prowess," look better, drive impressively, and on and on and on. Then of course there is the advertising, which adds excitement and enthusiasm, commonly known as "hype" to the message.

The power of this message manipulation is immense, reinforcing a compliance, submission, and belief internalization that holds the society together. Except in recent years the compliance is strained, under challenge. It’s hard to say when it started, since dissent has been part of American culture from the beginning. Dissent against the very fabric of American life, though, started to manifest in the post World War II era with the "Beat" phenomenon. The "Beats" were a loose connection of social misfits, artists, writers, intellectuals - dropouts from mainstream American culture. In the 1960s the social unrest yielded a newer version of the Beat movement, known as the "hippies." Since then the "counterculture" has grown, divided into different manifestations, and created alternative business forms and products. Dissent against the dominant corporate culture is now a major factor of American life.

Major domos of the Bush crime familyInto this mix has come the Bush crime family, blowing the whole U.S. as center of the Universe mythology out of the water. First, by stealing the election of 2000, the BCF wasted no time criminalizing the executive branch of the government well beyond what was previously experienced. The "Energy task force" created by Vice President Dick Cheney was only the beginning. Denial of environmental threats led to attempts to authorize oil drilling in the Arctic, and refusal to comply with international attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Then there was September 11, 2001. The negligence by the Bush crime family before the attacks has yet to be addressed, but since that time we have invaded two countries, are planning to invade another, and attempts to establish a domestic police state are continuous. As the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has shown, we have a Federal government that is in a condition of failure, unable to function at a competent level. Our occupations of the countries we invaded are not going so well. The criminality of our executive and legislative branches of government is now reaching mind-boggling levels.

I’ve said it before in this blog, and begrudgingly have to say it again. George W. Bush will turn out to have been a perverse blessing. By taking the contradictions and vulnerabilities of American society to absurd new levels he is actually hastening the day when the mythology of our culture is destroyed. By combining the ideology of greed with uninhibited criminality he and his gang of thieves and killers are accelerating the dawn of a new era of true civilization. The corporate state is a criminal state, destructive of people, animal and plant life, and threatening to destroy the entire planet. When you have a system that threatens to destroy the entire planet, eventually it will destroy the entire planet. Thanks to the ineptitude of the Bush crime family, this is becoming painfully, frighteningly obvious.

The explainerMore and more people are becoming aware of this threat. Bush himself is the perfect messenger for the death culture of the corporate state. Whatever possessed the corporate elites to plant such a mediocre human being in the position of front man for their myth is a mystery to me. The only sensible conclusion I can draw is that in their arrogance, their hubris, they think that they can anoint anyone as their "leader," much like Eddie Murphy in "Trading Places."

Given that the way we go about human existence on this planet is on a path of total destruction, we will either change or be destroyed. Thanks to fools like George W. Bush and his legion of greater and lesser fools, the choice is becoming obvious. If you like Bush, you choose death. If you see him as a threat to life, you choose a new way of being. No amount of John Stossels in this world are going to put Humpty Dumpty together again, try as they may. We are on the verge of momentous, monumental change. You can help.

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