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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.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

We Are On Our Own

The three issues that are causing the most concern, argument and consternation these days are in the news again, and likely will be for the foreseeable future. Two of them - NSA spying and Obama's program of drone attacks - are relatively easy to resolve. Just stop doing it.

The third issue - global climate change - isn't so easy to deal with. Since it isn't easy, our government and corporate leadership choose to do nothing. It is the most critical of the three issues, with the most drastic consequences, including an increasing likelihood of mass extinction of living species, maybe even the human species. New Yorker columnist Elizabeth Kolbert has written a book titled The Sixth Extinction. She was interviewed on today's edition of Fresh Air on NPR. In her book she describes  the great extinctions of the past, and predicts that the next one, caused by global climate change, will be the worst. She also was interviewed on Democracy Now yesterday.

Why, we might wonder, does our ruling elite spy on the whole world, kill innocent people with drones, but do nothing about global climate change? On today's discussion of drones on NPR's OnPoint, I offered this analysis in a comment:

First, the notion that Barack Obama is a Constitutional scholar because he was a "professor" of Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago is largely false. He was a lecturer, an adjunct instructor, not a professor. This is a growing phenomenon in the U.S., where colleges and universities hire teachers as part-time temporary help as a way of avoiding paying benefits. It's the higher education equivalent of temp work.

In regard to targeting of American citizens overseas with drones, it follows a pattern. As with unlimited domestic spying, two purposes are served. One is that by incrementally introducing a practice, it gets established in the bureaucracy, tacitly or openly approved by Congress, and through the court system is declared legitimate.

The other purpose is international, and is also incremental. If actions that are essentially terrorist by commonly accepted definition are introduced into the mix of worldwide activities, and no foreign entity - the World Court, foreign governments, international alliances - are willing or able to challenge them, then the activity becomes established and grows.

The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq are perfect examples of incremental actions that establish precedents for further actions. Though established in precedent, they are not likely to be practiced routinely because of the serious negative consequences - tremendous cost, great loss of life, and international condemnation. They also were wars for nothing. Nothing was intended, other than the psychopathic intentions of the perpetrators, and nothing was gained.

As with every other topic on OnPoint, this phenomenon was discussed in isolation from all other phenomena in the Universe. This is the Western approach known as reductionism. With a systems approach, the phenomenon can be discussed realistically. NSA spying, international adventurism, semi-indiscriminate drone attacks, and even "free trade" agreements can all be seen in context with the encroaching crises of our unsustainable infinite-growth economic system in a condition of increasingly severe global climate change.

In this context, it looks worse. Why, one might ask, would a country do NOTHING about its unsustainable economic system and global warming, but go diddling around the planet with spy technology and drone attacks, all the while mumbling about invading someone or other? Iran,Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, Venezuela. Who else? This is a discussion I would like to hear on OnPoint.
Yesterday OnPoint had a discussion on NSA leaker Edward Snowden. I had this to offer:

Snowden did a great thing in exposing the national security state. One thing that is ignored is that it was inevitable that someone would do this.

National securityists - government and corporate total information awareness-ites - can be accurately seen as prurient information addicts. They're humans, not automatons, and as such are ALL highly flawed. NO ONE can be trusted with the power to spy on whomever they have the capability of spying on worldwide. As J.Edgar Hoover so abundantly proved, information is power, and power corrupts. It isn't just absolute power that corrupts absolutely, ANY power corrupts absolutely.

As for Snowden himself, thanks. Beyond that, who cares about whether or not he is a narcissist, "troubled," a "traitor," high school dropout, "loner," or whatever, attention-seeker, weirdo, or "nerd?" The enraged will say anything to cloud the issue, distracting from its essence. The proverbial cat is out of the bag, the genie is out of the bottle, and the can of worms is open. We now have a formerly secret government intrusion trying to get the cat back in the bag, the genie back in the bottle, and the worms back in the can.

And, of course, this is all in the context of a declining infinite-growth economic system under conditions of increasingly severe global climate change. Does the NSA have an answer for global warming? Yes. It is to spy on the people who are trying to do something about it.
Of course, our president, Barack Obama, is talking a good game, on climate change at least.  In his State of the Union speech Obama declared that climate change is a fact.  Unfortunately, he tends to believe that talk is action. Bill McKibben of 350.org says the oil companies control the dialogue on the Keystone XL pipeline approval process. They likely control the dialogue on everything else about climate change.

It won't last. As was noted in today's Daily Beast, from the Olympics to Atlanta, this winter is all about climate change. Next winter will be worse. Between the two will be summer, likely to be worse than last summer. So Obama, likely to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, will be in a deeper hole. He will try to talk his way out of it, but talk has never been cheaper in all of human history.

A Hamilton, from Australia, has written a book about how nations will opt for risky technological fixes for climate change, and will fail miserably, making things worse. He was interviewed on NPR's All Things Considered today.

In other words, when our leadership decides to move beyond the talking stage to action on climate change, they will just make things worse. Maybe we're better off with Obama's all talk, no action. It could buy us a little time.

So what does this all mean? Nothing good. I revert to a Buddhist approach, that there was a time before the human species, and there will be a time after. Every day it is looking ever more likely that the time after is rapidly approaching.

There is another approach. Make the needed changes without the established power elites of government and corporations, from below, in spite of them. Take away their power by not giving them any. It's a mighty task, but it's all we have. We are on our own.
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 Here's some inspirational music. Here's more. George Harrison might be some comfort with his great album All Things Must Pass.

Greenpeace is one of the organizations trying to do something about climate change.

Here's a pretty good interview with Bill McKibben.

Al Gore wrote a review of The Sixth Extinction in The New York Times.

R.I.P. Shirley Temple. In the early days of TV a lot of old movies were shown late in the evening and on Saturdays and Sundays. My favorite of her movies was Wee Willie Winkie, with Victor McLaglen. She is best known for The Good Ship Lolipop from the movie Bright Eyes. It seems a bit creepy now, her singing while being passed around by a bunch of men. For the curious, most videos show the movie in color, but it was filmed in black and white. Colorization of black and white movies began in the 1980s, if I remember right. Here she is with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson in the first interracial dance sequence in movie history. Here's the story.

R.I.P. Sid Caesar.  So long ago, our family would gather around the television set to watch his show.

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