Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Know Thyself

Arrival, oil painting by author, 48 x 60"

Some 2,500 years ago a city smaller than Atlanta produced painting,
sculpture, architecture, theater, poetry, literature and pottery which
stand as monumental foundation for the Art we experience around us in the
west today. In 1982 I stood before the Acropolis in Athens, awed at the
sophistication of a people whose technology was mightily primitive
compared to what has developed since. Yet they were able to construct an
incredibly advanced civilization which despite our tools, we merely echo.
Another aspect that we mirror is a missed opportunity: Instead of
building a just and gentle society providing all with basic necessities
and leisure to enjoy a creative, celebratory life, they constructed
impressive art and implements of war and domination (I know, I know,
Sparta was only a stone’s throw west).

In their invention of democracy however they laid a foundation for the
possibility which we have, so far, squandered. Until our time it
has been by and large a pleasant if utopian dream. With the development of
nuclear weapons, and a consuming population growing exponentially, that
utopia is an imperative that will emerge when we have put an end to war,
domination, injustice and environmental degradation. Imperative because,
if we are not successful we will perish in the uninhabitable environs of a
wasted life system, well underway.

Perhaps Greek’s greatest gift was the admonition Know Thyself, for that is
the means by which we might yet save ourselves. What do those two words
mean? If Self is consciousness then attending to one’s consciousness would be
following that dictum. This would mean becoming the observer, noting the
passing thoughts and emotions and noting also, they are not YOU… YOU are
the observer. Thus released from the captivity of those thoughts,
emotions… karma… one is ONESELF, the consciousness that exists in, indeed
IS , the great now, the eternal moment. That moment is not one of a series
but, as the eternal qualification indicates, is the core out of which the
temporal world emerges and recedes. Some traditions refer to this as
illusion, recognizing that what seems so physical and permanent is
an insubstantial if beautiful pageant, which felt knowledge frees one
to join the exhilarating dance of life.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Shock Doctrine - I'm shocked!

This drawing was done in the early 80s when Reagan was using such terms to manipulate us, "Stay the course! If you're just patient, you'll see great prosperity. Any day now, trust me."

Naomi Klein has done us all a favor and lifted the veil that has hidden the manipulators of the levers of power, revealing a very disturbing reality. The ruling economic theory from the great depression to Reagan was Keynesian, a theory characterized by the notion that government should intervene to protect the people from the worst excesses of capitalism. With Reagan came the beginning of the ascendancy of the Chicago School of Economics in our fair land, led by Milton Friedman, a former fringe group that cleverly, and viciously, insinuated itself into a global movement. Characterizing itself as “pure capitalism” it sold a seductive elixir that promised prosperity for all, in the form of trickle down benefits, as an automatic result of a market freed from government regulation. Not surprisingly the Chicago School was heavily funded by large corporations.

Implementation of the theory, Disaster Capitalism as Klein puts it in her subtitle, is everywhere hindered by the resistance of those who will “initially” have to bear the pain of its enactment. The “initial” suffering in every case that it has been tried is actually permanent. When not permanent, that is invariably because its rules were thrown out. When throwing out the Chicago School rules created relief and an improvement in the economy the “Chicago Boys” did not hesitate to claim credit. In fact it was it’s earlier failure in the 1920-30s that nudged Keynesianism into being, partially at least as a reaction to the competing appeal of socialism, an idea that had not quite yet been totally demonized. The program is best introduced in dictatorships where the pesty population can be persuaded, using the usual methods, to stand out of the way. Failing that the next strategy is to have everything in place awaiting some crisis under cover of which the new rules can be quickly slipped in place. Notice how, for all the talk of “freedom”, the theory virtually requires extreme anti-democratic measures.

In her enlightening book Klein walks us through a thoroughly depressing series of successes for the “boys”: Chile, Argentina, Brazil, England, Poland, China, South Africa, Russia and of course the U.S., where Katrina and 911 were used as crisis leverage points by Friedman’s friend Paul Wolfowitz and the other, ah… vultures around W. Success in these cases is a bit different than the advertisement. It would seem that since the adherents proselytize relentlessly, with religious fervor, and since their “successes” always result in the impoverishment of the many and the enrichment of the few, and since they call this success, this must be their actual goal. But like the republican party and conservatives in general, a politician can’t very well state to the electorate, and expect to be elected, that, “When I’m elected I’ll work as hard as I can to bring back Fuedalism.” So seductive, flowery, and divisive rhetoric must obscure the betrayal until it is way too late.

Monday, November 15, 2010


What’s on offer from the powers that be? Reading Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the U.S., one encounters a chronicle of class warfare - extremely wealthy individuals and, now, corporations, using their cash flow to distort democracy, targeting “liberals” and supporting “conservatives”. Those who might question or oppose, however mildly, complete domination by these funders, the “liberals”, and those who will zealously by-any-means-necessary pursue their agenda, the “conservatives” are locked in battle, with one side, the former, having support of the people they represent and the latter having the advantage of lavish funding. The lavish funding allows, via the media owned by said latter, indoctrination of the natural supporters of the former such that they come to see their friends as their enemies and their enemies as their friends. Thus the choice of “poison” ends up rather narrow and none of it very good for our future prospects as a species, who require clean water, soil, air and justice.

Monday, November 8, 2010

PSC Comments

Citizen comment to the Georgia Public Service Commission, 11/8/2010, in opposition to a Georgia Power rate increase request.

There are many reasons to oppose pouring scarce public resources into nuclear projects:

1. the high cost of nuclear reactors, the long lead time to operation and the unacceptably high water usage and thermal pollution.

2. the fact that a nuclear plant to a terrorist, is a pre-positioned nuclear device that can create a sacrificial population and an immense dead zone.

3. Even without the terrorist factor, safety is problematic. Chernobyl proves that when an accident happens it can contaminate large areas for long periods. The planet’s circulation system of rivers, currents and wind patterns insure that contamination is not strictly local. A recent New York Academy of Science report puts the world-wide Chernobyl death count near one million, an assertion it would be criminal to ignore.

4. Since the early 1980s, just after reactors began operating in Maryland, Calvert County's cancer death rate jumped from 2 percent below to 16 percent above the state rate.

5. The more plutonium we create the greater the risk of proliferation. Policy-makers seem oblivious to this troubling fact, exhibiting a pathological, alcoholic-like denial.
Over 100 radioactive chemicals are created in reactors. Most is stored as waste, but some is released into local air and water on a routine basis. These cancer-causing chemicals enter human and wild-life bodies through air, food and water. Releasing these toxins into our delicate life system, and leaving what isn’t released to countless, unconsulted future generations to safeguard, can hardly be considered responsible, especially considering that there are benign alternatives.

6. Solar technology and wind generators suffer from none of these liabilities – no terrorist would have the least interest in them. No accident involving these sustainable technologies could conceivably threaten even small populations let alone the life system.

The Institute for Energy and Environmental Research has released a publication titled, Carbon-Free and Nuclear Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy, as a book and a free download on their website This proposal persuasively details alternatives to dirty energy and could save us a great deal of suffering and wasted treasury. Please do not enable the addicted, oppose this rate increase.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Utopia Anyone?

The city of Atlanta, along with the downtown business association, has been accused of conspiring to close the Task Force for the Homeless, a facility that as many as 700 homeless men depend on. The Task Force backs up and takes overflow from other shelters. Criticism of the Task Force includes, in my experience, “They’re not a good neighbor, they enable criminality…”, “They only warehouse the homeless.”, implying that the other facilities do more though, not mentioned, is for fewer and never addressed is what would become of 700 men if the facility closed. Some argue that business interests covet the valuable property. Others emphasize the negative effect on tourism and downtown business of hundreds of homeless men in various states ranging from simply “unsightly” to in-your-face panhandling to mugging, intoxication and mental and physical illness.

The difficulty of the homeless problem is huge. No surprise that some eagerly jump to the solution of pushing it onto someone else’s turf, passing blatantly unconstitutional measures like the so-called Urban Camping Ordinance that gave the police authority to arrest anyone who set their bag down as an illegal “camper”. Business persons in suits who set their brief cases down would not of course have been at risk. Imagine that the city supported the Task Force fully, even expanding it and putting resources into addressing the panhandling, criminal and illness aspects. Likely word would get out and the homeless would gravitate to Atlanta, compounding this intractable problem.

Homelessness is only one of many challenges we face, and given the election results this week, we’ve apparently decided (with a little nudge from wealthy ideologues) our best strategy is denial. Another course would be to look at where we want to be and set about figuring out how to get there. Here’s my vision: we need to devise a way to provide food, clothing, shelter, education and healthcare for the world’s population in a way that doesn’t despoil the life system. This means that instead of getting up every morning and chasing money all day we put our creative energy into that task. Any ideas anyone? Probably won’t happen this week, probably not even before the turn of the year but the alternative is extinction by one or more of three intertwined global threats – nuclear or other WMD holocaust and/or pollution and/or overpopulation, hastened and ushered along by our dear old friend, denial.