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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 10, 2016

Just Another Word for Nothin' Left to Lose

Syrian children left to sleep outside, Stockholm, Sweden Migration Board, January 31, 2016
Human civilization should be doing better than this. After all the advances over the millennia, the scientific discoveries, the inventions, manned space flights, social improvements like democracy, human rights, civil rights, sexuality rights, the end of empires - it would be a safe assumption that as a species we would have human interaction figured out.

We of course haven't. Instead, we, as a species, do horrible things to each other. In my lifetime the atomic bomb was invented, then used to destroy two cities. There were wartime tactical reasons (or were they strategic?), but the main reason we dropped atomic bombs on people is that we had the bombs to drop, and a handy excuse. Since then we have invented ever-more sophisticated nuclear weapons, totaling 7,100, which can be launched from air, land and sea, enough to destroy all life on this planet many times over.

Also during my lifetime there have been U.S. overthrows of democratically elected governments worldwide, including in Iraq, Iran, Guatemala, Haiti, Syria, Panama, Iraq, Chile, Brazil, Congo, Ukraine, Greece, Cambodia, and of course Vietnam.  There have been numerous others, as well as support for various brutal  dictatorships and monarchies, such as in Saudi Arabia.

We can only wonder what the world would be like if these various overthrows and proppings-up had not occurred. We very likely wouldn't have children washing up on beaches, or boatloads of people drowning at sea, after fleeing the war-torn countries they came from.

There also would almost certainly not be the occurrence of terrorism worldwide, because the antecedent causes - overthrows, invasions and establishment of military bases would not have enraged people in the countries affected. Osama bin Laden, for example, turned his terrorist eye to the U.S. when bases were created in Saudi Arabia in 1991 after our first invasion of Iraq.

I don't mention this history to indulge in some kind of self-flagellation for being an "American." This just happens to be the country that is at the top of the heap, so to speak, of global dominance, suppression, destruction, and all the things that go with such status. If it weren't us it would be someone else, as many centuries of past experience have shown.

It's different now, in that, though we should know better and don't, we no longer have an option to behave as we have. We are entering a new economic era, and a new relationship with the natural world. You wouldn't know it by paying attention to our mainstream corporate and quasi-corporate news media, but our infinite-growth economic system is at its growth limit. PBS relented a bit last week, airing a segment on NewsHour about the end of growth, but from an innovation perspective. I take more of a Herman Daly perspective - that the real limit to growth is physical. We're running out of planet. A healthy economy is supposed to be growing in output by an annual rate of 4%, but using the Rule of 72, we can see that would mean a doubling of output every 18 years. The planet can't contain an output twice what we have now, no matter how long it takes.

Some have observed that the civil war in Syria was caused at least partly by drought. The Mideast is already a pretty dry region, so any drought there is disastrous. Some researchers are already predicting battles over water in the Mideast will be the equivalent of what oil was the previous century.

Scientists suspect that the spread of the Zika virus has been accelerated by climate change.

Economic refugees will be coming from everywhere - and going everywhere. We, world champs since 1945, the year I was born, may be world chumps in the foreseeable future. Our prosperity is based on the unbridled generosity of mother nature. U.S. population as of last December is 322,267,564. We are the most affluent society on the planet, and are ill-prepared for hardship. We aren't so well-prepared for good times either, with alcoholism, drug addiction and gun violence tearing at the national fabric.

It's not too late to do something about our current and pending malaise. We can stop being so dumb. As an entire people, we probably won't, or at least won't until it is too late. It may already be too late. So, just like facing our own individual demise(s), it may be to our advantage to face species demise. Though it is part of human ego-centeredness to view ourselves as supreme, and the rest of Creation as subservient, we actually have it 180° backwards. The planetary ecosystem and resource support structure are what enable us to exist. Without it we never would have existed in the first place. The "Christian" view that prides itself on the notion that man is the "steward" of the environment is arrogant at best, quickly forgotten in practice.

This doesn't mean give up. Just don't expect "victory," or even a meager survival. We can be more effective in dealing with this predicament when we realize we have nothing to lose. To coin a phrase, freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose. It's good enough for me.

Here's a song that sounds Country. Here it is at full tilt. This version is one to be grateful for. This is the original recording, though not by the author. Even Johnny Cash had a version. LeAnn Rimes too. The Killer, Jerry Lee Lewis. How about Dolly Parton? Jennifer Love Hewitt. Waylon Jennings.

This Woody Guthrie song is performed by his son Arlo. Here's a surprising alternate version. This Tom Petty song fits, barely.

Noam Chomsky says the "Republican" party is a serious danger to human survival.

R.I.P. Bob Elliott. Bob and Ray were a family favorite when I was growing up. Here's a sample.

R.I.P. Paul Kantner. This song fits.

R.I.P. Glenn Frey. My favorite Eagles song. I remember what I was doing when the song came out in 1972, getting ready to start graduate school. Around the same time their friend and sometime collaborator Jackson Browne had this song playing on the radio. This Jackson Browne song fits today's theme.

Update, February 15: In another of the endless ironies of my life, I went to my cousin's lesbian wedding in 2002 at the same resort ranch where Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died Saturday. I wrote about it in this blog post.

I have a suggestion for President Obama. It would be a master chess move for him to nominate an African American to replace Scalia. He also would have a momentum-builder that would make his presidency go out in a blaze of glory. My hope is that he nominates Anita Hill. It would be a closing of a circle.

Update, February 18: Here's a perspective on the legacy of Antonin Scalia.

February 21: Here's another update about Scalia.


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