On Narcissism & Independence

The fourth of July….I realize only now, that is today’s date, as I finish writing this short reflection. How fitting. Independence Day. Now, let us talk about where real independence comes from.

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The real pandemic, or one of the many that afflicts the modern world, is mass narcissistic regression to an infantile state.

The Branch Covidians will not like to hear it, and will foam at the mouth and quiver in apoplectic rage at the mere suggestion that Covid is anything less than the “unprecedented” greatest plague ever to strike the world – even though the Great Plague of 1348 killed 30-50% of Europe, while Covid, by official numbers, killed less than 1/10th of one percent of the human population globally. But the reality is, there are far greater dangers facing us than Covid; and worse, we have collectively lost our minds, and lost all trace of perspective, in response to Covid. Our hysterical reaction is a far greater danger than the virus itself. If we cannot see that reality, then we really are lost, and are deeply dissociated from reality, steeped in an imaginary world of our own delusions.

All talk of independence, freedom or democracy become idle and futile when the people are shackled by mind-forged manacles, and when they scream in shrill shrieks of moral outrage, in defense of their masters, and their chains, any time someone tries to even mention their shackles and chains. This is the surreal world we live in now. Welcome to the Brave New World.

Soma, anyone? Ah, but they are already stuffed to the gills with that.

Viruses are real, and Covid, by official numbers, killed over 1.5 million people world wide in 2020, in its peak year. But there are much greater dangers than that to face. Air pollution kills seven million people a year. Automobile accidents kill 1.3 million. Poverty and hunger kill roughly 25 million a year. Obesity, unhealthy diets and unhealthy lifestyles kill even more. We would do far more for human health, and in terms of reducing preventable deaths, by eliminating poverty and hunger globally (which would require less than one year’s US military budget) and banning fast food and cars – but nobody cares about reality these days. Hysteria is all the rage.

Furthermore, either nuclear, chemical or biological warfare, or ecological destruction, could easily wipe out all of humanity. All these very real, very present, very grave dangers surround us, and all of them, other than car accidents, dwarf Covid in their gravity and their threat to human life.

But all of these truly great dangers have their roots in deeper problems. There are many such problems, including dualistic delusions, which are the root of them all – and the petty rivalries between nations, which could destroy us all through world war, are rooted in delusions of duality and separateness. The environmental crisis is rooted in a bifurcation of the mind, in dualistic delusions: in the delusion that human beings are separate from nature, that nature is an externality, as it is called in economics, and an externality which can be safely ignored. These are pandemic delusions, and they are killing us, and threatening our very survival as a species.

Another pandemic delusion is the belief that we are powerless. That is what underlies the near comatose state of the great majority of the people – including our business and political “leaders”, who are “leading” us into an ecological holocaust, as well as a darkly Orwellian society. The business and political elite are paradoxically drunk with power, and yet, seemingly powerless to change our course, and avert cataclysm. The 99% who are not among the ruling power elite, or the great majority of them, are drunk with another poison: the illusion of powerlessness. This is the pandemic that can wipe out human existence – not the coronavirus, but the mass delusion of powerlessness.

Another pandemic that is happening around the world, at least in the industrialized nations, is mass narcissistic regression. There are many causes of this sociological and psychological phenomenon, which is by far the greater and more dangerous plague of our time, but it is the profound alienation of modern industrial society – alienation from one another, from nature, from our own labour and creative powers, and from our deeper selves – which is driving the deep inner discontent, that in turn drives obsessive consumerism, materialism, chronic escapism, perpetual distraction, and the fragile and infantile narcissism which these things together engender and create.

What is at root of the global pandemic of narcissistic regression? It is a deep loneliness, a deep alienation and disconnectedness, a hollowness (see TS Eliot), and a hunger that is insatiable, because it seeks nourishment from sources that cannot ever fulfill the hunger. It is a loud baby’s cry: “Me! Look at me! Feed me! Love me! Take care of me! Me! Me! Notice me! I am hungry, lonely, and needy! Look at me!” This is narcissistic regression. It is heart-breaking to watch, and it is pandemic.

Another major driver of the trend towards mass infantilization, and its inevitable concommitant of naricissistic regression, is corporate globalization, neoliberalism and the commoditication of all life on Earth, including human beings, and our own bodies and minds. This constellation of deeply interwoven patterns is hegemonic, globally dominant, and is the latest, and probably the last, empire on Earth; and it systematically degrades and dehumanizes us all, while it simultaneously strips people of their voice, their power, the confidence and their dignity; and it furthmore systematically undermines, destroys, eviscerates and annihilates community, social bonds, families, all human connections, and our connections to both nature and to any kind of inner life, while annihilating all values other than profit, economic growth, power, egotism and consumerism. In that death zone created by the new global corporate empire, it is unsurprising, if not inevitable, that millions of people become desperate, and desperately unmoored, uprooted and untethered, and descend into petty forms of tribalism, in an unconscious but desperate effort to replace the wholesome and life-affirming, life-enriching forms of tribalism and community that we have lived with for virtually all of our 200,000 years on Earth, up until this last flicker of a moment in human history, spanning a mere 500 years; and it is equally unsurprising that mass adiction, suicide, violence, hatred, anxiety and depression, escapism, infantile narcissistic regression, and a sense of desperate helplessness, creeps over the peoples’ minds. This is obviously an enormous set of problems to overcome, but I would say that the short term answer is to reconnect, and to rebuild community; and the longer term answer – which by now means this decade, or very soon after, since we are ecologically running out of time – is to shatter the clay feet, as Daniel said, and to shatter the mould of empire itself, once and for all.

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Another of the major causes of the mass regression to an infantile state, is the authoritarianism which now covers the globe, like a thick, oily black smog. Politically, the Western world has moved from being a set of business-run, corporate-ruled, neoliberal pseudo-democracies, towards what can only be accurately described as corporate fascism.

Among the minority of people who still have a pulse, and who are still capable of independent thought, or critical thought, there is a divergence of opinion as to whether to call what is happening Communism, fascism, technocracy, or something else. But we are mincing words here. All of these terms refer to a system of elite rule, marked by authoritarianism. In all of these cases, the people at the top make the rules, and the people below obey, or else have a jackboot planted in their face. The terms mean little. We are talking about different versions of authoritarianism, and they all amount to pretty much the same thing for the people being ruled over: a boot in the face.

The Davos consortium of oligarchs, which now effectively rules over most parts of the world, is simply trying to consolidate and protect its power: against rising power centres in China, Russia and the BRIC nations; and more essentially, against the rising tide of populist democratic rebellion from within. The PR face being presented is that Davos is trying to save the planet. The reality is that the Davos oligarchs are trying to save themselves. The people and the planet are expendable, as far as they are concerned.

Fascism does not have to come with jack boots and black uniforms. It can also come with a smiling face of benevolence, “sustainability” and “inclusivity”, which is far more insidious, and far more dangerous.

The simple truth is, however, when you treat people like children, they behave like children. If you value freedom, democracy, justice, or even basic sanity, you cannot treat people like children, or else they will revert to behaving like children – which means, you cannot abide authoritarianism, which is always, by definition, paternalistic, and always reduces people to the status of children, if not infants.

We have traded a little liberty, so we think, for a little security, not realizing that we will lose both in the bargain. And what is more, when authoritarianism rises, the cult of obedience to authority also rises. The result is that people become terrified of thinking for themselves, since that would mean questioning authority, which they dare not do. It leaves them, therefore, in an infantile state, where their reason and their ability to think are vacated – by their own refusal to question authority, but instead, to defer all thinking and all judgment to the holy ones on high. The trajectory here is not good. In fact, it is extremely dark.

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We should note here that while the majority of people continue to descend ever further into a dissociation from reality, into ever deeper levels of narcissistic regression, and ever deeper into alienation and denial, there is a counter movement in the opposite direction, and it is growing, and growing rapidly and exponentially. I could not give an accurate percentage figure, of course, and it varies widely and greatly based on regions, but it is definitely a global awakening that is underway, even while the majority slide further and further into numbed, dissociative oblivion. It is that brave minority, who value truth above comforting illusions, and who value freedom as well as compassion, who are are best, and only hope, for a future worth living, or in fact, any future at all.

But I digressed into the hopeful side. That is important to note, and to keep in mind; but we were focused here on understanding the problem facing modern industrial society. What can cure this pathological hollowness that leads to a stupor of denial, and a regression to an infantile state?

The answer is not more consumer goods, more entertainment, more ego-fixation, more and better selfies, more clicks on a “like” button, more pats on the head, more status, more fame, more money, more sex, more gadgets and baubles and trinkets. We have tried all of that, and tried it obsessively, ad nauseam, and it has failed. What we need, is to get to the root of the problem, the root of the loneliness, the hunger, the loss of self-esteem, self-confidence and self-dignity, which is the root of all narcissistic regression. We need, in a word, to reconnect.

Reconnection must take place at all four major levels: we need to reconnect with one another, with nature, with our own labour and creative power, and with our deeper selves. And it is the last which is most important, though also most frightening for people accustomed to chronic, habitual, compulsive escapism and distraction, and constant flight away from themselves.

To make the process of reconnecting with our deeper, more authentic selves easier, we might want to start by reconnecting to nature first. That is less frightening for most people, than actually spending time alone with themselves, or even, truly connecting with others.

When we spend more time in nature, we become nourished, in body mind and spirit, and we become more peaceful, more energized, more healthy, more clear-minded, more inspired, more empowered, and more strong. With that renewed strength and vitality, and a little more peace and calm of mind, we can then venture out into the terrifying territory of actually relating to other people – directly, unmediated, face to face, and authentically, without distractions, and without escaping into our cell phones. Then, as we regain our strength, and our basic sanity, through reconnecting with nature and with other people, then we can be brave enough to sit alone in silence and solitude, and reconnect with ourselves.

Or, if you are brave, go straight into meditation retreat, or a solitary wilderness retreat, and reconnect with yourself first – that will heal all other levels, because that is the root of the problem: the disconnection and alienation from ourselves.

The flight into compulsive, constant distraction, escapism, entertainment and consumerism, which hollows out the soul and turns people into fragile infantile narcissists, is driven by a fear of being with others; and even more so, the fear of being alone with oneself. Get comfortable with yourself, face your own dark fears and inner demons, and nothing can frighten you – not even death, and certainly not solitude, or other people.

However we do it, this is what must be done. We must reconnect. If we want world peace, or inner peace, or peace in our families, communities, workplaces or schools, if we want justice, equality, human health or well-being, democracy, freedom, or ecological stewardship and environmental sanity, we must now come to realize that none of this will be possible, so long as we have a society in which the great majority have regressed to an infantile narcissistic state.

First, reconnect; then we can talk about reality, because we have the courage and the maturity, the presence of mind, and the strength of mind and spirit, to deal with reality. At the moment, it is painfully obvious that we do not.

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Independence is a value to be preserved, not simply mouthed. Independence means more than waving a flag. And true independence requires freedom, it requires constitutional rights, and it requires real, meaningful, functioning democracy – and all of these are under full scale, frontal assault, and they are dying rapidly. If we care about any of these values, or even our own survival, in the face of a rapidly escalating environmental emergency, we must first reconnect with ourselves; reconnect with nature as a source of strength, clarity, inspiration and renewal; and reconnect with one another.

United we stand, divided we fall.

We are now falling, and we are falling because we are divided – divided within, divided from nature, and divided from one another. Reconnect. That is step one.

Now we know what to do. Let us make of this day, and every day, a celebration of independence, of freedom, and of our unity amidst diversity, which makes us strong enough to retain our freedom and our independence – or in the case of the present moment in time: to reclaim them.

It is true that government, big business, and international organizations such as Davos (the World Economic Forum), the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the ECB (European Central Bank) are the primary architects and joint rulers of our present world – and also the primary obstacles to the changes we urgently need. But it is not enough, nor is it honest, to place all blame with the ruling elite. We, the people, have a share in the responsibility. And what is important to realize is that if we refuse to own that responsibility, we also refuse to own our power.

You cannot be both powerless and powerful. And if you shun responsibility, you are shunning and disavowing your own power. This is another key dynamic in the mass regression to an infantile narcissistic state: as Aldous Huxley and Erich Fromm both understood, people are afraid of freedom, and they are afraid of their own power – they don’t trust themselves. But it’s a package deal. If you refuse any one of the three – responsibility, your own power, or freedom – you disavow and reject all of them.

That seems to be a perfectly fine arrangement for the majority of people: they are afraid of freedom; they are afraid of their own power; and they certainly don’t want to take responsibility – everything is always someone else’s fault. It’s the Republicans fault, or the Democrats fault, or immigrants….or your wife, or husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, co-workers, boss…. As Thoreau said, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” And there is always someone who can be scapegoated for it.

For the majority today, what matters is being comfortable and perpetually entertained. All else is expendable: including democracy, freedom, human rights….their own dignity. No wonder they are reverting en mass to infantile narcissists.

The ancient Greeks understood that freedom only comes with responsibility. You cannot have one without the other. But when the people fear and shun both responsibility and freedom, and forget the preciousness and the non-negotiability of freedom itself, then we are in a dark and dire state indeed. And that is precisely where we stand now. Or rather, we do not stand at all. We cower and cringe, and hide in the shadows, content to watch Netflix and eat cheesepuffs and pizza, so long as we don’t have to shoulder the terrible burden of freedom – which means taking responsibility for our own life, and our own thoughts, views, emotions and actions. Better to bow down to the authorities, and engage in the wishful thinking which we know very well is a self-deceit, and tell ourselves that the people at the top are competent, sane and benign, and they will take care of everything for us. Just give us a soother and put us to bed. Preferably with the TV on.

Democracy means the people share the power. This is the fundamental premise and foundation. Without that, we have elite rule, which is oligarchy, of one form or another; and historically, however well-intentioned that might have started out, it always ends in tyranny, and in a nightmare society. This is the historical lesson of all lessons. This should be taught as Civics or Political-Economy 101. But the majority of people have no sense of history, and now, we are doomed to repeat our worst mistakes – unless we wake up from our collective stupor, and very, very soon.

Democracy means that we share in the responsibility for our communities, our nations, and the world we live in. If we shun that responsibility, then we have no one to blame but ourselves. And worse, if the people continue to disavow their freedom, their responsibility for the communities, nations and world we live in, their power, and their democracy, we will see an Orwellian dystopia that could very well make Stalinist Russia look like a summer picnic at the park.

We should note here, also, that compassion requires freedom. Authoritarianism is rationalized by its claim to be compassionate, for the greater good. It is a lie. It is never compassionate to shackle people in chains, whether physical or mental chains. Furthermore, authoritarianism always ends in genocide. That can hardly be called compassionate. Respecting freedom is intrinsic to true compassion. Furthermore, compassion requires firmness, and at times, ferocity. Jesus did not drive the money changers from the temple with a limp piece of leaf lettuce, but with a whip.

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Five billion people are living in poverty. Another billion are sinking. The middle class is being eviscerated by corporate globalization, neoliberalism, and the feeding frenzy of the super-rich, under the wealth-extracting assault of a vicious, and highly conscious class warfare. People are under severe stress, their hopes thread bare or gone. We have poisoned our air, water, soil and food with toxic chemicals, and our hormonal balance is shot, due to hormone-disrupting pesticides we are spraying into our food, air and water. We are living with perpetual sensory overload, due to our technological fixation, our “news” and “social media” addiction, and our addiction to constant stimulation, rushing, distraction and entertainment; and simultaneously, we are experiencing the pathogenic and disorienting effects of sensory deprivation, due to our alienation from one another, from nature, and from the living world. In fact, the alienation and disconnection from one another, from nature and from ourselves, which creates neurosis and pathologies, both physical and mental, and creates a kind of sensory deprivation, drives the addiction to chronic hyper-stimulation, which then causes an unrecognized and unacknowledged, chronic sensory overload, creating a numbing of the senses, which creates further sensory deprivation, and further alienation and disconnection, which drives further desperate addiction to hyper-stimulation, escapism, distraction, consumerism, and other surrogates for real life and real connection. It is a negative feedback loop, and a downward spiral, until and unless the cycle is broken, and we disconnect and unplug, long enough to begin to reconnect. All this is taking place while we face a truly existential crisis, and at least unconsciously, or semi-consciously, people are facing existential fear – not only from increasing economic insecurity, but from our continued assault on the Earth that sustains us. Considering all of this, and considering we have seen the social bonds which sustain us weakened, undermined and frayed, I would say that people are holding together remarkably well, all things considered. But what is abundantly clear, is that the avoidance of reality must cease – no matter how understandable it may be.

By the way, I say here to the people of the Third World – the “developing world”, the Global South, where five out of seven billion people and the majority of humanity lives: take a long, hard look at this picture of the “leading”, “developed” industrialized nations. It is not a pretty picture. There are many positive aspects to these societies, and I have focused on the dark side here, but the dark side is very real, and it is slowly killing us, killing the planet, and driving people into sickness and insanity. Is this really what you want to become? Do you really want to become like us? Think again. We must end poverty, yes, most certainly and most urgently. But it is equally urgent that we find a different and better vision of development, growth, progress, the good life, and success. Do not follow the path of the industrialized nations. They are on a collision course with reality, and are headed for collapse. Not even the industrialized nations can continue in their present course. The whole thing, as Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki has said, is a slow motion train wreck: “We’re headed for a brick wall at a hundred miles an hour, and everybody is arguing about where they are going to sit.” That is what happens when a society sinks into the rotting bog of materialism, consumerism, entertainment addiction, vicarious living and chronic, obsessive escapism, and loses the critically essential balance and integration between the individual and the larger community: the society decays from within, until or unless those patterns are corrected, or else, the society simply collapses. Apparently, up to the present, we have been too dim-witted and steeped in a stupor of consumer addiction, entertainment frenzy and denial to realize we are racing with break-neck speed towards a very high cliff. And it is not at all clear that we will change course in time to avert a collapse of our “civilization”. That is the picture of the industrialized North and the West. Don’t follow us. We will only lead you over the cliff. Learn from our mistakes. Find a better way.

The ruling power elite, to use the term of the great sociologist, C. Wright Mills, have become sociopaths. There is no milder term for it. The real rulers, who are the billionaires of Davos, are truly sociopathic – a million killed in Iraq alone, in order to control oil profits, proves it starkly enough, as do myriad other examples; and their loyal minions in government are simply well-paid political prostitutes. Meanwhile, the great majority have succumbed to what Eleanor Roosevelt called, “a sleeping sickness of the soul”. As Thoreau said, they have become wooden. And as the Hopi warned, “When the people become wooden, a great calamity will befall them.”

That great calamity is bearing down upon us now.

The great social psychologist, Erich Fromm, was right: in modern industrial society, “Normal only exists in relation to a profoundly abnormal norm.” The old normal was pathological and delusional. The “new normal” is even more so. And yet, we drift.

We have become what T. S. Eliot described, “We are the hollow men”. The zombie apocalypse has already arrived – and we are it. This is why the millions of dedicated activists, despite millions of small victories, are still losing the battle on virtually every front – in terms of justice, peace, equality, freedom, democracy, constitutional rule and human rights, and the environment: because the great majority have become the living dead, and are numb to the world. They are in a walking coma, and are sleep-walking toward the cliff which fast approaches.

This is the way the world ends
this is the way the world ends
this is the way the world ends
Not with a bang
but with the obsessive clicking of a mouse.

The opium and cyanide drip is too intoxicating. They refuse to pull it out of their arms. We are a society of addicts, and it is a perpetual escape from reality, from one another, and from ourselves, which is the essence of our addiction. That addiction is now becoming terminal. We either overcome the aversion to reality, or we will soon cease to exist – and death by addiction is never pretty, never peaceful, but always tragic, and grim. Yet, still, the deathly pall of living death hangs over them, and they remain numb, and in a stupor of denial, and avoidance of reality.

We are hell-bent on entertaining ourselves right into our own self-made armageddon. And we will be numbed to the core, with Netflix and Doritos, when it comes.

This is the stupor we must shake off, and now. Rouse the people, and now. Remind them of their power. Remind them of their better selves.

There is a folk story that is told in Switzerland (my roots are Swiss, English and Canadian), about a fisherman who sat on the end of a pier, happy and content, when one day a man walked up to him, and offered him some free advice (often a dubious proposition, at best). The man said, “Why don’t you buy a fishing boat?” The fisherman asked, “Why would I do that?” The man said, “Because then you could catch more fish.” And the fisherman replied, “Why would I want to do that?” To which the man said, “Because then you could buy another boat, and then another, and soon you could have five boats!” And the fisherman said, “Why would I want to do that?” To which the man responded, “Because then you could catch so many fish, you wouldn’t have to work anymore, and you could just relax.” And the fisherman said, “But I am relaxed now.”

Thoreau observed of modern man – I am paraphrasing here: He has set a very clever kind of trap, with which to catch some great treasure, but caught himself in it instead. There is a saying in Switzerland (I am making a post-script addition to the essay, many days after writing it, and there is a risk I am repeating myself, but I, too, feel too much time-constraint to go back and check! Aren’t we all a bundle of contradictions, as Emerson said?) – in any case, the saying is, “Complicated works too.” But it would be even more accurate to say, complicated works, until it doesn’t. Sooner or later, our complications become our self-defeat. Modern industrial society is experiencing the pain of that slow-dawning realization now.

Chogyam Trungpa was right: we are running in circles, with great speed – the first thing to do, is to slow down. Only then we can be able to pause long enough to reflect. And from reflection, comes clarity. From clarity comes intelligent response. Confusion, delusion, and great speed, are the hallmarks of our modern, technologically-entranced, digitally-fixated industrial society. And that breeds only self-destruction; not clarity or resolve, which is what we need.

Gandhi famously said, when asked what he thought of Western civilization, “I think it would be a good idea.” And he summed up the central problem of the world, very simply and succinctly, when he said, “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed.” And when asked if he wanted his newly independent India to have the same “standard of living” as Britain, he replied, “It took a whole planet to give Britain its standard of living. How many planets would it take to give India the same standard of living?” We can have a clean, green, sustainable, regenerative and abundant world, if we can learn to share, and to live within our ecological means. But that is not the story the industrialized world wants to hear. That is not acceptable, and so, chronic systemic deceit, self-delusion and lies, become the necessary standard fare.

The former foreign minister of Nicaragua once said, “I have to believe the people of the United States are the most systematically lied to people on Earth. If I didn’t, I’d have to believe they are the most evil.” The United States has taken a lot of criticism lately for its foreign policy, both from within the US and from abroad, for its murderous wars, its coups, its economic and financial terrorism, and its stark imperialism – especially since the million Iraqis were slaughtered in Iraq for their oil. But the same thing can be said of the people of the Western world and the Global North in general. Neocolonialism, and imperialism – killing, looting and pillaging for profit and power – are alive and well, precisely because the culture of denial, and the culture of lies, persists.

The people of the Western world and the Global North are largely silent about the murder and theft that goes on routinely in the name of the global corporate empire, because they are systematically lied to, and have drifted into sleep. It is the same systemic lies, propaganda and deceit, that allows the billionaire corporate oligarchs and their loyal political prostitutes, to now loot and pillage the people of the West and the North, gut them and drive them into the poor house, while destroying their rights, their freedom and their democracy. The culture of lies and the culture of sleep-walking denial of reality, go hand in hand. That is what enables this dying last empire of the new global corporate oligarchy to continue on its rampage a little longer.

The answers are not complicated. The question is, do we have the moral and intellectual courage to face reality, and to deal with reality. If so, then our future is good. If not, then it will be a nightmare, and a living hell.

We are our brother’s keeper. And we are – or now must be, are forced to be, after the mess we’ve made – the stewards of the Earth. If we can accept these simple terms, and live in peace and goodwill, then our future is bright. This does not require a spiritual or moral transformation of humanity. It simply requires that the sleep-walkers wake up. Crisis always brings out the best and the worst in people. For most people, when presented with a crisis, it brings out the best. Which will it be? We can go out, numbed and vacuous, like the living dead, with barely a whimper. Or we can go out in mutual destruction, our fingers around each other’s throats. Or we can behave like men and women, and not as small, neurotic, badly behaved children, and live equitably, sanely, and in peace. Which option will it be? It truly is up to us. Fatalism is a fool’s game of escape from reality. Our future is in our hands. Only a coward or a liar will tell you differently. Make your choice now, and make it wisely.

What are the answers we are waiting for? I would say they are the ones that we learned, or were have supposed to have learned, in kindergarten: share, cooperate, clean up your mess, and don’t be greedy. If we actually applied these simple principles in our lives and in our society, the world would be transformed, and healed, in short order. The simplest answers are usually the best answers. We over-complicate just about everything. Moreover, we avoid the simple solutions, because they are the most challenging. They’re also generally the only solutions that work. We’d rather create complicated daydreams, than take simple steps to rectify the problems – and we become lost in our hyper-complex daydreams and schemes, because they are our soother, our pacifier, as well as our principle reality-avoidance mechanism; and so, our schemes and daydreams and gross over-complications, turn to nightmares of our own creation. This is not the way ahead. This is the route into ever an deeper quagmire – a quagmire of delusion, of tyranny, and of self-destruction. As Thoreau said, “Simplify, simplify.”

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The challenges facing us are great, and the stakes could not be higher. However, despair, while understandable, is something we cannot afford. Giving up, continuing to avoid reality, indulging in wishful thinking, waiting for the government or someone else to fix the problems, or shrugging our shoulders: any and all of these responses amount to an act of soulless cowardice and moral bankruptcy. We must find our inner strength, and the strength of our unity, once again, and now.

Together, we have great strength. We have all the strength, talent, ingenuity, ideas, and resources, that we need to face and overcome the challenges that lay before us. What we do not have, is time to waste, or time to perpetuate our escape from reality, any longer.

Thoreau remarked over a century ago, that the plague of the modern world is that, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” And he went on to say, “…but it is uncharacteristic of wisdom to do desperate things.” Why are we in such a desperate rush, and in such a desperate rush to do, mainly, desperately useless, trivial and destructive things? We need to pause, take a breath, reflect deeply, and own our power. Thomas Paine was right in 1776, and it is equally true today: “We have it in our power to begin the world over again.”

What we need, is not a high-tech solution. It is not a Big Brother or big government solution. What we need, is that tipping point inwardly, spiritually, psychologically and culturally, that moves us from an unacknowledged sense of powerlessness and despair, to firm and utter resolve, to dawn in our minds and hearts, and very, very soon, if not now.

We can do this. We can face these challenges together. But we must reconnect in order to do that. We must reconnect with one another; with nature, as a great balm and restorative tonic to our spirits; and with our own deeper and more authentic selves. The answer is not more distraction. The answer is more reality. End the flight. Embrace your power.

J. Todd Ring,
July 4, 2021
S.D.G.

Acknowledgements and Afterword:

There are far too many acknowledgements to list here, from a lifetime of studies, research and reflection, and many, many thoughtful and important discussions with a great many people; and I have listed my major sources and references many times before, in any case. But I must give thanks here to the host of the truly world-class podcast, Geopolitics & Empire (who is so humble that I have yet to hear him give his name, and which is also not mentioned on his website). It was he who came up with the terms, Branch Covidian, and Covid-1984, which very accurately describe what we are living through and experiencing now.

I would urge everyone to read, at least, Chomsky’s, Necessary Illusions, and Class Warfare, and to give a listen, with an open mind, to the Geopolitics & Empire podcast. You may not agree with everything that every guest says, nor do I, and nor does the host; but it will be thought-provoking, you can be guaranteed, and it will broaden your mind. In fact, it is very refreshing to hear very diverse people from very diverse perspectives; and what’s more, to be reminded that despite our differences of opinion, there are still a great many good-hearted, thoughtful and intelligent people in the world.

Infantile narcissistic regression may be the disastrous norm and the trajectory of the great majority of the people at present, as Aldous Huxley, for one, would surely recognize, but this too shall pass – and an awakening of humanity has already begun. Moreover, know that the American Revolution was started by a single man – Thomas Paine. Not even Jefferson, Washington or Benjamin Franklin wanted revolution, until Thomas Paine published his slim little book in January of 1776. By July 4 of that same year, the revolution was launched. And it was launched by just a handful of men and women. Despite the grim state of things, it only takes a small dedicated group of individuals to change the course of history. As Margaret Meade said, in fact, that is all that ever has. Never forget that fact. And as Yogi Berra said, and I am fond of quoting, “It ain’t over ’till it’s over.”

19 Responses to “On Narcissism & Independence”

  1. jtoddring Says:

    Emerson’s essay, Self-Reliance, Thoreau’s Walden, and On Civil Disobedience, have been very inspiring for me. I think they should be read again, and read widely.

    Here is another person with a positive, empowering message.

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  2. jtoddring Says:

    I think the single most powerful piece of advice, words of wisdom, or statement I have ever heard, I realize now, is not only the most important thing I have ever heard, but also, the single best antidote to the apathy, disociation, perpetual escapism and distraction, numbness, paralysis, avoidance of reality, illusions of powerlessness, and the infantile regression we are talking about, all of which profoundly undermine our democracy, our dignity, our confidence, our power, and our ability to face and overcome both the personal and the global challenges we face, is this simple statement by a Tibetan Buddhist teacher. I believe it cuts through the bondage that most of us struggle against, and struggle to liberate ourselves and others from. It is deceptively simple, yet profoundly powerful, if we let it resonate and truly sink in.

    “Trust yourself. It is extremely important that you trust yourself. Trust yourself. Don’t be afraid of yourself. Trust yourself. You *can* trust yourself. Trust that your natural intelligence is working itself out.”
    – Chogyam Trungpa

    If you took the best of Blake, Emerson and Thoreau, by the way, who I mentioned before, and, I would add, all true democrats, including Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., amongst the other important things they had to say, this small, priceless gem of advice, would be central to their message as well. Trust yourself. That, and reconnection, is the antidote.

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  3. jtoddring Says:

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  4. jtoddring Says:

    The world’s leading trend analyst, Gerald Celente, recently made a remark that struck to the very heart of the matter. He said, quite simply, “The people have lost their confidence.” That is the demise of democracy and freedom. That is the reason why the majority prefer a numbed escapism to dealing with reality. That is why our efforts at combatting climate change, environmental destruction, war, and tyranny, despite millions of glowing small victories, still come up short. That is why the people continue to put up with things they should never tolerate. Well, I am trying to inspire them to take their power, their dignity, and their confidence back. It might seem harsh, but when you have fallen into a hole, the first thing you jeed to do is to realize you are in a hole. Truth comes first. Liberation can only follow after truth, not come before it. Take your power back. Now. Not in the sense of becoming dominating or aggressive. That is not real power. That is simply domination and aggression, and it stems from inner weakness. Real power empowers others, as well as oneself. Take it back. Take the power back. Now. Our future depends upon it. Own your power.

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  5. jtoddring Says:

    Every empire lives by three maxims, above all:

    Divide and conquer
    Bread and circuses (appeasement and distraction)
    And above all,
    Demoralize your enemy.

    Every empire has external rivals, and internal enemies. The real enemy of empire is the people. And all of these maxims are in play at all times – and they are directed against the people.

    Reclaim your power, your confidence, and your dignity. Truet yourself. Whether or not the people do that, will determine the fate of humanity. Embrace your power now.

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    • jtoddring Says:

      Darn typos. It’s hard to be inspiring when you’re so darned human! But isn’t that the point, exactly? It is alright to be human. Embrace your dignity, your confidence, and your power, despite all faults or past failures. It is right and good to do so, and it is vitally necessary.

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  6. jtoddring Says:

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  7. jtoddring Says:

    Democracy requires more than voting every few years. It requires us to embrace our power. That is the root and true meaning of democracy: from the Greek, demos + critos. People power. Or, the people have the power. If we forfiet our power, we forfiet our democracy, and our freedom. We should reflect long and hard on the fascism of 1930s Italy and Germany, and the authoritarianism of the Soviet Union. That is the kind of gulag society we get if we forfiet our freedom. We do not get a pleasantly benevolent, benign government, where our safety and comfort are ensured. We get a prison state. We get a gulag. Contemplate this deeply. Then embrace your power.

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  8. jtoddring Says:

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  9. jtoddring Says:

    Here is another important aspect: boundaries. As Chogyam Trungpa said, we don’t need idiot compassion. Idiot compassion is when you feel you have to be gentle at all times. There is a time for firmness, even ferocity. Compassion requires it! Without that fierceness, we are not truly compassionate, we’re just sentimental, we’re just play acting. Compassion, boundaries, and fierceness, must go together. There is a time for yielding and for receptivity, there is a time for speaking and for action, and there are definitely times when firmness, or ferocity, are simply necessary if we are to be moral beings, and not just pious hollow shells.

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  10. jtoddring Says:

    Here is another important factor to consider: how do we deal with guilt and shame? Having remorse means having a conscience and having compassion. We only lose remorse when we become sociopaths. So we don’t want that. But we do need forgiveness, empathy, or compassion, maybe is the most useful term of all. Responsibility with compassion means empowerment and liberation. Power without compassion is sociopathic. Guilt and shame require compassion, or we end up stuck in a dark hole of our own making. Have compassion for all, and for yourself; trust yourself; and embrace your power. These are the three principles I would boil it down to, if we are going to heal the world, heal others, our communities, our nations, our families, or ourselves; and if we are going to find happiness, joy and peace. Let these three principles be our guide. We can deal with almost anything if we have these three elements in play.

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  11. jtoddring Says:

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  12. jtoddring Says:

    Another important point is that we cannot allow our compassion, or our aversion to guilt and shame, turn us into fragile China dolls made of glass, always walking on egg shells, ever afraid of speaking or hearing a discomforting word. But that is what has happened recently with the censorship/cancel culture, as we try, stumbling, to find more just and compassionate ways to live. We must oppose censorship, be it formal or informal, and self-censorship. We must not be afraid of the truth, or speaking the truth, as best we understand it. Compassion is a foundational value. So too is honesty. So too is truth. And so too is freedom. If we become terrified of honesty, frankness, imperfections of our own speech or others, or afraid of freedom, then we have sealed ourselves into a tomb, and we are ripe for tyranny, and the worst imaginable atrocities. Value honesty, frankness, truth and freedom, along with compassion, or else we will not have a compassionate society: we will create a horrific mass prison.

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  13. jtoddring Says:

    I’d urge everyone to read these five important books: Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, Vandana Shiva’s Oneness vs The 1%, and my own first three books: Enlightened Democracy, The People vs The Elite, and (coming soon), All Hell Breaks Loose: Global Geopolitics 1945-2045. They will give you the best overview and global understanding you can find in a condensed, distilled form, from what I am aware.

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    • jtoddring Says:

      And definitely add the two most essential books by Noam Chomsky, Necessary Illusions, and Class Warfare. That makes seven. Anyone who is seriously interested in how the world works, what is really going on, and what must ge done about it, can read seven books. That will give you the big picture. And that is critical to have clarity on, at this time.

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  14. jtoddring Says:

    Personally, I would rather be around people who are plain-spoken, straight-forward and frank, than people who are overly sweet or excessively courteous. The former may seem brusk, blunt or harsh at times, but at least you know exactly where they stand. With the latter, you’re always guessing; and moreover, they are people pleasers – and people-pleasers are the ones who are more likely to stab you in the back, or cut you to the quick, because they are passive-aggressive. Be compassionate, yes, but let us be straight-forward as well. When there is a problem, let’s deal with it – directly.

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