Archive for ecology

Agony Amidst the Ecstasy

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2015 by jtoddring

I think of my greatest heroes, the people I admire and respect the most – Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Voltaire, Thoreau, Emerson, Walt Whitman, Blake, Dickens, Shakespeare, Spinoza (who has been called, “The prince of philosophers”, and rightly so), Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, Alan Watts, Peter Kropotkin, Thomas Merton, St. Francis, Jesus, the Buddha, Shankara and Lao Tzu, to name a few. What would they think about the society in which we now live? They would be thoroughly disgusted by it, and if they did not repudiate it entirely, they would be horrified by it. And they would certainly have some very strong words of reproach and correction to speak to it.

“It is the breaking of the root vow to refuse to give correction where correction is needed,
even if you can’t do it in the best possible way.”

 – The Bodhisattva Vows

I cannot keep pace with my fellow men, or women, because they are lost, and to keep pace would mean becoming lost with them. No, they must go their own way. I will go mine.

I will stay with the wisdom-holders of all time. That is my place. I have no place in this society; and the more I see of it, the less I want to have any place in it at all. Show me a ship, a horse, a sunset, or a dawn, and I will make my way, alone if need be, away from the madness that has become this world.

Nature is perfect in its simple majesty. Humankind has despoiled their nest, and is despoiling the rest; and it is a head-on collision course with reality which they are facing, though they have not the courage to admit it, much less deal with it, as would be prudent, and only sane.

If I cared about no one but myself, I would feel that my life is not only blessed, but beatific. I write, I study, I meditate, I pray, I have a beautiful little garden and place to live that I call home, and I have wonderful, loving family and friends. What more could I possibly ask for in this life? But I am tormented, anguished, overwrought, and utterly agonized, beyond all words, if not daily, then at least repeatedly, by the horrific state of the world, the suffering of my fellow living beings, and a deep and profound worry for them.

I have given my best, all my life, and will continue to do so, but I am painfully tempted to simply walk away, ride away, as Lao Tzu did, or sail away, and leave them to their madness, for they seem to have no ears to hear, and no eyes to see.

“Father please forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

JTR,
October 7, 2015

A sinking world, and sane responses to it

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2015 by jtoddring

My country is sinking like a rock (for reasons of corporate oligarchy, neoliberalism, corporate rights agreements, and an addiction to oil revenues and the politics of a resource extraction-based economy, and the thorough corporate domination of the political process), though the great majority of my fellow citizens do not realize it, lost in a stupor of denial as they are (I can think of twelve countries in the Western hemisphere which are either moving in a positive direction, or at least showing some fight – and Canada is not one of them); and so too is the greater part of the world descending, and rapidly so, into a morass of injustice and ecological suicide, to say nothing of concerns for freedom, human rights and democracy, (as well as a pervasive malady, and an epidemic, of economic fundamentalism, neoliberalism and neoconservatism being the primary, and reigning, quasi-religious orthodoxies, along with other forms of ideological and even “scientific” fundamentalism, which are widespread, and far more influential today than their mirror image, which is religious fundamentalism, and an even worse epidemic of illusions of powerlessness, as well as an epidemic of apathy, denial, conformity, and undue and excessive, and frequently mad obedience to power) with only a handful of countries as the exception. How am I not to be distressed, if not anguished, and even furious, or all of the above?

All of the greatest minds and greatest spirits have echoed the same thoughts about the modern world. As David Suzuki has recently said (paraphrasing from memory), “There has never been a better time for being scared and angry….. We should get mad as hell, and then fight like hell.”

Where is the fight in us? And why should we be ashamed of being distraught with a world that is on a collision course with both tyranny and collective ecological suicide, as well as being steeped in war, violence, rampant injustice, inequality, poverty and a culture of voyeurism, vicarious living, materialism, consumerism, and a pathological aversion to the real?

As the great sociologist Erich Fromm said (again, paraphrasing from memory), “Normal only exists in relation to a profoundly abnormal norm.” “The fact that there is neurosis [or psychological strain and distress] is a good sign. It is a sign of a healthy individual, an individual that is still struggling to be fully alive, and by necessity, is struggling against a society that wishes to turn him or her into an atomaton.”

As the saying goes, “If you can keep your head when everyone around you is losing theirs – you’re not paying attention.”

Calm is good. Heart-break for the state of the world is natural. And action is vitally needed – and urgently so.

Let’s see more action, and the heart-break will fade into a memory of times past, and lessons learned.

JTR,
October 7, 2015

Essential reading:

(A few among many other great books that could be included in such a list)

A Brief History of Progress – Ronald Wright

The Party’s Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies – Richard Heinberg

When Technology Fails – Matt Stein

Shock Doctrine – Naomi Klein

A Game As Old As Empire – John Perkins

The End of America – Naomi Wolf

Necessary Illusions: Thought Control In Democratic Societies – Noam Chomsky

Year 501: The Conquest Continues – Noam Chomsky

Escape From Freedom – Erich Fromm

The Ecology of Freedom – Murray Bookchin

The Chalice and the Blade – Rianne Eisler

World As Lover, World As Self – Joanna Macy

Ancient Futures – Helena Norberg-Hodge

Brave New World Revisited – Aldous Huxley

Roads To Freedom – Bertrand Russell

Wisdom of the Elders – David Suzuki

Walden – Henry David Thoreau

On Civil Disobedience – Henry David Thoreau

The Discourse On Voluntary Servitude – Etienne de la Boite

Mutual Aid – Peter Kropotkin

Peter Kropotkin Was No Crackpot – Stephen Jay Gould, Natural History, June, 1997

The Hero With A Thousand Faces – Joseph Campbell

Hemp Revolution

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 28, 2014 by jtoddring

 

Hemp has enormous potential to help us build an ecologically sound society. It can replace most uses of tree-derived paper products and lumber, thus saving vast amounts of forests. It can eliminate and replace most uses of synthetic fibres, which are used in clothing, furniture, carpets and textiles, and virtually all uses of plastics, both of which are toxic, non-renewable and made from fossil fuels. And that is just the beginning.

And not only are products made from hemp renewable and environmentally sustainable, but they are also non-toxic. According to a recent article from TruthOut, “There are 80,000 chemicals used in commerce in the US, most of which have never been fully tested for long-term health effects. It is unacceptable that the public is being used as a guinea pig, argues Fred Guerin.” “It is time to stop allowing the chemical industry to use us all as uninformed and non-consenting research objects in its 75-year-old experiment.” (The Human Being As Unwitting Research Object For Industrial Chemistry, TruthOut, March 27, 2014)

We are swimming in a sea of toxic, synthetic chemicals, thanks mainly to pesticides, synthetic materials in virtually everything we use, and most of what we eat, and the petro-chemical industry that has foisted this toxic waste on us, calling it, “better living through chemistry.” It is not surprising, therefore, that cancer rates have skyrocketed, along with rates of autism, learning and behavioural disorders, mood disorders and degenerative diseases. We need to shift to non-toxic, safe, sustainable and renewable options, and hemp most definitely needs to be a major component of that shift.

I should say here, in case anyone is wondering, that I don’t smoke pot – just in case some are inclined to think that anyone who advocates for hemp must be chronically stoned. I am strongly in favour of legalization of marijuana, for the simple reason that prohibition doesn’t work – it doesn’t stop the flow of drugs and doesn’t reduce drug use, just as the prohibition of alcohol didn’t stop the flow of booze or reduce alcohol abuse: all prohibition does is to push up street prices, which benefit drug dealers, causing organized crime and gang activity, and the violence that comes from them, to soar. But in any event, anyone possessed of a basic common sense, and being informed of the pertinent facts, should be an advocate and supporter of industrial hemp, regardless of your views on the decriminalization of marijuana. But to continue…

Most of our clothes, our paper, our books and magazines, our furniture, our carpets and flooring, the building materials for our homes, factories, hospitals and schools, even the bodies and interiors of our cars, buses, boats and trains, can be made from hemp, and the difference this would make in terms of our ecological footprint would be monumental, and truly pivotal. And in the process, we will create new green businesses, a true, and truly massive economic stimulus program, and new ecological industry to provide jobs for all – and an enormous new, or newly rediscovered income stream for farmers, to keep family farms alive. Hemp offers a truly win-win situation, all around. And we still haven’t even mentioned many other benefits of hemp, including medical and health benefits – the hemp seeds in particular being an extremely healing, true super-food.

We should be creating a massive shift toward hemp production, hemp farming, and the use of hemp to replace tree-based wood and paper products, and fossil-fuel based synthetic fibres, laminates and plastics.

But of course, that would displease the big oil and petro-chemical companies, so first, we need to kick the corporate elite out of power and out of politics – then we can begin in earnest to make the changes which are needed in order to survive as a species, and to thrive.

Go organic, plant a garden, go off-grid, and grow some hemp. Let’s start industrial hemp grow-ops, along with organic farming co-ops, urban and rural housing co-ops, local green energy co-ops and other co-ops, around the world, and in every village, town, city, state and province, and let’s get this party started!

And dethrone the corporate elite – now!

JTR,
March 27, 2014

Reflections on Chartres Cathedral, the death of civilization and the deification of the banal

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 26, 2014 by jtoddring

 

Thinking of Chartres Cathedral, I ask myself, what, if anything, have we built in the past eight centuries, that compares to this? The iPad, computers, cell phones, the internet? Are you kidding me? You must be joking. We have more ways to amuse ourselves, yes, but when has our capacity for entertainment, amusement and distraction ever been a sensible or even a sane measure of a society? And what good is an ocean of information if we have no context for it, no perspective on it, and no wisdom with which to make sense of it? It is lost on us. It may as well be the most indecipherable of hieroglyphs to us. Such an ocean of information is of no value to the deaf and the blind. It is all white noise, or dark noise, more commonly. And, to paraphrase Thoreau – and his remarks are as relevant and as piercing to our illusions today as they were one hundred and fifty years ago – what good is it that we can talk with someone on the other side of the planet if we have nothing of significance to say to one another? We are highly connected, so to speak, in digital, electronic ways, but highly alienated and divided in almost every way that matters, so even our presumed connectedness is more of a fiction than a reality.

We are hyper-connected and increasingly alienated. We are plugged in a tuned out. We are awash in an information overload – and are in fact drowning in it – yet we have lost all our wisdom, and even our common sense. We can speak to one another across the globe, in an instant, yet have nothing worth while to say, and neither any ears with which to hear. We have copious quantities of toys, and reams and volumes of data, but we have lost sight of what is most valuable, and what is most precious, and cannot see the forest for the trees. We are richer than any generation or civilization which has ever come before, yet we live as beggars, and blind beggars at that, obsessed and consumed with our mountains of dust.

We have the perspective of a gnat, and yet, we foolishly believe ourselves to be the culmination and pinnacle of human history and all evolution: as if nature delighted to reach a point where the trivial would be deified, and turned into yet another golden calf – a golden calf made of dust — as we worship at the feet of banality, and serve the idiocy of our time as smiling choir boys and giddy, unthinking, loyal servants.

No, we are not the culmination of natural evolution or of history. There is more day yet to dawn, to say the least. And if this wake up call be disturbing to some, we should remember that is is less disturbing to be awakened before the house burns down, than after. Be glad for the alarm bell. It is far better than the alternative.

We have electric light and indoor plumbing, yes, but all that says is that we can read more easily – if anyone still cared to do such an out-dated and archaic thing, which, it seems, fewer and fewer people are willing or wanting to do – and we can wipe our asses more easily and with a greater convenience. Hardly what we would call a measure of progress, by any sane or reasonable standard, I would suggest.

And that aside, are our lives really the richer and more noble because our powder rooms are more advanced in their puffery and comforts, or because we have a thousand and one electronic gadgets, with which to forget about the classics, the great works of literature, the greatest thoughts of the greatest minds and souls of all time – which require no such baubles or technological trinkets and toys, of course; that we can forget about the study of philosophy, the humanities or spirituality, the life of the larger community and the polis, the arts, or the deeper questions and realms of life and human existence? Were we not distracted enough, two thousand years ago? Few had ears to hear then. Fewer still now, or so it seems. Distraction is not progress – it is just distraction.

Yes, our personal hygiene is advanced in levels of convenience that would make our ancestors green with envy, should they ever place such a high stake on such minor concerns, or elevate them to such absurd heights; and moreover, our ability to distract ourselves from what is most important has soared, and absolutely skyrocketed. Some progress, that is, I would say. I stand in awe at the stunning sophistication and grandeur of the modern world. Let us bow down before the sublime majesty of it all.

When we measure a society or our path through history with a sense of perspective and depth, all that ultimately matters is whether we have learned to live with a greater wisdom or a greater love, or ideally, an increase in both; and from what I have seen, there is no reason to believe that we have made any great strides in either, since the Medieval era, and well before. We are lost in trivia and distractions, superfluities and superficialities, and the grand and glorious, all-pervasive worship of the mundane and the banal. Our society is obsessed with the mere surface of things: an appreciation of our depths has all but completely vanished from sight; and wisdom is a word we no longer even recognize, while the love of our fellow human beings is increasingly lost in a sea of alienation, narcissism, paranoia and fear.

This is progress? If so, you can keep it. It does not appeal to me. It is a bog, and we are lost, sunk to our knees, if not our necks, in quicksand, and sinking fast. And what or who do we reach out to in our desperate anxiety and bewilderment? Facebook and “social media?” Cell phone video games? Dial-up psychics or dial-up porn? Or Oprah Winfrey, Jerry Springer and “reality tv,” media presstitutes and talking heads on network TV, who are almost without exception either completely corrupt or completely inane.

(I like Oprah, by the way – don’t get me wrong. She seems to have a good soul and a good heart. But I don’t think she is necessarily qualified to tell us how and where our civilization went off the rails, or what we must do to get it back on track. And the rest of the mire, which the people routinely turn to for guidance, is not remotely as sensible as Oprah.)

We know not even where to turn to get ourselves out of this quicksand into which we have blindly stumbled. We are in a bad place, to say it mildly, and the ship of our “civilization” is sinking. All is not lost, but all is most certainly in danger. And it would be both foolish and irresponsible, as well as cowardly and unconscionable, to speak about the realities we are now facing, in less than fully frank and honest terms.

Ancient societies brought us Socrates, Plato, Jesus, the Buddha, Shankara and Lao Tzu, agriculture, the calendar, mathematics and written language, tools and aqueducts, sanitation, beautiful architecture, art and literature, the idea of democracy and freedom, great cities and hanging gardens, as well as wisdom. The medieval world brought us Da Vinci, Michelangelo, the Renaissance, flourishing democratic city-states, and the glory of the Alhambra, Mont St. Michel, Chartres Cathedral and the Magna Charta. Modern society has brought us prozac, porn, iPads and “social networking,” Donald Trump, Exxon, Monsanto, Walmart and Goldman Sachs – along with alienation, voyeurism, vicarious living, the cult of celebrity worship and reality TV. As E.F. Schumacher said, “We are remodeling the Alhambra with a steam shovel, and are impressed by our yardage.” We have arguably regressed more than we have advanced, or have regressed at least as much as we have advanced. Our smugness is misplaced – and more to the point, it is simply dangerous.

We could speak of the glories and the triumphs of modern industrial civilization, and there are, and have been many, and there is a time and a place for such mutual congratulations – but that is not what we need most right now. What we need is a wake-up call. We have hit the snooze button too many times. Our world is burning, and the people remain asleep to the peril. We need a bucket of icy water over the head, or a stiff slap in the face, to bring us to our senses. Whatever it takes, humanity must be roused from what has become, by now, extremely perilous slumber. There is no time remaining for the mincing of words, or for pleasant euphemisms and niceties. Frankness is now a matter of survival.

*

Our progress has spotty and highly questionable at best, to say the least – not to mention the fact that we have not yet found the wisdom or the common sense, to refrain from systematically destroying ourselves and the planet on which we live. In such a context, reflections on the significance of Chartres, may be of some small help. Maybe it can bring some much needed perspective: it is certain that we are in a dread dearth and poverty of that most precious commodity, even while we are up to the gills in consumer goods and trinkets and other assorted trivia and trash – and so much so, that it covers over our eyes and obstructs our sight, so that we cannot even see what is before our very nose.

Joseph Campbell, one of history’s greatest scholars of mythology, world religions and human culture, speaks of his experience of Chartres:

“I’m back in the Middle Ages. I’m back in the world that I was brought up in as a child, the Roman Catholic spiritual-image world, and it is magnificent … That cathedral talks to me about the spiritual information of the world. It’s a place for meditation, just walking around, just sitting, just looking at those beautiful things.”

Orson Wells speaks of Chartres:

“Now this has been standing here for centuries. The premier work of man perhaps in the whole western world, and it’s without a signature: Chartres. A celebration to God’s glory and to the dignity of man. All that’s left, most artists seem to feel these days, is man. Naked, poor, forked, radish. There aren’t any celebrations. Ours, the scientists keep telling us, is a universe which is disposable. You know, it might be just this one anonymous glory of all things, this rich stone forest, this epic chant, this gaiety, this grand choiring shout of affirmation, which we choose when all our cities are dust, to stand intact, to mark where we have been, to testify to what we had it in us, to accomplish.”

*

When this present civilization is no more, when it has been buried under the rubble and ashes of its own short-sighted vanity, hubris and illusions, when our cities are abandoned and fall to dust and ruin, certain works of literature, certain pieces of music, art and architecture, certain memories and stories and timeless truths, will be what we hold dear – the rest, will be forgotten, and will disappear like a puff of smoke on the wind, and will vanish like a passing dream.

(And yes, that means your X-Box, your PlayStation, your smart phone, your American Express card and your MTV as well, of course – and all of the corporate dinosaurs and juggernauts and behemoths who provide these trifles and feed upon our addiction to them, as they feed upon us.)

It would seem to make sense for us to re-evaluate our habits, our assumptions and our priorities now, before nature forces us to do so – as she soon will, we can be assured. Making changes freely and in relative peace, is always preferable to making changes in haste and under duress, to put it in the mildest and most understated terms possible. We need to make changes now. It is in our interest not to delay.

Let those who have ears hear.

(Ronald Wright’s, A Brief History of Progress, Jared Diamond’s, Collapse: How Societies Choose To Fail or Succeed, and Mathew Stein’s, When Technology Fails, should be required reading for every thoughtful person over the age of twelve – along with Shelly’s Ozymandias, Yeats’, The Second Coming, and T.S. Elliot’s The Hollow Men. Let those who have ears hear.)

Civilizations have fallen and collapsed many times before: the Egyptian, the Babylonian, the Roman and the Mayan, to name but a few. We are not immune to such a fate, and we are desperately racing ahead with all haste, and are on track and on schedule, for just such a fall. If our civilization does collapse, it will be because we have allowed ourselves to create an ecological cataclysm of our own making; because we stubbornly refused to question our unquestionable, long-standing assumptions and cherished beliefs, even in the face of overwhelming evidence; because we refused to adapt or to make the changes necessary to survive – and above all, it will be because the people did not embrace their power soon enough to throw the money changers to the street, and to reclaim their future. We cannot let this happen. The people must stand now.

We do not have to go out with either a bang or a whimper. The future is ours to create. Stand now.

There are times for shouting from the rooftops. There are times for sounding the trumpets or sounding the alarm. And there are times for a quiet determination. Choose your mood, choose your tone, choose your approach, but whatever you do, choose to act, and act now. The hour is late, and there is no more time for delay, or for floundering in hesitation. Act now, and stand.

The world, as with our lives, is what we make of it. We can live in paradise, or the nearest thing to it – at the least, we can live in a just, free and peaceful world, a beautiful world reigned by ecological sanity and love of one’s neighbour. Or we can live in a hell of our own making, and race feverishly towards our own self-annihilation and early demise, and into a dark age which has no exit, save for the tomb. The choice is entirely in our hands, and there is no use in our whimpering about our wish that someone would come along and fix things for us, and make everything nice. It is our future to create, or to destroy. The power is in our hands.

It is our choice what we make of our world and our future. Let us choose wisely, and choose now. Act now, and stand. It is within our power to heal this troubled world, and to restore a bright future for all human beings, and all living creatures on this Earth. It is within our power to create the world anew.

The hour of our choosing is here. The fork in the road has arrived. We must have bold action now, or human beings will simply perish from the Earth.

Stand now. We need you now. Not in fifty years, or ten years, or five, but now. Stand, and let us heal this troubled, beautiful world which is our home.

Stand now. It is time.

J. Todd Ring,
March 26, 2014

No more excuses

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 12, 2013 by jtoddring

We are tiny little specks, living on a tiny little speck we call the earth, which is revolving around a tiny little speck we call the sun – which is revolving around the centre of a tiny little speck of a galaxy, in a vast universe of hundreds of billions, if not trillions of galaxies in an unimaginably vast universe. If we destroy ourselves, it will be little more than the briefest flicker in one infinitely tiny little corner of the infinity of space – but it will be a great tragedy nonetheless. Let us hope we are not so foolish, nor so callous toward our fellow human beings and other living beings on this planet, to allow such a thing to come to pass.

The warning call has been sounded, as to the destruction of our only home on earth, and was made widely known by Rachel Carson, in the 1960’s – half a century ago. By the end of the 20th century, everyone knew we were in trouble. There is simply no excuse for denial or apathy now. And we know the hour is late. It is time for action.

Stephen Hawking has said that global warming is the greatest threat to human beings on earth at this time, far surpassing terrorism, for example. Terrorism kills roughly 20,000 people a year. Global warming threatens the very existence of the human species – and is already killing far more people than terrorism, through the increase in frequency and severity of storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, floods, crop failure, wild fires, heat waves and other extreme weather patterns. It’s time for a reality check.

Yet, despite the reality of our present situation, and the clear indications of where the real dangers lie, the sirens sound day and night, screaming out the “war on terror” propaganda – which is really a war on democracy, a war of empire, a class war that is being waged by the richest fraction of a percent of the global population against the other 99.99% and upon the earth.

Reflect on these figures for a moment.

Annual deaths globally from terrorism: 20,000

Deaths per year from auto accidents: 40,000, or one death every 13 minutes – in the US alone.

Globally, automobile accidents cause 1.2 million deaths per year – more than 60 times the death toll from terrorism. But do we see a full-out war on the private automobile, and a giant, concerted push toward mass public transit and rail? Of course not. Why? Because the big oil runs the show, along with the banking and other corporate elites, and they want maximum short-term profits for themselves – the people and the environment be damned.

We are being manipulated and lied to, to state what by now should be obvious and undeniable to all.

Deaths per year due to global warming, due to increasingly frequent and severe storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, floods, crop failures, wild fires, heat waves and other extreme weather patterns: this figure is difficult to estimate, but we know the toll is rising fast, and it already dwarfs the death toll from terrorism, by a very wide margin.

(I realize that in the United States, unlike every other country on the planet, there is still the appearance of a “debate” as to the reality of anthropogenic global warming, and a minority of Americans still do not believe it is real. I will leave that tiny fraction of the earth’s population for others to address. Here, we will speak only to those who are not quite so lost in illusions and corporate-spun lies, and who are capable of rational thought on the subject.

It should also be noted that there is a battle being waged behind the scenes, among the world’s ruling power elite, on a number of fronts. Some of the elite want to address and combat global warming, and acknowledge publicly that it is a very real and great danger. Others among the elite, including, unsurprisingly, those with deep stakes and vested interests in big oil, want to lie and conceal the facts, for the sake of short-term personal profit and gain, presumably with the belief that their money will protect them from the coming cataclysm which they themselves are helping to ensure comes to pass.

At present, unfortunately, it is the latter group who are holding the greater power, despite the views and wishes of the global citizenry. As Naomi Klein has said, in her brilliant book, The Shock Doctrine, disaster capitalism still reigns. The big money, or a large and dominant faction of it, is seeking to profit in ways that they know very well will lead to unprecedented disaster – and then they plan to profit from the ensuing disaster as well. They are quite literally making a killing, and that seems to be just fine with them, sociopaths as they clearly are.

There are a few people, including otherwise intelligent observers and commentators, who loudly and vociferously and even rabidly assert that anyone who says that human-caused global warming is real, must be a paid-for hireling of the globalist corporate oligarchs. But both logic as well as the overwhelming body of evidence, leads us to exactly the opposite conclusion. The only scientists who have taken a stand to say that anthropogenic global warming is not real and is not happening, have been shown to have ties to the oil industry. The facts speak for themselves, for any who care to look at them.)

The Guardian reports that an estimated 150,000 people are currently dying from the results of global warming every year, and states further that this estimate is probably highly conservative, and the death toll is likely much higher. The former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan estimates the present and climbing death toll at 300,000 a year.

But even this does not adequately convey the gravity of the situation. We are quite simply destroying the basis of human life on earth – through global warming, deforestation, unintentionally causing the mass extinction of species, soil erosion, soil depletion, aquifer depletion, and the poisoning of the land, air, water and soil. We are rapidly bringing ourselves to the very brink of extinction, which the World Bank and other sources estimate may well occur in as little as fifty years or less, if we do not immediately alter our course.

And what is more, if we continue in this fashion, through our poisoning and degradation of our environment, we will make life unbearable for ourselves and for our children, long before we finally drive ourselves over the cliff and go extinct.

The “war on terror” is a smoke screen to hide the real nature and motives for the drive for a police state at home, to protect the interests of the ruling business elite against the increasingly discontent, disenfranchised and economically sinking masses; and to provide a cover for wars for oil and other resources abroad. The war on terror is a grand and truly nefarious deception, as the BBC documentary, “The Power of Nightmares,” and many other clear and honest voices, have amply illustrated.

Meanwhile, the greatest threat to human life is left unchecked, and in fact, we press ahead – at an accelerating pace – with suicidal plans to build more oil pipelines, drill more fracking wells, burn more tar sands and coal, and further enrich the corporate elite who are swimming in money from their rape and pillage of the earth and their wantonly destructive behaviour. Something has to change, clearly.

This is madness. But we cannot simply blame corrupt and inept politicians, or short-sighted, self-serving, parasitically greedy business elites – no matter how truly sociopathic their behaviour has become. We must take responsibility as well, for our part in the harm or healing done to this world – and the responsibility increases, the greater the power, or privilege, that we have.

To put things into context, we should consider this. According to UN stats, if you sleep in a bed, have clothes, no matter what condition they are in, have a phone, and have a fridge and a bank account, even if they are both empty, then you are in the top 8% of the world’s richest people. Yes, the world is a mess, and the majority of the people who will most likely read this, live within the top 20% of the richest people on the planet, whether or not they believe or can comprehend this fact, or accept it.

A few dozen countries, mainly the “leading” industrialized nations, along with Russia, India and China, produce the overwhelming majority of greenhouse gases responsible for global warming – along with producing most of the waste, and consuming most of the resources on the planet. What is wrong with this picture?

The aristocracy of the “middle class,” along with the upper aristocracy of the wealthy few, and the tiny, stratospherically rich power elite above them, together make up the richest 20% of the people on the planet – the same 20% who consume over 80% of the wealth globally, and produce over 60% of the pollution and waste. We should stop and think about this for a moment – or more than a moment: for long enough for that horrifically unjust and insanely unsustainable reality to fully sink in.

Something clearly has to change, and the problem is not primarily one of population, nor the “developing” or “under-developed” nations. The problem is a severe case of affluenza, and a serious and highly dangerous disconnection from reality, which, aside from being grossly unethical, will without question come home to haunt us if we do not return to our senses, and very soon.

Whether it is out of compassion and a sense of responsibility to our fellow human beings and other living beings on earth; or a sense of responsibility to our children and to future generations; or whether out of simple enlightened self-interest, we must come to recognize that avoidance of reality is always more dangerous than facing the truth of the matter, and we simply must change our course. We must overcome our addiction to speed, to quantity of material goods over quality of life, and the self-deceiving belief in our powerlessness and the resulting addiction to escapism, voyeurism and a chronic state of distraction and denial – so that we can live better as well as more wisely and more humanely, and so that we have a future worth living at all.

There is no question: this generation will be held responsible for our actions, and even more, for our inaction. Apathy, complacency and denial are morally unacceptable. In fact, at this time in human history, when we are racing toward an ecological holocaust of our own making, they constitute nothing less than complicity in the worst of collective atrocities. We must act now. There are no more excuses.

J. Todd Ring,
November 12, 2013

The new epidemic: Death cults and the culture of despair

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 1, 2013 by jtoddring

An article in The Atlantic speaks to the growing death-fetish that is gripping more and more youth. It is a bad omen for the state of modern industrial civilization as a whole, I would contend, and it indicates a broader trend toward anxiety, hopeless and despair, which must be confronted and overcome – if, that is, we are not going to collectively groan our way into self-annihilation.

There are sociological, political, economic, psychological and ecological reasons for the rapidly emerging death-cult that is now sweeping the world, and I think it is important that we address them head on.

theatlantic:

Why Does Pop Romanticize Dying Young?

Bieber with his swag, Miley with her tongue, Skrillex’s stupid haircut … There are tons of reasons to tune out modern pop music that don’t have a thing to do with the music itself.

But if you do listen—really pay attention—you might find something in today’s pop that’s a lot more bothersome. There’s an apocalyptic, we’re-all-gonna-die-anyway theme that keeps popping up—a YOLO-style message to do whatever you want right now because tomorrow you might be in a box. 

Icona Pop’s song “I Love It” is an ode to crashing cars, throwing someone else’s stuff down the stairs and essentially doing whatever the hell they want, all the while proclaiming “I don’t care, I love it.” In “Die Young,” the always-prolific Ke$ha tells someone she just met to “make the most of the night like we’re gonna die young.”

I keep seeing this: there is a death-cult sweeping the Western world, and it is growing. This is not surprising, but it is disturbing.

When we are actively destroying our future, by poisoning the air, water, soil, the oceans, rivers, lakes and groundwater, and even the food we eat, when we are racing toward self-annihilation and collective suicide, it is not surprising that anxiety and despair grow and become the unspoken, and sometimes the openly expressed norm. And when a civilization is in decay, then death cults will invariably emerge. The problem is not pop culture, but mainstream culture more broadly, which is narcissistic, quietly despairing, escapist, voyeuristic, materialistic, deeply lost and deeply alienated.

What we need is not more reckless hedonism and despair, not more of a “fuck it all, because it’s all hopeless, so let’s go out with a big bang” attitude of collective suicidal tendencies, but instead, a reconnection with one another, with our deeper selves, with nature, with our hearts and our own common sense.

What we need is to reconnect, and rediscover our hope, our courage, our determination, our inspiration, and our empowerment as thinking, feeling human beings who consciously choose to live with love and courage, and not a quiet despair – much less a loud and moaning despair.

We need not go out with either a bang or a whimper. (Does anyone now even know where such lines of prescience come from, in this hyper-distracted age of obsession with mindless drivel?) We can live, and live well, and heal this world. But only if we have the courage and the heart to do so. Telling ourselves and one another that it’s all futile and we’re all doomed, is both cowardly and irresponsible. We need hope, courage and empowerment, not more whining and foolish self-destruction.

Find your courage, and get your warrior on. We need warriors now, not whiners.

There is a great fascination now, and there has been for some time, with disaster movies and TV shows like “Survivor” – and the reason is not hard to figure out, as others have noted. We all know by now, consciously or at least subconsciously, that we are racing toward disaster, environmentally speaking, if not also in other ways. The fascination with such pop culture fluff as portrayed in these genres is a way for us to unconsciously begin to prepare ourselves psychologically for possible disaster.

As an aside, it should be noted that TV shows like Survivor give terrible life lessons and darkly negative social conditioning, basically upholding the game theory of social relations, which is a disproven theory, as studies in evolutionary biology have shown – but nevertheless they continue with it, essentially telling people in every show that deceitful narcissism and ruthless self-centredness win out in the end over honesty, loyalty, compassion and cooperation. Such messages are deeply antisocial and darkly cynical, and the message they give is not only callous and cut-throat, alienating and dividing as well as morally bankrupting, but also leads people into ultimately self-defeating behaviours.

Selfishness and deceit do pay in the short term, but in the longer term, as the scientific studies confirm, the person who behaves this way ends up alienated and alone – and alone, we are far, far weaker than we are together, working jointly in solidarity and mutual aid. Empathy, compassion, solidarity, cooperation and mutual aid are basic human instincts, as evolutionary biology has now shown, and there is a reason for this: it simply works. Compassion and cooperation makes us all stronger, and are a matter of enlightened self-interest, and not simply a matter of being “nice.” It is a matter of being intelligent.

But to return to the central point, the rising death cult is a phenomenon that is arising out of a quiet desperation, as Thoreau observed over one hundred and fifty years ago. Not only has modern society produced deep alienation, loneliness and a pervasive sense of meaninglessness and malaise, in our mindless automaton culture (sic); but we are also witnessing our civilization self-destruct, and we are living in a state of on-going slow-motion disaster. In such a situation, the best and the worst of people comes out, and also, their addiction to escapism and flights into fantasy. But what scientific studies have also shown, once again confirming the obvious, is that in a crisis situation – and we are living in a perpetual state of protracted crisis now (despite the denial portrayed on the brilliant Supertramp album cover, “Crisis, What Crisis?”) – the people who cope the best are those who stay active, those who find something to do that may have even the slight possibility of being some help.

If a plane crashes on an island and a few people survive, the ones who go and gather food and water and firewood, or comfort the wounded and the mad, tend to cope far better than the ones who sit around moaning about their terrible lot. Action matters – and not just in terms of its results, but also in terms of the positive impact it has on our minds. It is far better to do something that just might be of some small help, even if it is a long-shot and all seems hopeless, than to give up, in conscious or unconscious despair.

*

I agree completely with what Thomas Merton said, “If you are afraid of writing something that might offend someone, why write anything at all.” Sometimes painful truths must be spoken.

For example, in the 1800’s, people had to say loudly and clearly that slavery is wrong and utterly intolerable, an abomination that cannot be accepted under any circumstances. In the 19th century, women and men had to say loudly and clearly, and boldly, that voting is a universal right. In the 20th century, Martin Luther King Jr. and the millions of people who participated in the Civil Rights movement had to loudly and clearly state that racism and segregation are obscene, supremely unethical, and utterly unacceptable. And today, we must say, that reckless hedonism and moping despair, are both unintelligent and also irresponsible, shameless and cowardly.

If you “emo” kids, goths, punks and others who parade your pain like it is a badge, and whine endlessly while doing little, are all so sensitive, then put your hearts into action, and do something that helps in some small way to bring about a better world – don’t just sit there moaning, waiting for someone to fix it for you.

You are young adults now, or soon to be – stop behaving like four year olds throwing a temper tantrum or a sulking fit. Keep your sensitivity, yes, but embrace your power as well. You are far more powerful than you imagine. Stop whimpering and do something.

The youth have traditionally, in every generation, been the questioners of the status quo and the norm, and the drivers of change. While this is still the case to some degree, many youth are now lost in a pool of their own spittle, blathering about how much they hate their lives, while watching the world burn. They should be out in the streets, not sitting idly in self-pity. Where is the fight in them? We certainly do not need any more violence in the world, but we do need action, and for that, there must be the heart of a warrior. Find your brave hearts, lads and lasses. This is your time to shine, not to whine.

Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, The World Wildlife Fund, Friends of the Earth, countless local environmental groups, the Occupy and Solidarity movements, Idle No More, the David Suzuki Foundation and the myriad groups working for social justice, peace and real social change, need your help. Pick one, and let’s see some action. Whining about how much you hate your life is not cool – it’s just whining.

It must also be acknowledged, that a lot of youth, and a lot of children and adults, are not only quietly or openly despairing, but are clinically depressed. Depression, anxiety and despair are all at epidemic proportions now, and rising fast – for obvious sociological reasons, and not, emphatically, for reasons of brain chemistry, generally speaking. And taking a pill will only be a band-aid, temporary measure, and not a real solution. But having lived through depression and survived it, and coming out the other side, I can say this with certainty: the best antidote for depression, is action. Do something that gives you joy, and even better, do something that is truly meaningful, and the depression will subside, if not completely disappear. Sitting around and contemplating how much your life sucks, won’t help you.

But to be sympathetic and also fully real, we must also say this. What do youth – or any of us, for that matter – have to be hopeful about today? The economic outlook is grim. More and more, we can expect, as George Carlin has said, “Increasingly shittier jobs with increasingly shittier pay, and vanishing pensions that disappear the moment you go to collect them.”

What do youth have to look forward to economically? Working as a Wal-Mart greeter for minimum wage, a wage that is below subsistence level, with no benefits and no future – and that is while being saddled with crippling student debt and laden with an education that may get them a job driving cab or flipping burgers, if they’re lucky.

The middle aged and elderly have few better options, and the middle class is sinking into the underclass and being systematically destroyed. Hopelessness and despair are very understandable, given the state of our global corporate-dominated, rape and pillage economy, which benefits the top 1% while screwing the other 99 out of a hundred of us.

Ecologically, youth and also all of us, are staring down the most severe crisis human beings have ever faced: an ecological crisis which is only gathering speed, and which threatens to wipe out our civilization, if not the entire human species on earth. And we are not doing remotely enough about it for anyone to be truly hopeful at this time. That could change in a heart-beat, if the people decide to act with boldness and stop hesitating, but for the moment, despair is an understandable response.

What about politics? The youth, as well as the overwhelming majority of the people, of all ages, have lost all faith, trust and confidence in the political system, as poll after poll reveals. The youth, and people in general, have come to view the major political parties, their governments, and the great majority of the politicians, as simply corrupt, or at best, inept. They see no hope in any serious positive change coming from this morass, this garbage heap which is contemporary political life. And they are right. The major political parties, along with most governments in the world, are bought and owned by big business and the corporate elite, just as the media is, and increasingly, the schools, colleges and universities as well. What is there to be hopeful about? Again, despair is an understandable response.

But while despair may be understandable, it is not conscionable, and nor is it intelligent. To surrender to despair is to actively sow one’s own misery, as well as sowing misery for others. This is not only unacceptable, it is also stupid, and deeply unwise.

We must be brave, if for no other reason, than because we care about others and about life on this earth. If we are heartless, then we can throw in the towel, give up, and go and moan in the corner. If we have a brave heart, which is to say, if compassion and caring mean more to us than our own petty self-interest or personal comfort, then we will not only carry on: we will give it all we’ve got, and never surrender.

And if we are not motivated by love, then we should at least be motivated to seek happiness for ourselves – and that requires boldness and determination, courage and heart, and a refusal to give in to the temptations of despair.

Life is for living. And life is precious. If we have forgotten that, then we really have temporarily lost our minds, and we should sit down with a cup of tea or a quiet moment, and remember that we are alive, or watch the stars at night, or the sunset or sunrise, or the wind swaying through the trees, and remember that there is beauty and preciousness to this life. At the very least, we should not let our own personal despair turn us into assholes who care about nothing and no one. That would be about the worst thing we could possibly do.

Real change will come from the streets – as it always has – not from some elected demagogue in Washington who makes pretty speeches, then betrays every principle and every promise made, while selling out the people to the corporate elite who now rule the world. If we want change, real change, then we will have to make it for ourselves.

The people always have the power. If they choose to lie to themselves, and to pretend they are powerless, then that is their great misfortune, and their great error. If they choose to embrace their power, then anything and everything is possible.

Stay strong. As a great line from a favourite movie put it, “Get busy living, or get busy dying.”

Don’t be wishy-washy, whiny or vapid. If you’re going to live, then really live. Give all you can, love to the fullest extent of your power, and respect yourself, always.

The power to shape our own future is still in our hands. If we want to make of this world, a better place for all, then that is in our power. We will have to come together and unite in order to accomplish this admittedly large and challenging task, but it is entirely within our power, and within our reach.

Despair is for cowards. Have some self-respect. We cannot afford to be cowardly if our hearts are still alive. We may have moments of despair, but we can never completely surrender to despair. Life is simply far too precious for such ordinary madness.

Live while you live.

As Yogi Beara said – and he was right – “It ain’t over ’till it’s over.” 

J. Todd Ring,
November 1, 2013

 

Here’s a little music for the revolution. Enjoy, and let’s see action.

 

A Little Less Conversation
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zx1_6F-nCaw

Let’s See Action
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPuCsosr9jM

Let’s Go
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExYsh1W22Wo

Let’s Get It Started
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKqV7DB8Iwg