Monday, January 30, 2017

Alternate Realm

I found this in my muse-folder one recent morning:

beneath the polarized & poisonous air
lies the breath of life
the state of being
the realm of beauty, joy & creativity

Seems like my meandering thoughts tend to channel toward composing blogposts or facebook replies these days. I had been in one of those discussions where I stupidly think I'm going to turn around an extremist point of view. I had expressed the opinion that voter suppression swung the election to Trump. A supporter of that sociopath, excuse me, candidate, replied with outrage, demanding, “What voter suppression?!” I couldn't at first remember Greg Palast's name but went to Democracy Now's website and found the interview with him on that subject. I posted the link to facebook and immediately got a reply, “Really, using a left wing conspiracy nutjob to make your case? Pretty weak.” 

This reply reminded me, once again, how we get our information from sources we trust, he from his, me from mine. There's a certain amount of guess work going on but of course I think his sources are right wing propaganda and he thinks mine are left wing “nutjobs”. I do trust my sources. Certain writers, thinkers seem to me to have a solid analysis of what's going on (Naomi Klein, Michael Parenti and others). I've fact-checked them and they come through fine. Others are obvious mouth pieces for the Koch brothers and their billionaire friends and if that's all you're exposed to you're likely to buy into it. When you then hear another point of view, like Noam Chomsky say, it's tempting to dismiss it, as the lavishly-funded and so wide-spread Koch pov has been careful to caricature and slander any deviance from their party line. Now you're invested, identifying, as with religion, with the first pov that got to you, taking criticism of it personally. This is why the Right takes so seriously the task of monopolizing the sources of information, the mainstream media, the universities, public schools etc; They want to rule, to enjoy their power, privilege and property, unhindered by an awakened citizenry.

So my little poem, if you can call it that, expressed the discouragement I felt at the hostile, locked-in-place opinions I often encounter. An escape to another landscape is very appealing. That is available, by stepping back and seeing the political goings on from a cosmic perspective, as the poem does. Another source of solace is the recent, post-inaugeral Woman's March which so lifted my spirits. To be among thousands of cheerful citizens expressing, in good-humored signs and costume, resistance to the hateful agenda of the new regime, that can change your mood in a hurry. To see youthful and not-so youthful demonstrators walking by rows of cops, shaking their hands, even hugging the smiling officers... that can raise your hope threshold a bit.Enough to entertain a completely ridiculous and modest proposal: why not put our great brains to work figuring out how we can divert the energy presently going into chasing money into creating a system that provides food, clothing, shelter, education and healthcare for all the inhabitants of the planet, in a way that doesn't despoil the life system on which we all depend?

Outlandish as this proposal may seem, if we don't make it our main priority, along with a commitment to non-violent resolution of conflict, then we will have war and with the kind of weapons available and developing, the planet and its people will perish in nuclear holocaust, if not directly then in the aftermath when the life-system breaks down, from radiation, nuclear winter... or from the pollutants that our life choices are more slowly but definitely disbursing.

The text in bold is taken from one of the facebook debates mentioned... but back to the cosmic. Macro and Micro infinity, makes ya feel small but when you shift attention away from predations emanating out of the White House and vicinity and simply observe the thoughts and emotions coursing through you, and below that, when you let them go, the felt experience of being brings such peace and joy that none of that other stuff matters much. Ironically though, out of this state, that Tolle calls enlightenment, will come, or could come, or might come, the world of peace and justice and environmental sustainability we crave, because with ego diminished by presence is gone the fear at the root of war, selfishness, greed, in a word, the dysfunction carrying us at speed to the abyss.

Painting, God's Placement God'sSize Ferguson's Color  by the author

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Mulling: on consciousness

What is happening – I'm watching a movie, a little disturbed by the violence, take a break to pee... suddenly I'm aware, a pang of fear... the conceptual reality-bubble I create to walk around in is burst,... I feel vulnerable, I'm standing at the toilet but the greater world is just beyond these walls, with its terrible indifference, its marauding criminals, doppler sirens, terrorists and accidents roaming the streets, major hostility... and cancer... and it's true “I” am vulnerable, “I” understood as the passing personality, the physical form, by all indications mortal, will perish... how to identify instead with the eternal, the source out of which temporality emerges and recedes?.... not in a conceptual bubble but in reality, dancing uninhibitedly in joyous time tempo? Well, Eckhart Tolle suggests being the observer is how you get there. Notice thoughts, emotions, fear, dis-ease in this case... watch it evaporate in the light of consciousness, replaced by awareness.

The great social critic, Michael Parenti, suggests that the imaging or connecting with the whole, ONE, referred to above, and in the writings of mystics, is just more self delusion, more conceptual bubble. I suppose he would say that we are conscious beings due to the complicated biological intersections of our DNA, bodies, brain and other organs, and when it dies, we die with it. He probably wouldn't object to characterizing the process as mysterious and profound, impressively, massively complicated, wondrously effective. BUT... I want to argue that interconnection is a word that attempts to point at a feeling we have, variously called mysticism, peak experience, harmony, groove, intuition, god, muse,... self-evident gestalt. It's self-evidently miraculous this being, and intelligent, and what energises us, is us. I can't accept that as illusion, much easier to accept physical reality, as in Eastern thought, as the illusion. Tolle's point is that becoming the observer brings into awareness the fact that we are that energy. Whatever the fate of the personality, very likely oblivion, “we” are that energy, our true self and somehow feeling it, knowing it, aligning with it, brings peace, joy and creativity.

Our thoughts, and “learning”, may tell us that in awareness we lose our protection, the story we tell ourselves, whatever it is, say middle class affluence, safety and predictability - that story drops away and we either flee back to our comfort zone or experience fear... until we recognize, feel, that that fear is just a thought/emotion, that there could be but isn't right now a threat to our safety (our in the limited sense of the personality). Even when we experience, say, a serious cancer diagnosis... even then, there is no threat right now, just a speculation about the future. Not that we deny it, we just put it in its place, the future and we've always known that we'll die someday so, though it might be eminent, it isn't NOW. As we enter into the final stretch, as the suffering begins, then we will have to cope, but not now. Now we can do what has always been at our beckon call - still the mind, enjoy being, go with the creative impulses that arise.

To ego, “I” am everything. To ONE, “I” am nothing, well, a small blip on a universe-sized screen. That is the personality but that “I” is ultimatelly illusion, what animates is who “I” am, at root.

Not to belabor a point but to start with what is known: we sense the world and we think the world, we experience the world via sensory input and thought. When we become, as Tolle suggests, the observer, when thoughts and emotions are suspended, put in the background, we become who he says we are, consciousness.

Cancerous Planet

Our beautiful and fragile Planet has been suffering a lingering and growing malignancy, the diagnosis in dispute, second and third opinions all over the map. The recent U.S. presidential election is but one phase of a chemo/radiation treatment, prognosis dire, chances of survival questionable. What to do? Get centered, escape ego, diminish mind chatter, get present. The answer to that “what to do” question will then become obvious.

Footnote: The 1% want you to hold certain opinions and they take some trouble and expense to make that happen. Until you are willing to carefully examine your point of view, comparing it to what their campaign strives for, and deciding whether you arrived there independently or by their manipulation, you are very possibly merely one of their pawns, standing in opposition to your own interests.

Painting, Foci, by the author

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Friendly Fascism, Bertram Gross

One of the challenges Bertram Gross' book, Friendly Fascism, presents the reader with is this: if your views coincide with those that a major, long-term, well-funded propaganda campaign has aimed to instill, wouldn't it be prudent to reconsider those views? We don't come into this world armed with disinformation detectors. We tend to trust those around us and more or less uncritically adopt their values. Born into a Muslim world, chances are you'll be Muslim. Born into a Catholic family in Italy? Guess what religion you'll probably embrace? Born into a capitalist country with a highly effective indoctrination system chances are...

An interesting quote early in the book states that the United States is run by and for about 5,000 wealthy persons (mostly men of course) backed by about 50,000 beavers eager to take their places. This is the establishment. Gross disagrees a bit with the numbers, estimating it at 250,000, but accepting the basic premise. The difference between Friendly Fascim and the earlier, version typified by Nazi Germany and Musolini's Italy, is one of brute force but also in that instead of the state plundering industry it assists industry in plundering the population.

During the 1930s corporate excesses had pretty much alienated the general population. On top of that, the suffering brought about by the great depression added to the “danger” of people opening to an alternative to capitalism. The 1%, in self defense, wanting to keep their privileged position, gathered considerable resources in an effort to instill in the population some basic “truths”: capitalism is good; socialism is bad. In fact, they claimed capitalism has been replaced by, various terms here but mixed economy is one of the favorites. Thus instead of the profit-driven, dog-eat-dog paradigm, we now have a balance of interests, all represented equally as if guided by an invisible, benevolent hand. Everybody's happy, right? Well, if you're not it's due to your own individual failings. The system is perfect. We've arrived at the ultimate way to economically organize ourselves. Everywhere the 1% had influence, which was virtually everywhere, this message was amplified. Those who adopted the message, like house servants, stood to profit, their career paths lubricated. Those who resisted stood to be left behind, on the street. Owning the major media, sitting on the boards of universities and other institutions, funding the campaigns of politicians, tended to stack the deck, making certain views “respectable”, others beyond the pale. It is an exceptional person who questions received wisdom. Their numbers are insignificant and tolerable, though they need to be kept marginalized, so long as the mainstream message dominates everyone else.

Gross goes on to sketch existent mixed economy/capitalism, its alienation for many if not all, in terms of non-materialist values. The 60s rebellion and rejection of crass materialism may have eventually returned to the fold but brought an enrichment not to be denied, nor exaggerated. The writer describes the capitalist society as fostering material abundance for some and envy for others, and disillusionment for the super successful as they discover an empty pot at the end of the rainbow. Some of course then pursue with even greater vigor multiplications of the materialist prize, maybe most since visible alternatives are not obvious. Those who do find alternatives or who decline to remount the treadmill tend to not be who achieves power and so perpetuate the system.

In a section on the Shrinking of Capitalism, Gross breaks from his critique of capitalism to portray the spread of communism in a somewhat alarming or at least ambiguous way, making dire, even laughable, in hindsight, predictions. This was ten years before the fall of the Soviet Union but Gross is predicting the real possibility of communism taking over the Carribbean, Central America, Portugal (which had already happened he claimed – there was a military coup overthrowing a right wing regime), Spain, France and Italy. This clearly represents establishment fears after World War II. but not reality. There were actually many opportunities for peaceful co-existence that the U.S. chose to ignore since it would entail limitations on their emperious designs. Their fears of a successful socialist project were certainly also a factor. Why Gross makes this odd turn when until then his critique seemed spot on may be accounted for by his immersal in government, the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, especially the latter, a solid member of the religion of anti-communism and a victim or conspirator in that “reeducation” campaign mentioned above.

In 1975 the Tri-lateral Commission released a report on the Crisis of Democracy. The Commission was formed to search for a managerial formula to keep the concentration of wealth intact. Some of its own members dissented to its language as the unspoken rule among the oligarchy was that it was important to display a public pretence of democracy. The report unambiguously called for less democracy, responding to the 60s movements around civil and human rights, oppression, war profiteering, empire and corporate manipulation of government. There was no dissent however about the basic principle, the need for oligarchic integration to ward off the threat of “too much democracy”.

Gross discusses the business cycle and the professional economists, their self-serving theories and shenanigans. Roosevelt attempted to institutionalize the right to work (very unlike the coopted anti-union use of this phrase), wanting full employment and security for workers. The business community opposed this on ideological grounds, feeling that government regulations should be minimal and that full employment meant a loss for them in bargaining power. When there was plenty of work then workers could leave for better opportunities or demand better working conditions and pay, reducing profits and control. The business view was that unemployment should be as high as could be tolerated, the more the better, for them. Roosevelt's project died with him and the ascendency of Truman. Anticipating Roosevelt's death business interests had maneuvored to replace Vice President Wallace, a progressive, with the more reactionary Truman. Thirty years later the Humphrey-Hawkins bill attempted to reinstate some of Roosevelt's ideas but they were stripped from the bill and not long after the vicious attack on unions and workers began, full steam with Reagan.

The arrival of Friendly Fascism, Gross warns, will be on “little cat's feet” not a violent sudden coup. So gradually that the general population will not notice and even activists will miss much of it, realizing its full takeover only when it is too late. The book lays out eight paths, a chapter each, by which Gross sees Friendly Fascism coming to full power, then a section on the opposing force, True Democracy, which he sees as weaker but not yet defeated. He ends with a chapter, What You Can Do. 37 years have passed since the publication of this book so it is tempting to conclude that it is, indeed, too late. This was where I personally stood until seeing a clip of Amy Goodman interviewing Bernie Sanders after the election. His statement moved me to reevaluate my stance: “You do not have the right to give up. Too much is at stake - our democracy and our life system.”