Category Archives: Philosophy

The Metaphysics of Revolution

Socrates was the first revolutionary. He opened up with a legendary oracular search of the inner space from which the individual, as we understand him today, would eventually emerge. His “daemon” was that which spoke the necessary freedom and autonomy to become what we are. His was the first lesson.

His student, Plato, brought on the second movement. He postulated the availability of an ideal world accessible and open to a properly trained, disciplined mind. Truth was intelligible and its sighting in a flash of insight or through life-long questioning could and should change both the individual and his society. There were no limits to human malleability according to what was both universally natural and thus comprehensively reasonable. Both the revolutionary chance for a radical human transformation and its totalitarian inversion as ideology in the hands of power was born.

The third movement, as first noted by Hegel, was the advent of Christianity. Here the ideal world of the Greek was equipped with stern Hebraic commandments. The ideal world not only is; it is hierarchical, patriarchal, jealous and unforgiving. All are equal under its apocalyptic sky. Burn with sincere belief and entry into the kingdom of heaven is guaranteed. The seed of the revolutionary equality of all people was here first lain to forever explode the exclusivity of the polis and all other artificial divisions between men; ethnic, national, sexual or otherwise. Thus, the first drops of blood of the French Revolution were shed on the Cross.

The fourth movement, after more than a thousand years of veneration of pagan-christian icons known as saints, was the inner revolution within Christianity itself; the privatization of the relationship between man and God. The destruction of spiritual hierarchy. The loud inner silence of the conscience sacralized and weaponized within the sincere prayers of the heart. Protest-antism against the de facto reigning powers of the earth in the name of the freedom of pure individual thought and feeling. The representatives of the ideal/God were impostors robbing the natural patrimony of the weak and of the powerless for an exemplary, righteous exodus to a New Jerusalem. The modern revolutionary springs forth from burning cathedrals, shattered stain glass, and the gauged out eyes of the saints. God is for all and He is everywhere where I think and breath.

All this was the preliminary metaphysical scaffolding for the revolutionary mind over two thousand years. The fuse burned slowly, but it burned. Philosophy and religion were its handmaidens.

Enter science.

Science brings the revolutionary development of the mind/spirit into material practice. It affords the tools for both material and spiritual transformation. It is the glowing hammer which actively molds our world and if in the 500 years since Bacon and Galileo we have only achieved power after power, the hammer itself cannot be called wise, the hand that moves it cannot be called self-directed, for it is still up to the whole man to enter the blinding parlors and dim antechambers of physics to declare their discoveries for a Nietzschean transvaluation of all values. The scientist cannot do this, only the revolutionary can.

Through the twin legacies of both spirit and machine, the Western World breathed into the rest of humanity the spirit of restless change and desire for maximum freedom.  History declared itself, formally, for global humanity in the revolutions of 1776 and 1789. Here, History if it did not all together stop, declared a significant pause in the long history of revolutionary consciousness.

Representative democracy aged, putrefied, mutated, and exotically luxuriated into new forms of unfreedom, deception and control.

Was this the fault of a historically necessary capitalist class eventually doomed to sow the seeds of its own destruction?

The proletariat, that great Hegelian-Marxist capitalist antithesis, historically dissolved itself into a great sea of the middle class. Success! And the necessary historical end to all revolutionary experiment! The deranged and the disgruntled are to be put to eternal sleep! The great Neo-Aristotelian compromise of the dialectic was born; the middle will hold and stop the resolution of the Marxian dialectic from ever being born.

But it was always and ever to be a still birth.

For the history of society is not a class struggle.

Rather, it is the struggle of the individual to be most utterly himself in a world of hierarchy, in a world where control is in the hands of others. It is not capital and capitalists who structure this world although they surely do have influence. The black stain of unfreedom is much older than that. Indeed, it goes back millions of years as the readers of Frans de Waal may already be familiar. The animal in man, the desire for domination and power in all its forms over other men is the true as yet unbreakable conundrum of history. The Machiavellian Prince and his natural political appetites and not an objectively historical ruling class is the true nefarious and unchanging figure in the affairs of men. Hunter-gatherer, ancient city-state, feudal lord, factory owner, Global CEO, it is not a self-conscious class that determines the action of domination, but the eternal will to power itself that precedes classes, nations, parties, and organizations of all kinds. It is Robert Michels’ iron law of oligarchy and not Marxian economics that keeps us still firmly in our chains.

In this Thirtieth year since the publication of Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History, there are those, like Aaron Bastani, Bhaskar Sunkara, and Peter Frase (young men all) who dare to question the situation of today and dream of another world. If not exactly professional revolutionaries like Lenin, they struggle to keep the revolutionary idea alive. And this is all to the good. Yet the question for today is, I think, are the by now classical concerns and concepts of both socialism and Marxism adequate to the particular historical moment that confronts us today? Does protest, opposition, and, even, yes, political violence have to necessarily emerge from the acute revolutionary observations of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in order to activate a critical mass of activists and revolutionaries today?

Is capitalism still the enemy, truly? Or is hierarchy, in all spheres of life, the true oppressor? The division between ruled and ruling, not as a class phenomenon but as an existential way of being of man in the world since time immemorial.

There are bosses everywhere. In schools, in jobs, in political parties, in cities, in nations, in your home even. How can hierarchy be eroded, tamed, reformulated? How can individuals be empowered to live in an eventual Kingdom of Ends, where no one is treated as a means? What can be done to uncover and stop surreptitious power in all its forms? Does the revolutionary spirit of today cry out for a Kantian turn towards a practical unity of knowledge, freedom, respect, love, and individuality? Must we reach back before Marx and Hegel to go forward? We are the heirs of millennia of revolutionary metaphysical and material development. We can make the tomorrow of our own choosing.

The Difference between Being a Liberal and Being a Progressive

The difference between liberalism and progressivism is ideological.

Historically, liberalism started with John Locke, whose philosophy was superbly summarized, explained, and referenced to its sources, here; but the following will instead quote directly from those sources:

Locke (as the commentator said) “praises money as probably no one prior and after him,” because Locke’s 1689 Second Treatise on Government, Sections 49 & 50, asserted that only by means of money, “Man will begin presently to enlarge his Possessions” and thereby start to get beyond the crudest agriculturally based economy. Locke then said in Sec. 124 that “The great and chief end, therefore, of men’s uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property.” In other words: money enables wealth to grow, and government exists in order to protect wealth, not to serve nor protect people. Lord Acton, writing in 1877, criticized Locke’s philosophy because Locke’s “notion of liberty involves nothing more spiritual than the security of property, and is consistent with slavery and persecution.” That was the case about Locke because Locke’s philosophy wouldn’t have won any aristocratic sponsors at all, and would therefore simply have failed utterly and become lost to history, if it didn’t allow slavery, and — even more basically — allow unequal rights that depend upon the possession (and especially upon the inheritance) of wealth, and that generates respecting the wealthy (especially the hereditary wealthy) more than the poor (and with slaves being at the absolute bottom). Locke’s philosophy was affirmative toward the existing class-hierarchy, a property-based hierarchy. However, Lord Acton had, himself, been passionately committed to America’s slaveholding southern states’ Confederacy during the U.S. Civil War, because he believed more in the principle of local or home rule (as opposed to federal rule) than he opposed “slavery and persecution” (such as against slaves).

So: the entire aristocracy, except for the outright conservatives (which were the vast majority) amongst them, were hypocrites, and liberalism is based upon that hypocrisy, nothing which is internally consistent. Since it’s unadulterated hypocrisy, it is sloppy thinking, and it is this because otherwise it would be simply “Might makes right” — pure conservatism — unadorned with any pretenses to decency, and to equality of rights irrespective of wealth. In other words: Locke offered the aristocracy a way to consider themselves to be decent people no matter how bad they might actually be, and his intellectual offering to them required a lot of intellectual sloppiness. This is liberalism, at its very outset, and right up till today. It is stupid, but the super-rich consider it to be acceptable, and so some of them sponsor it, which enabled it to become a “classic.”

By contrast, progressivism is a total and unequivocal rejection of conservatism. It doesn’t respect wealth and the wealthy, nor does it despise the poor. It instead admires goodness which seeks no recompense or public honor therefore, but instead springs from as wide a compassion as possible (without regard to an individual’s race, creed, or ethnicity). And it despises greed, and rejects outright the “Greed is good” philosophy (a philosophy that’s consistent with both liberalism and conservatism; so, progressivism repudiates both). And it accords no honor to winning, and no shame to losing. The progressive (like anyone) wants to win, but only for a good cause, as “good” is accorded without any favoritism toward any individual or group or individuals, nor disfavoring of others, but purely with equal rights for all, to freedom and happiness and fulfillment.

Because progressives are committed to the good, they do passionately support the good against the evil; and, to them, the “good” are progressives, and the “evil” are proponents of might-makes-right. This is what progressivism is all about — the difference between progressivism and conservatism. By contrast with those polar-opposite ideologies, liberalism is merely in-between. It is every shade of gray, because it compromises between good and evil. As some liberals like to say, it is “nuanced.”

Might-makes-right — the very core of conservatism — is automatically favoring the rich against the poor, because, in the real world, money is power and the poor are therefore the weakest class of all. Locke’s First Treatise on Government, “Book I. Ch. XI. Who Heir?” (Sec. 107) goes even further into its conservative tradition of might-makes-right. It asserts that “the author” of the Bible (his God) is “affirming that the assignment of civil power is by divine institution, … so that no consideration, no act or art of man, can divert it from that person, to whom, by this divine right, it is assigned.” Liberalism not only accepts hereditary rule, but it rejects any sort of democracy, because, for a liberal, accountability is only to The Almighty, not to any mortal nor public of mortals. Thus, the founder of liberalism, Locke, said there that “it would be as much sacrilege for any one to be king, who was not Adam’s heir, as it would have been amongst the Jews,” because the will of The Almighty is eternal, and applies not merely in the past.

When America’s Founders refused even so much as to mention any god, and opened the U.S. Constitution with “We, the people of the United States, … do ordain and establish this Constitution,” it was an authentic break away from the past, because they were repudiating not only conservatism but liberalism, and were actually starting progressivism. They were doing this because accountability here was being ordained, in this new country — via its Constitution — to be accountability to the mortals, the public; and not to any The Almighty, at all. They chose to do this — break radically from the past. That act, from them, the U.S. Constitution, gave birth to progressivism — not merey to a new country. This Constitution served as the American Scripture, except that unlike any religious one, it included provisions for its own subsequent amendment, via the public’s representatives. Unlike any religious Scripture, it allowed itself to become improved. That, too (allowance for improvement), is a basic feature of progressivism, which contrasts starkly against conservatism (which relies instead upon some immutable Scripture).

Because a progressive favors equally the rights of all, and rejects unconditionally the supremacy of any nation above any other, a fundamental principle of progressivism is an utter rejection of imperialism (against which America’s Founders had waged their own Revolutionary War), and of any invasion of one country by another which has not become, nor been reasonably considered to pose a danger to become, invaded by that other, which it has invaded. During the War of 1812, Americans waged war to defend their largely democratic republic against imperial Britain’s invasion to re-seize this land. The imperialists committed aggression against Americans, after having lost the Revolutionary War to them. Consequently, for example: America, which since 1898 has itself unprovokedly invaded and sought to vassalize and exploit, more countries than any other nation, is perhaps the most conservative country, at least since around 1900. Today’s U.S. is, in this sense, profoundly anti-progressive and anti-American, because it has become the most imperialistic nation in the world, having taken the place of England, and of France, and of Spain, and of Germany, and of Portugal, and of Japan, and of Italy. America’s Constitution has now become overthrown. America today is ruled by ideological enemies of America’s Founders. Today’s America is unAmerican, in that deepest of all senses.

Consequently, to be a progressive in today’s America is to be ideologically rather isolated, alone with the Founders, in this now extremist conservative society, so alien to its own Constitution. It’s to be at a severe disadvantage, in this society. But, to a progressive, there is no assumption that the good shall be rewarded and that the evil shall be punished. There is a hope for that, but no expectation of it. Consequently, the progressive is a progressive not for personal gain but purely to do justice in the world. Recognizing that the world’s norm is profoundly unjust, a progressive seeks especially to aid the good against the evil, irrespective of the consequences to oneself.

Obviously, therefore, far more liberals than progressives exist. It’s not profitable to be progressive, but it is good to be progressive — and that’s a progressive’s main concern.

It’s important to be able to tell the difference between a liberal and a progressive. One reason that’s so difficult for so many people to do is that many liberals are ‘progressives’ in sheeps’ clothing — fakes — and the biggest policy-area where this is the case is in foreign policies, because whereas average voters know that politicians who fight against lowering their medical costs are bad, they don’t know (nor even care) nearly so much about international affairs. Here is a typical example of a ‘progressive‘ who is also a neoconservative (though garbing it in ‘progressive’ arguments). He favors “a democracy promotion agenda” like other liberals did in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, etc. He doesn’t even so much as question that the Cold War was about ideology instead of about expanding the American empire. (How can anybody question that it wasn’t, after this? Is he really so ignorant? Or is the explanation something worse? He’s sufficiently ‘well-educated‘ so that it’s something worse. To put it as kindly as possible: he knows on which side his bread is buttered, and he cares more about that than he cares about truth and honesty.)

Locke, having been a liberal instead of a pure conservative, would not approve of today’s America, because by his basing his ethic upon property (wealth), he acknowledged the extreme evilness of conquest. Thus, “Book II. Ch. XVI. Of Conquest” in his Second Treatise on Government, states (Sec. 176):

That the aggressor, who puts himself into the state of war with another, and unjustly invades another man’s right, can, by such an unjust war, never come to have a right over the conquered, will be easily agreed by all men, who will not think, that robbers and pirates have a right of empire over whomsoever they have force enough to master; or that men are bound by promises, which unlawful force extorts from them. Should a robber break into my house, and with a dagger at my throat make me seal deeds to convey my estate to him, would this give him any title? Just such a title, by his sword, has an unjust conqueror, who forces me into submission. The injury and the crime is equal, whether committed by the wearer of a crown, or some petty villain. The title of the offender, and the number of his followers, make no difference in the offence, unless it be to aggravate it. The only difference is, great robbers punish little ones, to keep them in their obedience; but the great ones are rewarded with laurels and triumphs, because they are too big for the weak hands of justice in this world, and have the power in their own possession, which should punish offenders.

So: today’s U.S.A. stands condemned even in that compromised work, the foundation of liberalism. It stands condemned because John Locke wasn’t a pure conservative — in that passage, he clearly condemned might-makes-right, which he said pertained “in this world,” meaning not in the world of The Almighty, in a supposed afterlife, where power, supposedly, does reflect virtue.

By contrast, a progressive makes no assumption that power reflects virtue anywhere. The only reason for a progressive to be virtuous is to be virtuous — and not according to any ‘The Almighty’, but instead recognizing, from the progressive’s experience of this world, that if this world does reflect, in any sense, the will of ‘The Almighty’, then that Almighty is anything but virtuous — certainly not virtuous, at all. It’s not a progressive world — not at all. To be a progressive is to accept this fact, instead of to be deluded that there is some reward in ‘an afterlife’, because a progressive doesn’t expect to be rewarded for virtue, but, more likely, to be punished for it. (Consider whistleblowers as progressives, and almost all of them are punished for it.) To do something for a reward is commerce; it’s no political ideology, at all. So, again: there are very few progressives. Progressivism is no church which aims to increase the size of its flock (thereby compromising so much as to become worthless, even if it was not so before). Success is not its guidestar. Truth is. That’s what guides a progressive’s conscience. Thus, too, there is no progressive myth. None. A progressive accepts and recognizes history, but no myth. By contrast, a liberal, such as Locke, bases his ‘case’ upon whatever myth he chooses.

*****

PS, responding to a critic: A reader of this has objected: “Progressives are flawed human beings like everybody else. Yet Zuesse converts them into morally pristine übermenchen with all other human motivations outside of his progressive ideals being invalid. BTW, so Progressives never seek to maximize their economic well-being? They never game the system? They are never arrogant and self-serving? They never ignore the laws of unintended consequences? The laws of conflicting objectives don’t apply to them? I’d like to see a follow-on SCF article that critiques Zuesse’s claim to Progressism’s claim to outright and absolute moral supremacy. And then let the readers compare and contrast.” What he described there are liberals, not progressives. The title of this article is “The Difference Between Being a Liberal and Being a Progressive.” He missed its point. However, of course all people “are flawed human beings.” That’s just a cliché. And, of course, within the bounds of decency, progressives do “seek to maximize their economic well-being.” But all of his objection ignores the article’s argument and evidence. As regards evidence, here is more.

  • Originally posted at strategic-culture.org.
  • See also “What Is Progressivism?
  • Thirty Years Later: Fukuyama Reloaded

    Francis Fukuyama’s book is a profound book and as a profound book it is profoundly misleading.

    A mixture of Platonic and Hegelian psychology/historical teleology as well as offering a good explanation for the historical origins of bourgeois man in Hobbes and Locke, it misleads not necessarily in the assertion that we cannot imagine a better world than one where liberal-capitalist democracy is triumphant but in the positing of the factual statement that we do indeed currently live in such a world.

    To be sure, there is much to be said for Fukuyama’s insistence (borrowed from Kojeve who borrowed it from Hegel) that the “riddle of History” is to be found in man’s desire for recognition. And in a sense, it could be said (as Hegel maintained) that the French Revolution was the beginning of the culmination of that struggle (the original end of history). But that would be a very superficial reading of what actually happened.

    That people do indeed require, seek out, and desire proper recognition for who they are and their intrinsically felt worth is not in question. That the Western liberal democracies do a relatively (in historical terms) good job of delivering on this most political of psychological needs is also, more or less, not in dispute. What is in question are the actual dimensions of possible freedom for modern, ostensibly liberal man.

    Robert Dahl once famously called into question theories of minority rule behind liberal democracies as well as Robert Michels’s famous “iron law of oligarchy” because they are hard to prove empirically. Of course, they are hard to prove! They are by nature indirect, subtle, hidden. The political and social structures within which we live are but the formal husk of a much deeper societal dimension, one which is neither accessible nor visible by the common “citizen”. It is the sphere where real power is exercised. Where the pretense of democracy is most fully revealed and true recognition is afforded to the very few.

    Networks of surreptitious power course through the veins of all our allegedly “democratic” institutions. Nothing is easier to arrange in a free society than true unfreedom. Powerful societal interests (and not just economic) dictate the range, scope, agenda and the very look and feel of our “democratic” daily life. Through the use of concentrated power in the media, security forces, judiciary, financial centers, and political “representatives” (read: carefully groomed lackeys) the facade of democratic politics and life can be maintained while it does not in the least restrain the most powerful figures in the dim background that dictate its daily rhythms and perennial contours.

    Conspiracy? Not exactly although there is most definitely some aspect of that. Rather it is the self-perpetuation of elites (and elite interests) through institutions and the careful maintenance and deepening of personal and professional ties. They know each others minds and most importantly they know each others material and political interests and the prohibitive (murderous?) costs of betraying them. And why betray them, since the benefits so far outweigh the costs?

    To return to Dahl for a moment, he too, along with Sheldon Wolin, understood that the potential for “centralized coercion” had never been greater than precisely at this moment in time. That the setting up of an “inverted Totalitarianism” (to use Wolin’s phrase) would best serve the interests of the powerful few while the “demos” would be carefully spoon fed consumerism and various forms of populism, nationalism, and, yes, superficially packaged issues of human rights and identity politics (none of which could in the slightest damage the exquisite equilibrium of the dual system of de jure rights for the majority hiding de facto power for a minority).

    Perhaps the most glaring proof of this system of invidious power comes in the seemingly unlikely form of President Trump. Actually, Trump is not the absurdity that he initially seems, rather he is the most natural, logical outcome of an absurd system. A system where the real issues of power are kept privately hidden and a consummate showman manufactures “public” issues on a daily basis while the “loyal opposition” feigns its daily shock, effectively hiding its deep complicity in the shadowy compacts of real power. The populace keeps its eyes and ears keenly upon the show placed before them and thereby becomes ever more oblivious to any real issue of political consequence or any possibility for the substantial remaking of the “iron cage” they inhabit. Yes, a multitude of questions are allowed but none with the slightest revolutionary import. But how could they, when ideologically we have reached the end of history?

    After thirty years since its first appearance, Fukuyama’s thesis at the end of his article/book may have presaged a kind of an end after all. An end where ideologically man is satisfied with himself and the modicum of freedoms he has achieved. A Nietzschean Last Man that is tired of questioning, struggle, fame, glory, or intellectual exertion of any kind. Here, I would argue, Fukuyama is at his most provocative as well as perhaps closest to a disturbing truth: that the true end of history is a time where man is so materially comfortable that he prefers the simulation of truth over its active discovery and flourishing practice. That he would prefer the big lie of a system that more or less works for him rather than the uncomfortable revelation of a strict system of strategic micro-control masquerading as a celebration of democracy and freedom. The End of History may ultimately reside in the cowardliness of our present imaginations and our impotence in creating an autonomous collective political trajectory that leads beyond furtive, hierarchical control. We must realize, and soon, how History has tricked us into thinking that we are truly recognized and free.

    Last Men or New Men? Nietzsche in the Global Age

    Does Nietzsche have anything important to say to us, we the current inhabitants of a global age?

    Nietzsche speaks of spiritual health as a result of the superabundance of the life force, of a Dionysian affirmation of one’s existence of one’s process of becoming what one is.

    The courage of laughter is called for. A profound laughter that is in a position to negate what Nietzsche regarded as the worst possible thought: that existence, my existence, repeats itself over and over again without end, forever.

    With this terrible thought as guide, am I still strong enough to absolutely affirm my current existence as it is, as well as the choices I am about to make for myself? Do I have the necessary spiritual resources to fully affirm myself and my willed trajectory of self-becoming?

    Whether or not Nietzsche thought that the Eternal Return of Everything was an ontological reality or not (after all it could never be conclusively proven) is not the point. We must act as if it were real. Its function is as the ultimate moral instance in Nietzsche’s entire philosophy.

    For indeed, despite some of his histrionic protestations Nietzsche is a moral philosopher.  Did he not call for a reevaluation of all values?

    In his writings he went a long way towards such a reevaluation. For Nietzsche, everything that encouraged extreme energetic creativity was good, all that stood in its way was bad.

    And, furthermore, all doctrines, habits, thoughts that steered ones gaze away from the world as experienced by our senses was delusion, demagoguery, and decadent.

    Nietzsche, similar to Tocqueville, Mill, and Mathew Arnold, envisioned a future where people would be culturally, politically, emotionally, and, philosophically castrated. Nietzsche referred to such pitiful creatures as the “last men” or “men without chests”. Individuals purely concerned with their material well being, believing themselves to be perfectly happy in the historically diminished possibilities of their lives. These future beings would be the antithesis to the hero and would experience the current existence of such a person among them as “mad”. In the future there are no great deeds, only herd like obedience. Aldous Huxley wrote an entire book about them: Brave New World.

    But what of our world? Are we too “last men” or are we, instead, preparing for the arrival of the overman (Übermensch)?  For Nietzsche, man was something that was to be overcome. He was a “rope tied between beast and overman–a rope over an abyss”.
    In 2009, Stefan Lorenz Sorgner wrote a famous essay comparing Nietzsche’s philosophy with transhumanism. Not surprisingly, he found some strong overlap between the two. In this same essay, Sorgner also coined the expression “autonomous eugenics”. By this he meant the freely chosen physical transformation of the individual through the intervention of technology. Ultimately, according to Sorgner, the how, how much, and why of self-enhancement mediated by future technologies is, and should be, a moral choice, not, as in the past, a coercive policy carried out by the state (State Eugenics).

    Where I take issue with Sorgner’s provocative article is whether Nietzsche really had the post-human of the Twenty-First century in mind. Frankly, I don’t think that he could have. I believe that Nietzsche, rather than looking to the far future of a technologized humanity, had the example of Aristotle’s “great souled man” in mind when thinking about the eventual arrival of the overman. Like Rousseau and Hegel before him, Nietzsche looked to some of the ancient Greeks for examples of exemplary human beings.

    Continuing this thought, I suspect that Nietzsche would be initially suspicious of the transhumanist project of human enhancement or transformation. He, being a man of his time, would have expected the coming of the overman to be a question of self-discipline leading to a psychological transformation not a physical one. Indeed, we can ask in what way would a post-human necessarily be better at the self-creation of new life-affirming values than the old human being? Would physical, technological enhancement by itself lead to superior forms of cultural existence? I think Nietzsche would have been skeptical at the prospect.

    Arguing now for the other side and thus beyond Nietzsche, I think Sorgner and other transhumanists are possibly right in assuming that a posthuman would be in a good position to create new values and ways of living. Simply because it is hard to imagine what the removal of the threat of imminent death would do to the self-understanding of a sentient being. What cultural, political projects would such a person pursue? Neither Nietzsche or anyone else for that matter has a clear answer.  So what’s the verdict? Last men or new (over) men? Some of both, I think.

    Insofar as many of us are caught up in a lifestyle of consumption and the cultivation of daily, small pleasures, we cannot view ourselves as unduly heroic or value creating. On the other hand, technological advances are slowly holding out the promise of physical transformation, of a human being qualitatively different from the one now existing. Even so, it will remain a question for some time yet whether or not those who are pursuing transhumanist dreams are the harbingers of the overman or the last instance of a neurotically self-preoccupied, overly self-satisfied, fantastically egoistic, petty, cowardly, morally small pipsqueak of a human whom Nietzsche assumed would eventually and permanently inherit the earth.

    Happenings in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave

    There’s something happening here/What it is ain’t exactly clear.

    — Buffalo Springfield,  “For What it’s Worth,” 1967

    The Sunday newspaper had been left on the park bench.  Its book page had lists of best-sellers, as if numbers two through ten could be the “best” along with number one.  Absurdities were everywhere for the taking.  On the Non-Fiction Hardcover list, numbers 3, 5, and 10 each had the word fuck in the title.  The books were published by two old and respected publishing houses: Harper and Little Brown.  However, something was odd, for the word fuck was spelled f*ck.  These books were about hope, acceptance, and living the good life, cliché topics in a feel-good culture: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Everything is F*cked, and Calm the F*ck Down.  It seemed you had to be fucked first before you could accept the hope that the good life was coming your way.  He wondered if these publishing houses thought that by eliminating the “u” they kept their hands clean and were not descending into the gutter with hoi polloi, while simultaneously titillating potential readers.  Did they think readers would be offended by the word fuck, but would not be by f*ck?  Then it occurred to him that he didn’t know what the fuck non-fiction books were anyway.  Maybe he had been wrong all his life and the opposite of up was non-up, not down.

    *****

    On every table in the seaside resort’s breakfast room there was a brightly colored flower in a clear watered vase.  When he picked it up to smell the orange blossom, there was no smell and the water didn’t move.  He imagined an ersatz form of plastic happiness, a conjurer’s delight, where everything was a trick, nothing moved, not even water.

    *****

    Leaving the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in southern California where white and black Marines were regularly fighting and there were even some killings never reported by the press, the two young Marines escaped the tense and claustrophobic atmosphere on a weekend pass.  It was early February 1967, and they took an overnight bus up the coast to San Francisco where they wandered around and found a breakfast restaurant near Union Square.  There they read in the newspaper that for the week of January 12-19 the U.S. military had suffered its highest casualty count so far in Vietnam: 144 killed, 1,044 wounded, and 6 missing-in-action.  It jolted them awake more than the coffee.  Later that afternoon, the two naifs wandered into the Haight-Ashbury district were they were startled by the first waves of acid-dazed hippies, who would soon arrive in hoards for the “summer of love.” In the evening when they visited a bar for some beers, the waitress who delivered their drinks was topless. While they regarded this slight anomaly with manly indifference, she must have noticed their military haircuts that stood out among the longhairs, and so she served them buttons with their beers. The buttons read: Vietnam Love It Or Leave It. Heading back to the base, they knew where they didn’t want to go.

    *****

    The young man was studying for a PhD.  He was intent on learning what made the world and people tick. He was attending a small seminar at the home of his professor, a famous German emigre who had worked for the Rand Corporation and U.S. Intelligence. Each of the five students was to give a short presentation on the subject of fake news and the issue of knowledge, since the course concerned the sociology of knowledge. The student began his presentation by quoting a famous philosopher’s words: “In formulating any philosophy, the first consideration must always be: What can we know? That is, what can we be sure we know, or sure that we know we knew it, if indeed it is all knowable. Or have we simply forgotten it and are too embarrassed to say anything? Descartes hinted at the problem when he wrote, ‘My mind can never know my body, although it has become quite friendly with my legs.’ By ‘knowable,’ incidentally, I do not mean that which can be known by perception of the senses, or that which can be grasped by the mind, but more that which can be said to be Known or to possess a Knownness or Knowability, or at least something you can mention to a friend.” The student paused and the eminent professor said, “So very interesting. Who is that philosopher?” The student replied, “Woody Allen.” “He is very perceptive,” said the professor, “and yet I have never heard of him.  I will have to read his work.” The student realized he was in good hands with such U.S. intelligence and Rand Corporation experts, so he asked the professor’s wife for another glass of the German wine she was serving and toasted his good fortune with a wry grin. None of the other students got the joke.

    *****

    A young man was reading a book that he highly recommended to his uncle. Leafing through it, the older man came upon this passage: “the free individual is just a fictional tale concocted by an assembly of biochemical algorithms.” So what was the point of reading such a book, he wondered, since doing so was an exercise in pre-programmed absurdity since there was no freedom.

    *****

    You have probably seen the bumper sticker that says: “Shit Happens.” Some people are just lucky, I suppose, and odd coincidences mark their lives. When he was just out of Columbia College and working for a reputed CIA front company, Business International Corporation, Barack Obama had a chance encounter with a young woman, Genevieve Cook, with whom he had a 1-2 year relationship. Like Obama and at about the same time, Cook just happened to have lived in Indonesia with her father, Michael Cook, who just happened to become Australia’s top spook, the director-general of the Office of National Assessments, and also the Ambassador to Washington. Of course, Obama’s mother, as is well-known, just happened to be living in Indonesia with Barack and Obama’s step-father, Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian military officer, who had been called back to Indonesia by the CIA supported General Suharto to assist in the CIA coup against the President Sukarno and the slaughter of over a million Indonesian Communists and Indonesian-Chinese. As is also well-known, it just so happened that Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, trained in the Russian language, after teaching English in the US Embassy in Jakarta that housed one of the largest CIA stations in Asia, did her “anthropological” work in Indonesia and Southeast Asia financed by the well-known CIA conduits, USAID and the Ford Foundation. Then there is Cook’s stepfather, Philip C. Jessup, who just happened to be in Indonesia at the same time, doing nickel-mining deals with the genocidal Suharto government. Anyway, “shit happens.” You never know whom you might meet along the way of life.

    *****

    The hostess at the seaside restaurant had an eastern European accent, so he asked her where she was from.  She said, “Belgrade, Serbia.” He told her he was sorry for what the U.S. government led by Bill Clinton had done to her country and that he considered Clinton a war criminal. She said the bombing in 1999 was terrifying, and even though she was young at the time, she vividly remembered it. It traumatized her, her parents, and her family. Then she smiled and said that in the month she had been in the U.S. for her summer job, all the Americans she had met had been so friendly. He welcomed her to the U.S., and as he was walking away, he remembered that Clinton’s savage bombing of Serbia that had killed so many Serbian children and other innocents had been code-named “Operation Noble Anvil.” He wondered what kind of “noble” people would think of innocent children as anvils: “heavy usually steel-faced iron blocks on which metal is shaped,” and did the friendly Americans accept Clinton’s sick lies when he ended his March 24, 1999 war address to the American people with these words: “Our thoughts and prayers tonight must be with the men and women of our armed forces, who are undertaking this mission for the sake of our values and our children’s future. May God bless them, and may God bless America.”

    *****

    The banal, 1967 hit song, “San Francisco” (Be sure to wear flowers in your hair), which was influential in enticing young people to come to San Francisco for the Summer of Love, was written by “Papa” John Philips, who attended the US Naval Academy at Annapolis and whose father was a Marine Corps Captain. “Papa” John’s wife had worked at the Pentagon and her father was involved in covert intelligence work in Vietnam. His neighbor and Laurel Canyon (Los Angeles) buddy was Jim Morrison of Doors fame, whose father US Navy Admiral George Morrison commanded U.S. warships in Vietnam’s Tonkin Gulf during the “Tonkin Gulf Incident.” Frank Zappa, the father figure of Laurel Canyon’s many musicians who just happened to converge in one place at the same time where a covert military film studio operated, had a father who was a chemical warfare specialist at Edgewood Arsenal. Stephen Stills, David Crosby and many other soon to be famous musicians all came from military and intelligence backgrounds and frolicked in Laurel Canyon. Although they were draft age, none of them was drafted as they played music, dropped acid, and created the folk-rock movement whose music was catchy but innocuous and posed no threat to the establishment. But “shit happens.” In his disturbing book, Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon, David McGowan raises the question: “what if the musicians themselves (and various other leaders and founders of the ‘movement’) were every bit as much a part of the intelligence community as the people who were supposedly harassing them? What if, in other words, the entire youth culture of the 1960s was created not as a grass-roots challenge to the status quo, but as a cynical exercise in discrediting and marginalizing the budding anti-war movement and creating a fake opposition that could be easily controlled and led astray…. What if, in reality, they were pretty much all playing on the same team?”

    *****

    The reporter was interviewing four of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s young “executive governors,” who were all dressed in three-piece business suits.  They were in the process of conducting Transcendental Meditation’s week-long course leading to super-normal abilities, including flying, levitating, disappearing, x-ray vision, and other siddhis, or supernormal powers.  Their recent press release had advertised the course as “a new breakthrough for human life on earth” for any person.  The reporter was a bit skeptical that people could be taught – for a large fee – to fly or disappear.  He asked one of the executive governors, “Can you literally rise into the air and move horizontally; can you see yourself and can others see you actually fly?”  “Absolutely,” Larry Johnson replied without hesitation, “absolutely.  Once you eliminate all stress from your nervous system, you have unbounded, unlimited potential.  A human can achieve any desire he wants, flying is only one of them.”  “People will be skeptical,” the reporter continued, “How about a demonstration?”  “A public demonstration would cause too much of a ruckus,” said Johnson.  “And we couldn’t show you because we only do it for each other.  Actually, we do our techniques with our eyes closed, but we do peek out once in a while and see each other flying around the room.  You know, one of the siddhis is a technique for making yourself invisible, and the Mararishi has said, ‘Don’t peek out to see if you’ve disappeared.’”  Johnson giggled and added, “We can also teach people to x-ray their own bodies and see through walls. Absolutely, absolutely.  It’s all about infinite correlation.  Absolutely.”  As the battered reporter left the interview, he wondered if the Maharishi was a creation of the CIA.  He remembered John Lennon’s song lines about the Maharishi’s assistant:  “But he often spread rumors through his right hand man/Who used to be with the CIA”

    *****

    What is “exactly clear” is that Buffalo Springfield (Stephen Stills, Neil Young et al) toured with their Laurel Canyon buddies, the Beach Boys, in late 1967 (their other mutual bud, Charlie Manson, stayed out west presumably to work on his craft) and performed at a very odd venue for a “dissident” rock group, The U.S. Military Academy at West Point.  At that time nearly 500,000 American troops were waging war on the Vietnamese.  That concert was an odd happening, wouldn’t you say?

    *****

    If  everyone actually looked, they’d see precisely what went down, “what’s going down,” and why we are going down.  If you think many of these things “just happen” for no reason, then I guess you are just “f*cked.”  Excuse me, but it’s true.  Does the asterisk help?

    Reclaiming Autonomy = Rejecting Bureaucracy

    In the 20th century, several radical thinkers of considerable stature aimed to rethink, and possibly transcend, the premises of State-oriented, progressive-political ideology.  Pioneering sociologist Max Weber critiqued the massively-encroaching “bureaucratization” of all aspects of everyday life — the diminishment of the unique individual into a “calculable person” (to use Foucault’s phrase).  Like Weber, Michel Foucault valued the rational/scientific legacy of the Enlightenment, but deplored the “management” of “employees/citizens” that came in its wake.  Similarly, Lewis Mumford — another major, post-Marxist revisionist now (almost) entirely forgotten — offered a “libertarian” and de-centralized vision of vibrant social communities, as an alternative to the bureaucratized “total society” (which he termed “the Megamachine”).

    In this essay, I’m turning to a brief re-examination of the unorthodox ideas of Ivan Illich, whose best writings — notably Deschooling Society and Medical Nemesis — aimed to question the entire edifice of the “managed society.”  Certainly, we’re well aware that, with the imposition of colonialism, a vast and varied multitude of localized folk-knowledge and ways of living were destroyed. In the aftermath — and this historical process is still ongoing! — individuals were deprived of their land and modes of adapting, and forcibly transformed into subjects of State and Capital.  Reciprocal sharing and learning of traditional life-skills were replaced by “managers” and “experts,” who dictated new definitions of “needs” — now to be fulfilled primarily through market-based consumption of their goods-and-services.  Informal learning was replaced by “education,” subsistence techniques by mechanized/chemical “agriculture.”  Traditional practical knowledge, as well as folk-wisdom, were soon lost as was “the pleasure derived from personal autonomous action.”  Formerly self-regulating individuals became “consumers” of newly-imposed “commodities,” such as seeds, tractors, “infant formula,” and so forth.  Moreover, the expanded definition of “needs” — consumption of which now required imposed wage-labor and acquisition of debt — transformed formerly independent, adaptive persons into bondage to the State and its corporate masters.  In short, as Illich put it, people were “dis-abled” from their former competences, becoming “clients” of varied “experts” and “managers.”

    Like Mumford, Illich condemned the crushing of individual creative adaptation, and with it the person’s “confidence in his own unaided capacities.”  Instead of enhancing the self-awareness and habits of good health, people — as we see all around us today! — were soon rushing to “the doctor” at the first sign of an ailment (usually self-correcting).  The burgeoning medical industry, imposing a monopoly on the definition of “health,” claimed the exclusive power to define “sickness” and its appropriate “treatment” (all at substantial cost, of course, to the hapless “patient”!).  (Parenthetically, one might insert a word of skepticism regarding proposed U.S. “Medicare-for-All” — given this well-documented study by James Leiber: Killer Care: How Medical Errors Have Become the Third Leading Cause of Death.)  As the individual felt increasingly unable to cope with the difficulties of family and social life, he increasingly turned to “family counselors,” “financial advisors,” “personal coaches” — even “sex therapists” (cf. Thomas Szasz, Sex by Prescription).

    Thus, the inexorable historic shift, from prideful autonomy (and dignity) to what Illich termed “heteronomy” — i.e., total dependence on, and control by, “managerial-elites” and the commodities they now insist are “needs.”  Certainly, given the labyrinthine web of “services” in which most of us find ourselves enmeshed, Illich’s ideas today, if anything, constitute an increasingly urgent wake-up call.  Totally rejecting the dependence imposed in consumer-society, Illich to the end celebrated “the advantages of self-chosen joyful austerity!”

    Caught in Their Fun House

    America… just a nation of two hundred million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns and no qualms about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.

    Hunter S. Thompson

    Now I think poetry will save nothing from oblivion, but I keep writing about the ordinary because for me it’s the home of the extraordinary, the only home.

    — Phillip Levine

    I’m digging the DV piece, “The Idiot” by Jason Holland, since in a critical mass sort of black hole kind of way, his main thesis is reflective of the experiences many of us in the bloody trenches of dying capitalism see/feel/believe minute by minute.

    And after all our idiotic overcomplicated plots and schemes, they are but to mask simple truths the idiot facade tries so desperately to avoid; the inner torments of being afraid of not being good enough, not measuring up to our peers, not meeting arbitrary expectations we either accept from others or set for ourselves, or quite simply feeling like we are not worthy of love. So we play these pointless high stakes games which have a rewards as meaningless and worthless as a plastic trophy just to prove our worth. The idiot is a temporal state of being, although many are finer long term examples of displaying the behaviors of the idiot; however none of us are the perfect idiot. To avoid the affectations of being in an idiotic state it takes conscious effort to live our lives moment to moment with authenticity, to be in a state of awareness of our actions, to always be willing to suffer for something worthwhile and to be consistently well reasoned examiners of what constitutes something worthwhile.

    That authenticity, moment to moment existence —  and it should be a reveling of life — is good, but there is a bifurcating of sorts when many of us are still subject to the masters of Big Brother and Big Business. We are suffering the dualism of the Century, and the more we know, the more we seek and the more we grapple, well, the more emancipated we are, but in that freedom comes some pretty harsh treatment by the masters and their sub-masters and all the Little Eichmann’s that keep the Capitalist’s trains moving like clockwork toward the global demise set in their plastic worlds!

    And some of us think Dachau and Auschwitz were bad! We have already seen a hundred of them since 1945.

    For me, I have the benefit of being a writer, and at this time, I have this new gig I created myself to bring to the Oregon Coast a sense of the people who are here living or who come here to set down their own stories . . . people who do things to make this world better and themselves better. Something in the draw that brings my subjects for my pieces here to the coast of Oregon. These are people, and they are not perfections or cut-outs or pulverized remnants of humanity that Capitalism mostly demands in it shark tank of inane media manipulation and marketing.

    I crack open humanity and get people’s contexts — entire stories upon stories laid down, strata by strata, and cover their own formula for the art of living in harmony in a world of disharmony. Reading my stuff, I hope, will allow readers of this rag, Oregon Coast Today,  and its on-line version a better sense of authenticity via people they may or may not even run across in their own lives of being the consummate busy tourist and consumer.

    A few of the pieces will be worthy of DV display, and I hope that my attempt at drilling down and “getting people” for who they are and how they got here will better the world, in some small shape. Really small, but small wonders sometimes are the ionic glue of a bettering world.

    What is more compelling than the average person captured in a truthful narrative, as counterpoint to a society that delves into the celebrity, the spectacle, the idiocy as Jason puts forth in his piece, “The Idiot.”

    In many ways, talking to people who have lived authentic (albeit struggle-prone) lives, or who are just embarking on a nascent stage of multiple iterations of living, I get my sense of grounding in a very flummoxed world of inanity and crass disassociation, as in the disease of pushing away humanity and pushing away the natural world to hitch oneself to the perversions of the billionaire class.

    Time and time again, daily, my friends who are still in struggle — still trying to make sense of the perverted world of idiots controlling the message, the economy, the environment, the culture, and the mental-physical-spiritual health of the world, as if this is it, Trump 2.0 — give me news feed after news feed of the quickening of not only idiocy that capitalism and consumerism and war engender in our species, but also examples of the inhumanity driving the agendas of the Fortune 500 Class, the Davos crowd, the Aspen Institute gatherings, et al.

    Yet, my friend, Joe the Farmer from Merced, hits the nail on the head by providing his own retort to example after example of the cruelty of capitalism and the US of I — United States of Idiots?

    If this doesn’t slap the Hell out of you and rub your nose into the proverbial dog shit of what a criminally insane, inhumane, cruel and thuggish enterprise our government has become, then there is absolutely no hope for your soul. The truth tellers like Manning, Assange, Snowden and others, the brave young guys like Tim DeChristopher that monkey wrenched the sale of oil leases to public lands to try and protect the environment, this fellow that is showing his human side by providing water and aid for those dying in the desert sun, are all facing prison terms or maybe even the death penalty. Their crime? Being a compassionate human being.

    What in the fuck is wrong with this country? The republicans enact cruel legislation to protect criminal enterprises, slash taxes for the obscenely rich, while removing any social or environmental protections for the population, (the Flint Michigan water system for example).

    The republicans are ruthlessly attacking the environment and endangered species, turning their backs on infrastructure that is endangering peoples lives, while the spineless democrats sit idly by, wringing their hands. The democrats won’t take action against the most openly corrupt president we have ever had, that is daily destroying everything in this country as well as the rest of the world with his insane military budgets, trade wars and climate policies. The democrats response to Trump is to promote Joe Biden, a compilation of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Strom Thurman and just about every other corporate whore they could steal parts off of to make their democratic very own version of Donald Trump.

    Both the republicans and the democrats promote austerity for the working people and the poor, while stuffing the oligarchs pockets with gold. Both political Parties support endless war and war profiteers but slash budgets for schools, infrastructure, health care and the elderly. Both political Parties shower money on the police state and a corrupt system of justice and private prisons. Both political Parties are turning their heads to what the oil industry is doing to our water and air with fracking and are in fact have promoted legislation to let the oil industry off the hook when it causes unbelievable environmental damage. Both political Parties are doing nothing to check the nuclear industry that is a environmental time bomb waiting to go off and have promoted legislation to limit the industries liability when it does.

    What is wrong with the American people that they sit on their collective asses and do nothing while all this is happening? Are they that fucking stupid? Are they that lacking in human decency? Are they that politically dumbed-down that they won’t even fight for their own interests?

    The fact that this government corruption has been allowed to go on for years evidently proves that Americans are that stupid and lacking of compassion and politically dumbed-down. Thank God for guys like Dr. Warren the others that are trying to slap some sense into the American public to show us what courage and being humane is all about. Dr. Warren and company shouldn’t be put in jail but our so called leaders sure as Hell should be for their crimes against humanity.

    He’s talking about a desert saint of sorts, Scott Warren, who has the power of his call to duty to give water in milk cartons to anyone crossing the Arizona desert. Now that is a hero, yet, he is facing decades in prison. America!

    The charges against Warren “are an unjust criminalization of direct humanitarian assistance” and “appear to constitute a politically motivated violation of his protected rights as a Human Rights Defender,” states Amnesty International’s Americas regional director Erika Guevara-Rosas.

    “Providing humanitarian aid is never a crime,” Guevara-Rosas added in a statement last week. “If Dr. Warren were convicted and imprisoned on these absurd charges, he would be a prisoner of conscience, detained for his volunteer activities motivated by humanitarian principles and his religious beliefs.”

    Yet how many humans in this crime country even give a rat’s ass about one man who is doing the good that all men and women should be doing?

    AJO, ARIZONA - MAY 10: Scott Warren, a volunteer for the humanitarian aid organization No More Deaths speaks with local residents during a community meeting to discuss federal charges against him for aiding undocumented immigrants on May 10, 2019 in Ajo, Arizona. Warren is scheduled to appear in court for felony charges on May 29 in Tucson, accused by the U.S. government on two counts of harboring and one count of conspiracy for providing food, water, and beds to two Central American immigrants in January, 2018. If found guilty Warren could face up to 20 years in prison. The trial is seen as a watershed case by the Trump Administration, as it pressures humanitarian organizations working to reduce suffering and deaths of immigrants along the border. The government says the aid encourages human smuggling. In a separate misdemeanor case, federal prosecutors have charged Warren with public littering, for distributing food and water along migrant trails. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

    Read the great piece about these water bearers on the border at the Intercept by Ryan Devereaux.

    flood-the-desert-1556916141

    So, here, whatever will come of my new column, “Deep Dive: Go Below the Surface with Paul Haeder,” starting June 7, well, I hope people reading this rag — 18,000 and counting and as they are compelled to hit each longer version of each of my profiles on line, Oregon Coast Today — will understand that life is the sum total of one’s search for meaning and worthy work and community involvement.

    Maybe this compulsion toward narrative has always been inside me during my early root setting  living in Canada, Maryland, Paris, Edinburgh, Arizona . . . then on that walkabout throughout Latin America, Europe, Vietnam, USA, Central America!

    When times get tough, the storyteller gets writing. Ha. Believe you me, the stories we all have collected in this Marquis de Sade world of capital and artery-clogging entertainment and constant death spiral the elites have banked as their Appian Way to Complete Dominance, they make for so much more validation of humanity than anything Hollywood could make.

    Point of fact — I attempted to watch the film, Vice, about Dick Cheney, his perverse family, the perversity of neocons fornicating with neoliberalism. It was one of Hollywood’s “cutting edge” dramas. Written and directed by a Saturday Night Live writer. All the usual suspects with Hollywood multi-millions stuffed in their jowls — Christian Bale, Amy Adams, et al.

    It wasn’t that good, but I sensed that the filmmakers were all about trying to make something that was “different.” I didn’t nod off during the viewing. But, I unfortunately had the DVD so I went to the extras section, and then, the behind-the-scenes of the making of Vice. This is when things went south real quickly with neoliberal, Democrat-leaning Hollywood creeps. We get every goofy platitude about each and every department’s genius in making this film. Every actor fawns the other actor for his or her amazing performance.

    Then the Limey, Christian Bale, yammers on and on about he was all about making Dick Cheney human, going into his good side, being cognizant of Cheney, the human. Rubbish and this is the quality of men, adults, in our society — multimillionaires with gobs of limelight and credit and awards and houses and yachts thrown at them, and they can’t even begin to attack the cause — capitalism, rampant competitiveness, droll I-got-mine-too-bad-you-can’t-get-yours thinking. Hollywood is the anti-culture, the flagging bumbling money changers, the money makers, the money grubbers, and well, everything is about the pockets and the suits and the “executive producers,” i.e. Bankers.

    Oh god, what a trip going into these Hollywood people’s hot yoga, macrobiotic diet, four-hour-a-day workout minds. The director, McKay, actually thinks this drama — make-believe — has given the world new stuff, new insights, new news about the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Bush-Reagan-Bush world of prostitute politics.

    As if there were no real journalists working on all the pre-September 11 illegalities of the republican party and then the post-September 11 evisceration of the few rights the people of the world and USA had before full spectrum war on our planet.

    As if journalists hadn’t cracked open the Koch brothers, the fake think tanks, all the pre-Truman/post-Truman lies of empire, from Roy Cohen, through to the rigged systems of oppression. Way before any trivial Hollywood wannabe open her eyes.

    Entertainment and a few laughs at the expense of millions of bombed-dead people, millions more suffering-a-lingering-death daily because of Hollywood and USA policies and the evangelicals and the Crypto-Christo-Zionists bombing “the other” back to the stone age. The movie, Vice.

    Racists, misogynists, misanthropes, one and all. Yet, we gotta love these democrat-leaning guys and gals making films, having millions stuffed up every possible orifice until their brains gel.

    Insight into the flippancy that is Hollywood the Power Broker! Watching people like Amy Adams and Steve Carell and Sam Rockwell play this soft-shoe goofball show, and then in the little “Making of the Movie Vice” documentary (sic-infomercial) blathering on and on about the greatness of the script and every cog of the machine that churns out this pabulum, well, it steels me to continue my small-time, no-fame, big-effing-deal gig writing people profiles to bring some sense to a world captured by capital . . . idiocy!

    Oh, how we fall in line. Over at Counterpunch, that cloistered world of writers has the countdown for 2018 — Best Films of the Year, as in the most conscious, socially (give me a effing break!) that is. Nothing in American society once it floats on the offal barrel is sacred, socialist, communist.

    Peak TV is creating more opportunities for independent film directors, and for new stories to be told. More films from around the world are released on streaming every day, and Netflix spent an estimated 13 billion dollars on content just this year. More cash available can sometimes mean more stories by and about communities of color, women, transgender and gender nonconforming people, and other communities Hollywood has long ignored. But the movie industry is still primarily about making profit, and it’s main business is reinforcing the status quo, including churning out films that glorify capitalism, war, and policing.

    Below are 2018’s top ten conscious films that made it through these barriers, plus twenty more released this year that you may want to check out.

    […]

    Hollywood doesn’t have a great record in covering presidential politics (remember Kevin Costner in Swing Vote?). Vice, comedy director Adam McKay’s follow up to The Big Short, explores the Bush/Cheney presidency, attempting to make history and polemic accessible to a wide audience. It’s not as effective as his previous film, but it’s a good history, especially for those less familiar with the ins and outs of the early 2000s corporate power grab.

    Lighten up already, many a friend and acquaintance tell me. “You are going to burn out like one of the bulbs you use underwater to do your night dives. Way too much shining the hoary light onto the more hoary caverns of American society. Let things go.”

    Ha, well, how can we? We are entertained to death, as Neil Postman states:

    What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.

    As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us.

    This book [Amusing Ourselves to Death] is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.

    And so it goes, as I trail the acrid dust devil of injustice — my own and the veterans’ and families’ I helped just months ago in Portland as a social worker for, drum roll, homeless veterans (and some came with families, including babies and service dogs).

    I’ve written about it here and elsewhere — the Starvation Army. The deceitful, unethical, possibly murderous Starvation Army. You see, where I worked, I had these insane Nurse Ratched’s lording over grown men and women treating them like criminals, and infantiles, and the constant berating and recriminations. It was anything but social work 101. Anything but trauma-informed care. Anything  but caring people, enlightened helpers; instead, think mean, warped people who within their own broken self’s, do all the wrong things for veterans.

    I decided to jump ship, and, alas, a few lawyers advised me I couldn’t get far with a hostile workplace complaint until I went through the state of Oregon’s, Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) quasi-judicial pathway.

    There was great harm put upon the veterans, great harm put upon the staff, because a director was all into herself and her self-described Jesus Saves bullshit, yammering on about her former  cocaine addiction and booze abuse and 350 pounds of flesh, as well as her own failings as a mother. This place has 100 people living in it temporarily, while Starvation Army receives taxpayer money, all part of the poverty pimping Starvation/Salvation Army’s SOP.

    In the end, relying on idiots in any state bureaucracy to carry forth an investigation was not my idea of justice. I did my due diligence and filed grievances, first with the Starvation Army, and, then with BOLI. I contacted VA officials, state politicians, and the media. To no avail. They too are accomplices!

    To make a long and stupid Byzantine story short, my prediction of zero assistance and zero admonishing from the state to the executive director and the higher ups of the Starvation Army played out. BOLI is a toothless and empty-hearted agency, staffed by soulless Little Eichmann’s counting their paychecks and amassing points to their state sourced pension fund.

    I have moved on, as usual, and the injustice perpetrated upon me is minor in the scheme of things. The veterans, however, already foisted with trauma, PTSD, administrative rape, etc., are still vulnerable to the Nurse Ratched’s of the inhumane social services that serves (sic) non-profits and religious crime syndicates like the Starvation Army.

    Here, “How the Salvation Army Lives Off (and thrives with) a Special Brand of Poverty Pimping”

    Here, “Alcohol, Atheism, Anarchy: The Triple A Threat to the Pro-Capitalist Salvation Army”

    Here, “Insanity of Social Work as Human Control”

    I have since my departure been in contact with a few veterans, and talked a few off the proverbial ledge — several that wanted to off themselves because of the Nurse Ratched’s they encounter at the Starvation Army, in the VA, and in non-profits.  This is the reality, and it’s sick, in real perverted American time —  “Hundreds witness veteran shoot and kill himself in VA waiting room”

    In December, Marine Col. Jim Turner, 55, put his service uniform on, drove to the Bay Pines Department of Veterans Affairs, and shot himself outside the medical center, leaving a note next to his body.

    This is Trump, this is Biden, this is Clinton, this is the lot of them, callous and broken capitalists, who have sold their souls to the devil and brains to Jeff Bezos, et al.
    And it ain’t going to get fixed until we cut away the cancer. Really cut away, daily, in small acts of defiance, great collective acts of beating the system.
    Not sure what that great director Ava Duvernay says about more and more movies like her 13th or this new Netflix mini-series on the Central Park FiveWhen They See Us will do to eventually get enough Americans (70 percent are racist to the core) to demand change in the criminal injustice system of private prisons, Incarceration Complex, Profitable Prosecutions. That all those cops, dailies, elites, deplorables, Trumpies, and Trump said terrible terrible things about these 5 juveniles, calling them animals, or super predators like the Clinton Klan, well, imagine, an insane 2016 runner for the highest crime lord position of the land, POTUS, Donald Trump, after these five men were released after all the evidence found them innocent, sputtering with his big fat billionaire’s fourth grader’s words that the Central Park Five are guilty, guilty, guilty.

    The press coverage was biased. There was a study done by Natalie Byfield, one of the journalists at the time for the New York papers who later wrote a book about covering the case, and it saw that a little more than 89 percent of the press coverage at the time didn’t use the word “alleged,” that we had irresponsibility in the press corps at the time not to ask second questions and literally take police and prosecutor talking points and turn those into articles that people read as fact, and proceeded to shape their opinions about this case that essentially spoils the jury pool, so that these boys were never given a chance.

    Trump’s comments in his ads that he took out in 1989 were taken out just two weeks after the crime was announced—they hadn’t even gone to trial, so it was impossible for them to have an impartial jury pool. The printing of their names in the papers for minors, and where they lived, was a jaw-dropper. All of this was done by “reputable” papers in New York that we still read, so I’m curious how these papers take responsibility for their part in this, and also possibly use this to review the part they play in other cases that may not be as famous as this.

    Thus, she makes my case — the callous and racist and sexist and xenophobic US Press, and here we are today, 2019, enter Amusing Ourselves to Death and a Brave New World.

    The greatest triumphs of propaganda have been accomplished, not by doing something, but by refraining from doing. Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth.

    — Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, “Preface”

    Alas, though, we have to keep those words coming, even sent to the great gray hearts and souls populating those state agencies whose workers are supposed to investigate the workplace safety concerns of workers, and are supposed to prevent workplace harassment.

    I write to break through the fog, and to envelop a new way of seeing my world, for me and for the few readers that dabble in even attempting to start, let alone finish, these missives.

    Huxley was right — ” Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly — they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.” Brave New World, “Chapter 4”

    Love in the Time of Xenocide

    If artists are the antennae of the race, and writers and thinkers are also artists, then a vibration some are receiving and beginning to transmit to the culture more broadly now is new in the history of our species: the world is dying.

    Christy Rodgers, “Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Grief, Acceptance: The Five Stages of Ecocide”

    I’m digging what some of us artists are doing to act as narrative catchments, looking deep into the well of humanity’s general self-delusion and hubris. This is on the heels of heading from the Central Oregon Coast to Portland, to attend an Oceans conference at Portland State University in downtown Stumptown Sunday afternoon.

    Patience here, dear reader, since I am also part of a grand global transformation, though time and again I have written over the decades that I get it and got it at a very young age —

    • capitalism as a system of penury, pollution, trickle down insanity
    • the rapacious quality of narcissism of the Western world (me-myself-and-I consumerism)
    • the despoiling of soil, land, air, river, ocean water by collective madness of money making
    • misogyny which has hitched the world’s girls and women to the shackles of male stupidity and sexual violence and forced birthing
    • war lords, even those hiding in Sweden or Switzerland, becoming the Mafioso of the world, full stop
    • the capturing of a free thinking press and evisceration of holistic education by privatizers and corporate overlords to create the Orwellian maxim of, lies are truth, war is peace

    So, with my fiance and her daughter — OSU chemistry/physics undergraduate — we headed to a mild conference (tabling non-profits do not make a conference) to also listen to celebrity diver-scientist, Sylvia Earle, aged 83. We’ll talk about her Mission Blue. We’ll talk about this hopey-dopey thing she promulgates. We’ll talk about her down-dumbing to audiences. Later. And I paid for tickets, which is something I have rarely done in my 62 years on the planet.

    Image result for Sylvia Earle controversy

    Yes, the guilt of using up fossil fuels, clogging the road system and sending water vapor and CO2 into the atmosphere to hear someone I have already heard elsewhere in another iteration of my time as community college teacher and sustainability leader.

    How difficult was it for me to NOT open my mouth and start railing against this celebrity culture before the talk — and expose a 21-year-old hopeful undergraduate science student to negativity — and then spew out my prophecy of …  this is just going to be another white person-attended milquetoast thing with dyed in the wool democrats and Obama lovers again not even attempting to stammer that capitalism is the evil, war is the tool for this evil, magical thinking is the conduit of this evil, and chaos in all forms of discourse/thought/ community its product?

    Huge!

    I’ll in a future piece nuance and dice and parse what Sylvia Earle’s talk was — a refitted talk that she’s done for decades — and how that crowd in Portland did in some sense send pulsating streams of bile into my throat as I felt like the one and only one who was disturbed by the lock-step cult of celebrity thing going on in that big PSA pavilion, one big basketball arena that was burping up so much air conditioned streams that dozens of folk scurried around looking for sweaters and coats to keep from blue-lipping themselves into a stupor.

    I’ve been here before, running talks with the likes of Winona LaDuke, James Howard Kunstler, David Helvarg, Bill McKibben and others. I was the thorn in the side, the lightning rod, the agitator, the one person who took the discourse away from slanted academic or literary bunk and platitudes, toward a more militant rhetoric, one where revolutionary thinking had to set the stage. Some guests were uncomfortable, and audiences, too but many speakers and others I interviewed or MC-ed for responded deeper than they had ever in public, many have told me. I even took them to the studio and interviewed them on my old radio show. Here are a few captured on my blog, PaulHaeder dot com.

    Too-too many times, the rank and file wherever I practiced as teacher, journalist, social worker and activist have demonstrated their partial or complete colonization (where I ticked off the issues in the list above) which has assisted in depositing magical thinking and elitism and exceptionalism into the very fiber of the average American. Including many of the people who I rub elbows with!

    The stage was set, Sunday, and we were there, a few hundred captives, held to the standards of this organization that sponsored the event — SAGE, Senior Advocates for Generational Equity. There was a choir, and there was a forced “all audience members please stand up and sing” moment, Hallelujah’s,  and there were no young people on stage, no haggling of ideas, no argumentation about how criminal capitalism is, and our war economy (Earle is a capitalist and military supporter), no debate about how we do in fact help save the ocean, no hard-edged and outside-the-box discourse and presentation.

    Image result for dead dolphins gulf of mexico

    As she spoke May 19, the headlines were hurtling in, headlines that would have made some good grist for deep conversation:

    Buyer Beware: Seafood ‘Fraud’ Rampant, Report Says

    American Academy of Pediatrics Says US Children Are Not Eating Enough Seafood

    New study of migrant and child labour in the Thai seafood industry

    Bangladesh bans fishing for 65 days to save fish

    Hilsa: The fish that is being loved to death

    ‘Fish are vanishing’ – Senegal’s devastated coastline

    Choose the Right Fish To Lower Mercury Risk Exposure

    Mercury levels in the northern Pacific Ocean have risen about 30 percent over the past 20 years and are expected to rise by 50 percent more by 2050 as industrial mercury emissions increase, according to a 2009 study led by researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey and Harvard University.

    Mercury-containing plants and tiny animals are eaten by smaller fish that are then gobbled up by larger fish, whose tissue accumulates mercury. That’s why larger, longer-living predators such as sharks and swordfish tend to have more of the toxin than smaller fish such as sardines, sole, and trout.

    In comments submitted to federal health officials earlier this year, a group of scientists and policy analysts pointed out that a 6-ounce serving of salmon contains about 4 micrograms of mercury vs. 60 micrograms for the same portion of canned albacore tuna—and 170 micrograms for swordfish.

    When you eat seafood containing methylmercury, more than 95 percent is absorbed, passing into your bloodstream. It can move throughout your body, where it can penetrate cells in any tissue or organ.

    Image result for W Eugene SMith Minamata

    But again, this is the cult of celebrity, even scientists, and so the evening was suffused with homilies and genuflecting and really a sixth grade level Power Point talk, not scientific, not political, not deep, not philosophical, not earth rumbling/shattering. Imagine those headlines above debated in the talk. The contradictions. The implications. Mercury, right, perfect for baby and grandpa!

    Related image

    So, the trip back through Oregon’s hinterland — farms, orchards, big hay operations — with all those “Jesus is the Way” billboard signs, all those “Trump and God Reign” fluttering flags, all that once-thick-forestland-turned-into-Johnson-grass property, all those RVs and heavy-duty pickups and SUVs rushing for a week at the beach, and all the cannabis shops and junk food shacks reminding me that most people did not make THIS bargain two or three generations ago.

    The cancer is capitalism-addictive-consumerism; the tuberculosis is the credit cards, banks, IMF, World Bank, and mortgage companies holding people on their knees with a debt gun to our heads; the neurological damage is the assault on democracy through the prostitution of politicians-journalists-educators in that old time religion, careerism; the illiteracy is through the ever-deadening death-entertainment of a floundering press and piss poor publishing realm.

    Much more on that later —  the concept of a Sylvia Earle even headlining a “world oceans day” anemic event, and the obvious lack of hard-hitting discourse and thought on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.

    Below is a piece I wrote, specifically for Oregon Humanities magazine, a call out for manuscripts to work with the theme, adapt.

    For the Summer 2019 issue, share an experience about conforming in response to some sort of pressure. Tell us what it takes to alter and revamp a system that needs to change. Explore a historical or current event that shows the process and outcome of adaptation.

    No, this isn’t an angst riddled preface to the piece that was NOT accepted for publication, which also would have had a small check involved. I was told by the poet laureate of Oregon (K.S.) to not expect a big huge hug when sending in my submission, implying that the staff — editorial people at this non-profit, Oregon Humanities — have their own little dance to the beat of a different literary drummer thing going on.

    I get that, these non-profits staffed by some pretty middle of the road peeps, or culture wars warriors, or people who have a set and proscribed middle land of what they believe is music to their ears or what would be acceptable stuff for their funders’ and readers’ sensibilities.

    Therefore, the rejection letter I got yesterday, via email, with a couple of typos in the body written by the editor of this magazine, was expected, but like anytime I attempt a corn-artichoke-green chile-vegan cheese souffle —  and it’s definitely putting in all that energy, using all those well-handled ingredients, shepherding all the care and the oven acumen —  when the souffle comes out floppy or semi-deflated, my hardened heart still skips a few beats and I want to kick the cast iron ceramic pot into the woods hissing and steaming.

    Same with a rejection letter! Err, make that plural. Dozens of them. In the hundreds. Even after 45 years of rejections, I feel the bile bubble up! Then I remember how much I hated that masters of fine arts group of people I have intellectually intercoursed with over the years!

    There is good writing out there, just not much of it coming from MFA programs. What may have provided an engine for a genuine attention to craft, fifty years ago, Rockefeller Foundation notwithstanding, has withered and left an enfeebled cult of pseudo expertise. For the genetic disposition of creative writing programs is linked to the paradoxical stigmatizing and entitlements of University attendance. The goal of the CIA and State Dept is one thing, and we’re talking less than best and brightest here, and the ideological imprint is actually probably minor, but the unintended vaccinations of rationality, the ingesting of sociological and a generic lexical sensibility is significant. Art that has lost anger and moral obsession, has left a low stakes hobby culture of career minded ruthlessness coupled to creative flaccidity. The work is constrained in the same ways, psychologically, that allows mute absorption of all aspects of the Spectacle. The concrete and specific becomes generic by a rational process of observation that brackets the irrational and working within the institution is a tacit acceptance of the hierarchies of the system that desires to kill off dissent and opposition, and that means killing off the impulse to question. The white supremacist establishment shares the structural dynamics of the University. MFA program as Pentagon. Now there are exceptions, I guess. But creative writing largely, following the lead of the Iowa Writers Workshop is in the business of staying in business.  — John Steppling

    The compulsive repetitive nature of mass marketing has gone a long ways in the training of perception. But it is the mystifying of repetition, the pretense is of difference. And this seems crucial. The liberal white class, the people who run institutional theater, and University programs in writing, believe largely in a marketed reality within which stories of individualism can be played out. Clear cut the forest, the better to inspect ‘psychology’ as it is operative in each ‘character’. This links also to my last post and this idea of mastery. You cannot master the forest, without mostly cutting it down. The sense of space: that theatrical space, linked to an ‘off stage’, to an elsewhere that is unconscious, is by its very nature submissive. The submission allows for that walk in the forest. That walk is creative and it also the discovery of a path. The Situationists used to say, get a map of Berlin and use it to navigate yourself around Milan. — John Steppling

    I’ll shift out of the woe is me thing, and discuss quickly what just took place on Dissident Voice Sunday, a Christy Rodgers piece, “Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Grief, Acceptance: The Five Stages of Ecocide.” I was opening up DV, when I found Christy’s powerful piece, and read it, because I was not able to settle down after watching on my free Hulu, If Beale Street Could Talk.

    She covers the so-called stages of grief — Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Grief, Acceptance — as we collectively and individually confront the great dying, and confront all those feedback loops and lag times and tipping points to our rape of the world as they are now being played out as the chickens coming home to roost.  Fricken Chaucer: Some six centuries ago, when Geoffrey  used it in The Parson’s Tale:

    And ofte tyme swich cursynge wrongfully retorneth agayn to hym that curseth, as a bryd that retorneth agayn to his owene nest.

    — Geoffrey Chaucer, 1390, The Parson’s Tale

    Malcom X, those chickens coming back to roost.

    Rodgers is talking about this climate warming chaos, the stages of grief, confronting what in our lifetimes is the most dramatic event civilization has spurred and will ever witness. She is part of an artist collective, Dark Mountain, and she is prefacing the latest anthology by talking about the deep remnants of human pain during this bearing witness and bearing the weight and cause of the quickening of species extinction and the betrayal of all those goods and services capitalism and other forms of rendering civilization put into the equation of take or give.

    Dark Mountain’s latest anthology, #15, In the Age of Fire, has just been published. Material from its 51 authors and artists is showcased on the project’s website. Rodgers, DV:

    Acceptance doesn’t mean accommodation with oppression and injustice. It means acknowledgment that we aren’t trying to prevent the apocalypse, because civilization is the apocalypse. We are trying to open a path to a future that is worth living in. Our feelings are experienced individually, and they do not directly impact the material world. But they are not irrelevant. The path to truth for a complex being must itself be complex. On the day a hundred thousand people come into the streets to grieve together for the lost reefs, the lost forests, and all the unnumbered victims, human and non-human, of civilization’s rise, we can mark the beginning of a new era in human life on this planet.

    At the Brink of Extinction on the Coast Near the Salmon River

    To see a world in a grain of sand,
    And a heaven in a wild flower,
    Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
    And eternity in an hour.

    — “Auguries of Innocence,” by William Blake

    A crossroads is the big X in my life, like the symbol of the thunderbird in many myths of original peoples of the American Pacific Northwest, Southwest, East Coast, Great Lakes, and Great Plains.

    Of all the places I now am rooted in and adapting to —  the Central Oregon Coast —  I am thinking long and hard about what it means to have traveled through body, soul and mind in a 62-year-old journey.

    I’m thinking about how I ended up in Otis, near Cascade Head on the Pacific. From birth in San Pedro, California, upbringing in the Azores, formative years in Paris, France, and learning teenage years in the Sonora, from Arizona to Guaymas, I am here reinvigorating what many elders I’ve crossed paths with as adopted vision quest instructors have taught me.

    When you are ready, come to me. I will take you into nature. In nature you will learn everything that you need to know. –

    Rolling Thunder, Cherokee Medicine Man

    I was told that very lesson by friends’ dads and aunties from so many tribes – Papago, Chiricahua and White River Apache, Navajo, Yaqui, Tohono O’odham. Even at the bottom of the Barrancas del Cobre, several Tarahumara elders imparted the same wisdom: In nature you will learn everything you need.

    I received the same tutelage in Vietnam by ethnic tribes leaders near the Laos border 25 years ago. And I learned the same points in my life six years ago on the Island of St. John from a turtle hunter who had grown up in Dominica.

    Ironically, just a few days when I was welcoming 2019 into my life, I received the same sort of holistic “how to live in harmony” message from a social worker friend who is also an enrolled member of the Grande Ronde tribe. He texted me this:

    “I chatter, chatter as I flow to join the brimming river, for men may come and men may go, but I go on forever.”

    This from a tribal elder who I worked with on independent living programs for foster youth. One of our clients was from the Grande Ronde tribe living in Clackamas County, Oregon, receiving services for developmental disabilities caused by fetal alcohol syndrome.

    My former colleague waited five minutes before a follow-up text came to me: “Bro’, that’s from Lord Tennyson, so don’t go all Dances with Wolves on me, man . . . haha.”

    That text came to me while I was solitary, across from a sand spit where 20 harbor seals were banana-splitting in their favorite haul-out near Cascade Head, where the Salmon River pushes out freshwater ions, tannins, soil streams into the Pacific just north of Lincoln City.

    The pinnipeds were cool, but listless. Instead, I was busy espying two bald eagles swooping down on the sand a hundred yards from the seals who then began pecking and ripping at a pretty good-sized steel-head carcass.

    The moment before the incoming tide shifted hard and was about to isolate me on a lone rocky outcropping, I was thinking like a mountain, sort of – at least I was deep in the afterglow of having just reread Aldo Leopold’s A Sand Country Almanac:

    A deep chesty bawl echoes from rimrock to rimrock, rolls down the mountain, and fades into the far blackness of the night. It is an outburst of wild defiant sorrow, and of contempt for all the adversities of the world.

    Every living thing (and perhaps many a dead one as well) pays heed to that call. To the deer it is a reminder of the way of all flesh, to the pine a forecast of midnight scuffles and of blood upon the snow, to the coyote a promise of gleanings to come, to the cowman a threat of red ink at the bank, to the hunter a challenge of fang against bullet. Yet behind these obvious and immediate hopes and fears there lies a deeper meaning, known only to the mountain itself. Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of a wolf.  – Thinking like a Mountain, Aldo Leopold

    How did I get here, Oregon’s Central Coast? How did I end up learning about eagles pecking at the afterbirth of sea lions in and around the rookeries here on this coast? Why is the eagle, a talisman for me since my early years traveling throughout the American Southwest and into Mexico, so important to me now?

    Adaptation or extinction, change versus stagnation. For so many reasons, change and evolution have been part and parcel of my life – newspaper journalist, novelist, college professor, case manager for adults with disabilities, social worker for homeless veterans, and a million more intersections in a world of apparent chaos.

    The Mexican flag of those Estados Unidos Mexicanos is an eagle on a prickly pear cactus with a snake in its mouth. I learned as a high school junior that the ancient Aztecs knew where to build their city Tenochtitlan once they saw an eagle eating a snake on top of a lake.

    The beauty of the American eagle adapting to the toxins in DDT is clear: Homo sapiens seems historically to never employ the precautionary principle for both ourselves as a species and others in the ecosphere when creating and dispersing new powerful technologies and chemicals.

    All of this was coursing through my mind as a scampered across large sloughed-off rocks and boulders where the Pacific was now tangling with the Salmon River.

    Eagles there dining on entrails and then in my memory cave, like a magical realism moment, other eagle quests flooded my memory – and I was there, in the now, with a river otter toying with me just offshore, and then studying that tidal estuary, hoping to keep my Timberlines dry, ruminating about age, and all the adaptations I’ve made easily and also kicking and screaming, yelling, “No more change . . . no more upheaval.” Like Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha:

    When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness. Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!

    See the source image Another one of my muses, Gabriel Garcia Marquez then came into focus while those eagles were picking apart muscles of the steel-head and then clouds only this part of the Pacific can incubate started swirling above me on cue —

    He was still too young to know that the heart’s memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good, and that thanks to this artifice we manage to endure the burden of the past.”

    ― Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

    I am still waylaid by that concept, eliminating the bad [to] magnify the good. I am coursing through understanding myself in this walkabout, here in Otis, not exactly the center of anyone’s universe. But then, the nagging Marquez again, and a quote I used to deploy to students in El Paso to think beyond their false hopes: “He who awaits much can expect little.”

    I have lived most of my life working with the so-called “bad” — disenfranchised and economically strafed people, those with substance abuse challenges both mocked and misunderstood, and those not on the neural normal scale – assisting them to adapt to their own hard histories and epigenetic bad cards dealt to be self-enhancing people.

    There seems to always an eagle overhead when I am going deep into the recesses of memory. In Spokane when I was with a battle-scarred veteran friend who was at a cemetery ready to commit suicide. When I put my sister’s ashes into the sea near Hyder, Alaska. The moment I was called in Vancouver when my brother-in-law died.

    Then, it hit me while driving away from Cascade Head — those eagles have been my talismans for six bloody decades! The words of writers, from the minds of people like Louise Erdrich or Jorge Luis Borges, or way back to Beowulf, and farther back to Muhammad al Tulmusani, are also my talismans of sort, but the eagle has been my vision quest. Not the brown eagle of the Aztec incubation, but the bald eagle.

    These galvanizing moments are serious times of not just reflection, but ruminating and cultivating change. Adapting.

    My father said when I was born in 1957, several bald eagles from Catalina Island were spotted near the San Pedro hospital where I was delivered —   Little Company of Mary Hospital.

    Here, 62 years later, I now have the sense to take that “sign” to my grave – bald eagle vision quest.

    I’m thinking about 36 million years ago, when the first eagles descended from the kite line. I’m thinking reptiles, and 66 million years ago when birds evolved from the lizards. Looking at the ocean broiling up in Whale Cove will do that to the mind.

    Millions of years of adaptations, brother, sister, eagle, and then Thoreau ends up dredging from me a fractal of thought every single day in this tidal wetlands as tides in and tides out signal climatic climaxes yet to come:  “Wildness is the preservation of the World.”

    Adaptations for this American symbol,  Haliaeetus leucocephalus —  as the continual use of DDT (and other pesticides) spread throughout the country  —  was a world of constant trials and tribulations. And near extinction.

    From 1917 to 1953, the “adaptation” of Alaskan human salmon fishers to an abundance of salmon was to harvest more and more runs, intentionally killing more than 100,000 bald eagles as a threat to “their”  catches.

    The lack of adaptive abilities of a species like the bald eagle when faced with the unnatural distillations of chemicals by humanity should have hit us hard fifty years ago: birds that weigh in at 10 to 14 pounds, with wingspans of up to 8 feet, having strength and agility to pull salmon out of the sea while underwater themselves, and a lifespan of up to 30 or more years in the wild can’t weather man-made toxins.

    If the 36-million-old eagle can’t make it under the assault of better living through chemistry , then it’s easy to understand humanity’s lack of adaptive skills (how many short years of evolution have we been messing with our adaptations?) to stop business-as-usual industrial and lifestyle processes like spraying DDT. We too are now experiments in the grand cauldron of chemicals produced and released daily.

    The effects of that process of humanity “adapting” their environment to their needs —  industrial agriculture demanding insect-free habitats with these pesticides that Rachel Carson, mother of the environmental movement, discussed in her 1962 book, Silent Spring  — was the near extirpation of the American symbol of strength, power, independence and persistence!

    Haliaeetus leucocephalus, from Greek, sea, hals and eagle, aietos and white-head, leukos kephalē !

    Recall from our Baby-Boomer high school biology books — DDT and other pesticides spread like a slow-motion tsunami across America, sprayed on plants and then eaten by small animals, which were later consumed by birds of prey. Today, we call it bio-accumulation. That poison did its dark magic “art” on both adult bald eagles and their eggs.  The egg shells became too thin to withstand the 36-day incubation period, often crushed under the weight of one of the parents.

    Again, what I learned in the 1970s as a high schooler – eagle eggs that were not crushed during brooding mostly did not hatch due to high levels of DDT and its derivatives. Large quantities of PCBs and DDT ended up in fatty tissues and gonads. The maladaptation of the eagle to pesticides was to become infertile due to man’s maladaptation, or in the case of Homo sapiens, the rearrangement of ecosystems and organic pathways.

    That was me in Tucson, Arizona, scrambling through desert ‘scapes. I was junior in high school when DDT was officially banned in 1972, largely due to Rachel’s amazing book and petitioning. That was eight years after she had died (Apr 14, 1964) at age 56 from cancer (many attribute breast cancer to the poisons of her time).

    Eagles were listed in 1967 as endangered on one listing and then later, 1972, nationally through the Endangered Species Act.

    I remember eagles as brothers and myth carriers from many of my buddies who were Navajo, Zuni, Apache and Hopi. Their mothers and uncles would tell us many stories about eagles. I remember traveling to El Paso for a wrestling match and seeing the Thunderbird burned millions of years ago into the Franklin Mountain range. This amazing natural formation of red clay on the mountainside, watching over the Chihuahua desert, captured me then, and later when I was a reporter and teacher in that part of the world.

    I was touched then as 17-year-old wrestler visiting a place where a huge eagle to me (thunderbird), was there with outstretched wings and head tilted to the side as if protecting us all from predators, who I knew even at that age were us, Homo sapiens.

    Image result for Thunderbird El Paso images

    Ten years later and for two decades I was there at that sacred place, a mountain along the Paseo del Norte, straddling Juarez, El Paso and New Mexico. In the 1990s developers were wanting to move (bulldoze) more and more up Thunderbird Mountain for more and more eyesores, AKA tract home subdivisions. Writers and artists on both sides of the border came together to not only stop that sort of desecration, but also to stem the tide of pollutants in the Rio Grande and the denuding of the fragile Chihuahua Desert.

    On one of our 10- foot wide protest banners we held along the US-Mexico border, the bald eagle was painted on large and brilliantly, as a symbol of resistance and a “comeback kid story” because man’s chemicals were banned. For many thousands living and working in Juarez, their offspring came out stillborn or with anencephaly – parts of its brain and skull missing. Those industrial chemicals from the American-owned twin plants have not been banned.

    Proof of Homo sapiens’ chemicals prompting maladaptation in our offspring.

    So, here I am in Otis, Oregon, thinking about that El Paso Thunderbird while watching the estuary bring in swamp-creating waters from the Pacific. What does it mean that I am adapting now in Otis, the town that was up for sale in 1999 for $3 million. That’s 193 acres (another auction occurred in 2004). I have coffee at the quasi-famous Otis Café which was not part of the town’s auction (it never got bought). The café owner’s grandfather bought the land from descendants of the Siletz Indians for $800 in 1910.

    As a direct result of the DDT ban, on June 28, 2007 the Department of Interior took the American bald eagle off the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Species.

    The reality of putting the bald eagle in peril, and then its eventual recovery and broad habitat colonization means that they are seasonal residents near Yaquina Head. Eagles are like those proverbial human Snow Bird residents of Oregon who end up in Arizona or Nevada or even Hawaii to get the chill of Pacific rain forest winter out of their bones – they go where the living is best.

    Here is the adaptation for the eagle – they go into the rookery of the murres, which have a major nesting colony at Yaquina Head. The eagle swooping in and taking the occasional adult murre isn’t the problem, scientists point out.

    It’s the encroachment of “secondary predators” that is having a negative impact on the murres’ reproductive success.

    An adult eagle is expert at swooping in and grabbing an adult murre and flying off. That’s not putting the murre species in peril. It’s the crummy hunter juvenile bald eagles who end up landing on the rookery. All the adult murres then scatter into the air.

    That door then opens for brown pelicans and gulls to alight and grab eggs or murre chicks. These secondary predators will destroy hundreds of eggs in minutes.

    Adaptation and re-adaptation.

    Image result for murres and eagles

     

    Image result for murres and eaglesEcosystems out of balance, and now in Otis, I am adapting to the reality of the human footprint; even a small one like mine, is significant to each and every micro-biodome I come in contact with.

    Soon, maybe, the eagle will be put on the hit list, and they too will feel the hard impact of game wardens’ bullets taking them out because, again, adaptation for the bald eagle means things get more and more out of balance.

    Murres or eagles? People or salmon? Crab cakes or whales?

    The weight of place, and being one with geographic and ecologic time always culls my disparate attempts at calm and inner self exploration. Otis, the Pacific, the entire riot that encompasses rowdy sea lions and the humpback’s 12-foot blowhole sprays, all those murres and double-crested cormorants, petrels dive bombing, black oystercatchers waddling at the tide lines, now are gestating into entire “memory palaces” for me. I think of my place alive in the world. The mutable feast of learning in my walkabout is a continual journey of adapting.

    I am looking at an amazing gift of words, and from the Oregon Humanities Magazine, a serendipitous parallel moment for me and the works of Melissa Madenski, who in her essay is talking about this same geographic arena, where she’s lived for more than four decades and just recently left. She talks about spruce, alder, hemlock and maple and their powerful bio-nets and biological relationships through their interconnected forests of roots they share:

    Unlike me, they don’t question or worry—that is the wisdom I project on them at least—a symbol for acceptance of what is. I’m coming to believe in my own memory palace that lives in my roots and the roots of my children, a stability that remains even as visible markers disappear. Look at the big picture, I tell myself. You got to live here for over half of your life; your children were able to grow up here; you got to love the land and leave good soil. – “Unclaiming the Land” (February 26, 2018)

    Today, I foist my emotional and spiritual rucksack loaded up with my own learning and traveling as I engage with Otis, the Central Oregon Coast, and the people and cetaceans, alike, a repository for my next learning, my new series of adaptations. The bald eagle for all its battles and all the mythological connections, is my talisman and vision quest.

    But I feel like that Zuni Eagle Boy who came upon an eaglet that had fallen out of the nest. The boy hunted for the eagle, foregoing working in the fields while the rest of his clan worked and worked.

    His brothers resented the boy for raising this chick, who got big and healthy, big enough to fly away. But the eagle stayed with the boy. The clan was ready to kill the eagle to get the boy back, returned to the fields to grow corn and squash.

    The boy saw that the eagle was downtrodden in his cage, and asked why. The eagle said he had grown to love the boy for saving him and raising him but had to leave so the boy could go back to his duties and be a boy with his people.

    The boy wanted to leave with the eagle, and finally the eagle succumbed to the boy’s pleas.

    The eagle told the boy to fill pouches with dried meats and fruit and blue corn bread and to put two bells on the eagle’s feet. The boy climbed on the eagle’s back and they flew off. They ended up in Sky Land, in the city with thousands of eagles who looked like people when they took off their wings and clothing of feathers when they entered their homes. The boy received wings and feather clothing.

    As in many stories of rite of passage and adaptation by Native tribes, the Eagle Boy disobeyed the orders of the Eagles to not go south, and once the boy did, he thought it was a beautiful and safe place. Until people of bones – skeletons – chased him.

    He made it back to Sky Land, but he was not welcome there for disobeying. Finally, the eagle that the boy had raised said he’d help him fly back to his people. The boy took an old cloak of feathers and made the arduous journey back. His friend the eagle circled above him the entire way to make sure he made it safe, and once Eagle Boy landed, the eagle took the cloak of feathers and flew away.

    The Eagle Boy lived with his people, who honored him because they knew that Eagle Boy wanted to be  with his people, even though he could fly away at any time.

    Like Eagle Boy, I look to the skies and smile at the eagle’s graceful and wide veronicas as thermals take them up where humans can’t see clearly. The boy adapted and loved his people, even though the journey to the Sky Land was always with him and in his stories of adventure.

    I am here, looking for my own Sky Land, but cognizant of the fact the love of my clan – family, fiancé, daughter, friends – is the uplift I count on to make it through the every-changing evolution of my mind and body. I can be an eagle on the ground, scampering through gravity-fed fields, hoping to understand how I might lay claim to finally understanding what all the adaptations mean in a life so lived.

    Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Grief, Acceptance: The Five Stages of Ecocide

    “There is hope, an infinite amount of hope, but not for us.” – Franz Kafka

    If artists are the antennae of the race, and writers and thinkers are also artists, then a vibration some are receiving and beginning to transmit to the culture more broadly now is new in the history of our species: the world is dying.

    The world, not defined as “human civilization,” or a nation, empire, or culture, but the entire living world, which undergirds all those. Not in one region, but everywhere, all at once, and with escalating speed.

    The custom at this point in the essay would be to cite statistics, summarize recent UN reports, quote news stories, prominent scientists, etc. But I will take it as a given that you have already read those, or are at least aware of them. What I want to get at is how this feels, what the inner experience of this knowledge is: to be living, aging and eventually dying in uncanny lock-step with The Great Dying, the greatest our species has ever seen, caused by us to boot. Is there even a word for this? I choose xenocide – we are killing almost everything that is not us… for now. The antennae of the race are intimating is that this is ultimately suicide, because there is no “other” in the living world; we are inextricably imbricated in it. Ecocide is perhaps the most correct: we are killing our home.

    This is the definitive experience of our generation. But there are reasons why most of us living today seem unable to comprehend it, and live (or die) accordingly. Thanks to civilization, we had already largely lost the living world before we were born, and now what is dying is something we barely knew existed. You might call this Big Yellow Taxi syndrome.

    Denial. Just as racism is not just perpetrated by overt racists, denial is not just perpetrated by overt denialists. Perhaps you and I pride ourselves on the cognitive leap we have made – we’re not like them, the benighted masses who simply swallow the lies they’ve been fed, who can’t see through the propaganda, the ones “we” must educate. But if we have children, can we really disbelieve the lie that every parent is forced to believe – the last, best, bastion of magical thinking: that the world will somehow be “better” for them, not unspeakably worse, and that what we have done, how we have lived, will actually help them to thrive in it?

    With or without children, are our daily lives altered in any substantial way by our knowledge? I’m not talking about adopting conscientious individual behaviors like eating less meat or taking the bus more. I’m talking about the fact that the infrastructure that sustains us shows no sign of reduction, exhaustion or, frankly, anything but frenzied growth. It is an infrastructure of denial. Denial, like racism, is systemic. And therefore, even once we know it’s happening, we don’t actually go around on a day-to-day basis with the Great Dying uppermost in our minds. We don’t go out in the street, and perceive immediately that “a social response of any kind [is] occurring,” as Dark Mountain Project essayist Arnold Schroeder puts it. The dying, for now, is far away, and largely invisible to most of us. There is a war, but we of the global urban working class and bourgeoisie are not on the frontlines. And, unlike those nightly casualty counts during the Vietnam War, the results are not even a blip on our now-omnipresent screens.

    Around me, on the streets of San Francisco, nothing looks like it’s dying. The opposite, in fact.

    I mean, seriously, how does it get any better than what we have here? With a certain level of income and education, admittedly within reach of only a few tens of thousands among our country’s hundreds of millions, you can live in historically unprecedented comfort in a place where it’s spring all year, gorgeous vistas await you at every turn, the shops and markets are filled with an abundance of good, fresh things to eat and fun things to own; the streets are regularly cleaned (in the nicer neighborhoods); all manner of diversions abound; parks, flowering trees and sidewalk gardens are maintained by gangs of enthusiastic volunteers; willing lads and lasses can be hailed to deliver you to your destination in their private cars with a tap on your phone…

    I sometimes wonder: is this it? Is this the pinnacle? Is contemporary San Francisco at its savagely unequal best the apogee of human civilization, the best it will ever be?

    The smoke from the most destructive and deadly wildfire in California’s history, which settled over the city for two weeks last year – giving it, briefly, the worst air quality in the world, worse than Delhi or Beijing – was, cognitively, something like the tiny spot on your lungs that the X-ray barely images. You get a scare, and for a little while, the inevitability of decline and death comes rushing in to overwhelm you, filling your whole field of vision, coloring everything black. Then you look again a little later; it seems to be gone. What was that? You feel relief, then oblivion. Life goes back to normal.

    Until…

    And here face downward in the sun,
    And here beneath earth’s noonward height
    To feel the always coming on, the always rising of the night…

    Anger. Meanwhile, somewhere else, some people have realized that something is dying, but it isn’t the living world, to which they are largely indifferent, in both the cognitive and concrete sense, except possibly to view specific pieces of it as resource or adversary, depending on the circumstances. It is their own possibility for economic advancement that is moribund, and the cultural superiority that perhaps they were taught to associate with that lost possibility. For them, growth has stopped. Around them, others have risen, taken unfair advantage, over-reproduced themselves. External enemies are everywhere. Demagogues with war mongers whispering in their ears arise to stoke their rage. Weapons are everywhere. Information floods synapses, triggers responses: fight, fight, fight, or die. In Hungary, Poland, Italy, Germany, France, Sweden, Britain, Brazil, the Philippines, the U.S – “end-of-history” liberalism fades like a hothouse flower. Pre-existing authoritarian regimes double-down in a confusing game of Friend-or-Enemy? (We are at war with Oceania. We have always been at war with Oceania.) Everybody practices the Two-Minutes Hate.

    Somewhere altogether elsewhere vast
    Herds of reindeer move across
    Miles and miles of golden moss
    Silently, and very fast.

    Bargaining. Here come the technocrats, the hope-sellers, the humanists. We can beat this thing. Look: slavery, fascism, nuclear war – we beat them! (Except, not really…) A new global generation is rising with new values, new insights, new technologies. There’s still time to turn this around. In 12 years…10…9…8… If we just do… x… Build this movement, implement this program, stop subsidizing fossil fuels, put carbon back in ground, save 50% of the land for wildlife, get the plastic out of the oceans, eliminate CAFOs, trust women, end capitalism…

    But the science we trust when it speaks of technological possibility, we fail to heed when it speaks of feedback loops. Or of critical slowing down, the diminishing ability of a complex system to resist increasing pressures from within and without, so that once it reaches a certain point, collapse is unstoppable. We fail to heed that we have already “baked in” an irreversible degradation of the living world, and we are not changing course in time to stop it.

    That doesn’t mean nothing proposed in the bargaining stage is worth attempting. The metaphor of a single person’s dying begins to lose currency when you are talking about all life. Becoming Mars is not inevitable, and the islands of relative biodiversity, social harmony and ecological coherence humans and other species may be able to sustain within the rising seas of climate chaos could still influence a proximate outcome for the biosphere.

    But the world our species came of age in, the only one we know; that world is definitively dying. What we have already done heedlessly over the last two centuries has set processes in motion that are irreversible in any term of less than thousands, perhaps millions of years. No amount of bargaining, of socio-political or techno-optimism will change that. It won’t rebuild the ice sheets or the glaciers, it won’t save the millions of species that can’t migrate, or the ocean ecosystem that depends on the chemical balance and food chain we have upended. It won’t preserve our forests, tropical or temperate, at anything like their present size. We are moving into a new regime, which will be increasingly chaotic and thus inhospitable to life, until it stabilizes at an unknown point. If we refuse to accept that or try to bargain it away, it will still happen. That is what dying means.

    Grief. Ten years ago, a pair of disenchanted British activists declared that it was time to stop bargaining and start mourning. They had seen enough to comprehend that for all the fulminating of politicians, the triumphalism of corporate scientists and CEOs, and the creative resistance of woke activists, humans were not, and would never be, in charge of the destructive forces we had unleashed. And the idea embodied by our civilization, of somehow being in control of all life, or disconnecting ourselves entirely from the living world and still having lives worth living, was a lie. It was not Eastern or Western civilization but civilization writ large that had brought us to this point. And if it was too late to bring down its walls in the material world in time to prevent the Great Dying, we could still do something worthwhile by bringing them down in our minds, and making space for new stories to grow. So, the Dark Mountain Project was born, and its manifesto, Uncivilization (From the Mourning of the World) was published. And it went out into our culture largely through the abstract, bloodless, but profoundly far-reaching veins of the internet, indelibly a product of the catastrophic civilization that had thrown it up to better conduct its wars. With its vast effluence of entropy, our civilization is a toxic and clumsy parody of a functioning ecosystem, but it is still a system, and we all still operate within it.

    To the dismay of some progressives, many tropes of progressive politics were abandoned by Dark Mountain’s writers and artists, because progressivism could or would not come to grips with what was really happening to the living world. This didn’t mean the project entered into an embrace of some kind of mystical, nature-centered proto-fascism either. Those who saw that seeking justice in human society was still part of the equation of meaningful survival, and was in any case inevitable and necessary (Respect Existence or Expect Resistance, as the saying is) could still find a home for their ideas there.

    I like to think I was one of those. For me, Dark Mountain has been a needed oasis for feelings and ideas ignored or rejected by a Left that not only had little concern for the wellbeing of non-human ecosystems, but no place for interiority as an essential component of collective human wellbeing. Everything that didn’t advance us down the mechanized chute to a rigorously rational socialism was elitist and reactionary. And human progress was inevitable, because Marx said so. (Except, he didn’t…) Pay no attention to that disappearing glacier behind the curtain.

    So, thanks to Dark Mountain, I found I could transform paralyzing depression into thought and action by joining the emerging legions of grief. We mourned together in the catacombs of social movements that could not publicly acknowledge us, and in the shared but Balkanized spaces of the internet. And now, ten years later, ten years deeper in greenhouse gases, exhausted topsoil, destroyed rivers, razed forests, drowning coastlines, animal genocides, whirling continents of plastic trash, upended lives, fires and floods – the world’s first social movement founded not in anger or bargaining but in grief, Extinction Rebellion, has appeared.

    Tragedy ∆ Farce: A Litany

    First, they came for the amphibians, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t an amphibian.
    Then they came for the charismatic megafauna, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t one of them either.
    Then they came for the marine life, and I was a little depressed about that because – no more seafood. But I kept quiet about it.

    Then they came for the last Indigenous Peoples, and for the poor – who were, in fact, almost all of the people by then. But, well, whatever.
    Finally, they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out.
    Just a lot of cockroaches, jellyfish, and microbes.
    (And I think they were glad to see me go, to be honest.)

    Acceptance.

    “A willingness to live without hope allows me to accept the heartbreaking truth of our situation, however calamitous it is. Grieving for what is happening to the planet also now brings me gratitude for the smallest, most mundane things […] I have found that it’s possible to reach a place of acceptance and inner peace, while enduring the grief and suffering that are inevitable as the biosphere declines.” Dahr Jamail, author of The End of Ice, in a recent interview.

    As the Uncivilization Manifesto reminds us, “The end of the world as we know it is not the end of the world full stop.” Acceptance of death is not the place where activity ends, but the only place from which activity that is has real potential to sustain meaningful life can spring. Because acceptance of death is an acknowledgment of truth, and only from a place of truth can any action come that understands life well enough to be beneficial to it.

    Acceptance doesn’t mean accommodation with oppression and injustice. It means acknowledgment that we aren’t trying to prevent the apocalypse, because civilization is the apocalypse. We are trying to open a path to a future that is worth living in. Our feelings are experienced individually, and they do not directly impact the material world. But they are not irrelevant. The path to truth for a complex being must itself be complex. On the day a hundred thousand people come into the streets to grieve together for the lost reefs, the lost forests, and all the unnumbered victims, human and non-human, of civilization’s rise, we can mark the beginning of a new era in human life on this planet.

    Dark Mountain’s latest anthology, #15, In the Age of Fire, has just been published. Material from its 51 authors and artists is showcased on the project’s website.

    Maitreya: “Share and Save the World”

    Amidst deepening global divisions and intolerance ‘Project Maitreya’ plan to build 1,000 statues of Maitreya Buddha around the world, with the aim, they say, of inculcating an atmosphere of ‘loving kindness’; a positive gesture in a cynical world, supported by the Dalai Lama.

    The coming of Maitreya Buddha was foretold by Gautama Buddha 2,600 years ago. At this time, He said, will come another great teacher, a Buddha by name Maitreya who will inspire humanity to create a brilliant golden civilization based on righteousness and truth. Both of which are widely lacking.

    Who is Maitreya

    According to the esoteric literature, Maitreya is not only the coming Buddha, the fifth, He is the One looked for by all the world’s religions; Krishna for the Hindus, Christ for Christians, the Imam Mahdi of Islam, the messiah for the Jews, and Maitreya Buddha. He is the coming One for all humanity, those with faith and those without, and, according to a wealth of information made known by British writer and painter Benjamin Creme (died 2016, aged 94), over the last forty years or so, Maitreya has been in the everyday world since July 19th 1977 and is gradually emerging into full public work.

    The story of Maitreya’s presence and relative imminent emergence is of, course, highly controversial and will no doubt be rejected by many, but given the weight of evidence and the extraordinary times we are living in, it is a story that warrants our open-minded attention, if such a thing is possible. If true, and I have no doubt that it is, it is the single most important event of our age and offers hope in a time of increasing confusion and despair.

    Maitreya holds the office of World Teacher within our spiritual hierarchy; He is the Prince of Peace, the Lord of Love, the teacher alike of angels and of men. The spiritual hierarchy consists of a large group of Perfected men – Masters of Wisdom and Lords of Compassion, and their disciples of various grades. It is from this great center that the teacher has emerged throughout the ages. Whether it be Rama, Confucius, Zoroaster, Krishna, Shankaracharya, Gautama Buddha, Jesus or Mohammed.

    The existence of the spiritual hierarchy was first made known by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (who lived with senior members of the hierarchy for some years), in 1875 when her seminal work, The Secret Doctrine was first published and The Theosophical Society established. The Agni Yoga teachings (between 1924 and 1938), transcribed by another remarkable Russian woman, Helena Roerich was also a work of hierarchy; then came a highly detailed collection of writings penned by Alice A. Bailey, followed by books and lectures by Benjamin Creme who like Blavatsky, Bailey and Helena Roerich had a close relationship with a senior member of the hierarchy. It’s worth also noting Krishnamurti’s contacts with hierarchy, which are well chronicled in Mary Lutyens’s biography of him. Despite these works knowledge about the existence of the hierarchy remains largely unknown, particularly in the west.

    Signs of the time

    We live in a cynical world, skepticism and open-minded enquiry is healthy, but cynicism suffocates the truth and denies the wonder of life. In such an atmosphere to talk of the coming of a World Teacher and miraculous unexplained events is to be branded a deluded dreamer, but over the last thirty-five years or so a plethora of signs have been seen throughout the world that suggest something amazing is afoot.

    All manner of ‘miracles’, huge numbers of sightings of unidentified flying objects, impossible happenings that happen, occurring at this particular time in unprecedented numbers: Mysterious patterns of light wash across the surface of buildings, icons weep, olive oil and blood, Hindu stone deities drink milk across continents, huge crosses of light appear in windows of churches and homes, frescos clean themselves; vast complex crop circles appear in seconds, moving ‘stars’ are seen in the sky, changing color and shape.

    The corporate main stream media, acting to perpetuate the commercialization of everything and everyone, has no interest in such things and so they go largely unreported, but they have happened, continue to happen and in numbers never before recorded.

    Such extraordinary happenings are signs of Maitreya’s presence in the world; signs that make us think and wonder; impossible happenings quieten and liberate the mind, shattering certainty. They proclaim that there is more to life than material satisfaction, that sitting beneath the noisy surface a world of meaning exists, a world that has been buried beneath material desire and the pursuit of sensory pleasure

    Humanity has lost its way, reached false conclusions and built a civilization based upon totally erroneous values. As a result the world is besieged by a series of interconnected crises, some of which – the environmental catastrophe and the threat of nuclear conflict – threaten the survival of all life on Earth. Maitreya comes to work with us to overcome the many difficulties we face, to offer guidance and inspire humanity to create a just world in which, as He says, “no man lacks, where no two days are alike, where the Joy of Brotherhood manifests through all men.”

    Collaboration and sharing

    Maitreya does not come to establish a new religion or to attract followers. He is concerned with the major issues facing humanity; the creation of peace, safeguarding the environment, banishing poverty and needless starvation, ensuring good quality, secure housing for all, as well as universal health care and education.

    His teachings are straightforward and practical. They fall into two overlapping categories, general guidance aimed at humanity as a whole and teachings for the individual. He comes to “teach the art of self-realization, which is neither an ideology nor a religion, but benefits people of all religions and those who have none.” Like others before Him, Maitreya affirms that man/woman is divine; “you are the Self, He says, a divine being; Suffering is caused by identification with anything and everything which is not the Self. Ask yourself, ‘Who am I?’ You will see that you are identified either with matter (the body), or with thought (the mind) or with power (spirit). But you are none of these.”

    In a series of 140 astonishing messages given through Benjamin Creme between September 1977 and May 1982, Maitreya outlined His plans and presented fragments of His teachings. In message number 81 He addresses humanity as a whole when He asks, “how can you be content with the modes within which you now live: when millions starve and die in squalor; when the rich parade their wealth before the poor; when each man is his brother’s enemy; no man trusts his brother? For how long must you live thus my friends? For how long can you support this degradation?” It is a question many of us continually ask, a question that arises out of the entrenched social injustice that surrounds all of us.

    The answers to many of our problems He says will be found in sharing. In message number 82 He states that, His task is to “show you how to live together peacefully as brothers. This is simpler than you imagine, My friends, for it requires only the acceptance of sharing…sharing He says, ‘underlies all progress for mankind.” Maitreya comes to inspire humanity to make the necessary changes ourselves. Together with the Masters of Wisdom, He will make suggestions only, point out the choices before us, and the opportunities. If there is a world savior it must be humanity itself, if the planet is to be healed, peace and social justice created and a new civilization built, it will be done by humanity; the responsibility is ours.