Sunday, December 13, 2015

Three Authors, Two Issues

My reviews of Chomsky's books, Power and Terror and Nuclear War and Environmental Catastrophe are recent blogposts (11/4 & 20/24). Chomsky's political books amass impressive evidence for the thesis that the right wing of the wealthy class of inherited and corporate wealth, primarily in the U.S., and their many minions, use its disproportionate influence on government and other institutional life to maintain and expand a nice threesome - power, profits and privilege. Ownership of the media and the funding of political campaigns are important aspects of their means of controlling the State in its domestic affairs, policies and foreign alliances. The latter build empire in that they are aimed at suppressing, at all costs, any questioning of or attempts to escape from the global corporate system, a system that favors their short-term wealth and threatens the well-being of the rest of humanity and the life system on which we, ironically including them, depend.

Naomi Klein's book, This Changes Everything, argues persuasively and passionately that we are speedily approaching extreme disruption of our civilization, possibly extinction of our species. The chief obstacle to addressing this grave threat is the system of capitalism that is devouring the planet's ecology, a system incompatible with what it will take to avoid catastrophe. Klein's sub-title, Capitalism versus the Climate, makes this clear and her book elaborates that point along with itemizing the threat and underlining the hope embedded in a serious activism.

A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle examines the psychological dysfunction at the root of the crisis described in Klein and Chomsky's books. Tolle's notion of ego, the excessive conceptualization that goes on in our heads, blocks us from presence in the world. Presence in Tolle's view allows us to plug into the intelligence that is self-evident in the sprawling reality surrounding us, the macro and micro cosm. We feel the interconnection of all things, dis-identify from the conceptual creation of ego with its fearful, competitive positioning for advantage and stroking, shifting identity to essence out of which flows what we call physical reality. what Buddhism might call illusion but which transforms in this shift from dismal arena of brute survival of the powerful to the beautiful and enchanting dance of life. This transformation Tolle encapsulates: “To feel, and thus to know, that you are; and to abide in this deeply rooted state is enlightenment.”

Well, make that four: Christopher Hitchens' posthumous, And Yet..., is a collection of essays, some of which more or less support the Klein/Chomsky/Tolle view, a few of which disturbingly do not, veering into a militant Islamophobia, and at least two that are paragons of wit – My Red-State Odyssey, a hilarious account of a trip through a few of the southren states, and On the Limits of Self-Improvement, a comedic poking fun at his own foibles and attempts to quit smoking, drinking and overeating, an endeavor doomed to a failure not of his personal will, though that certainly wavered, but by the scourge of cancer which killed him only a few years later. The other essays are also well worth the read if you take pleasure in an erudite person of letters at the top of his form.