Archive for philosophy

Authoritarianism & Medical Martial Law

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on May 29, 2020 by jtoddring

No to medical martial law. Fascism is never in the true interests of public health or safety, nor is it ever justifiable. Must we be reminded of this?

Authoritarianism always erodes and destroys good judgement, because conformity, obedience and power are valued above honest and open discussion and debate, among other reasons; not to mention that it destroys freedom and democracy in the process, two things which should be non-negotiable to all good people of sound mind and judgement.

In the end, authoritarianism is always driven to self-destruction and collapse. Aside from being intolerable, ethically repulsive and morally bankrupt, it is a fool’s errand. Only cowards and power mongers can support it, and both are delusional in their adherence to it.

JTR,

May 28, 2020

Gender, Hierarchy, Civilization & Collapse: A Few Thoughts

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 19, 2020 by jtoddring

 

What did Sumeria ever do for us? Invented writing, our concepts of time, irrigation, cities, created the first literature…little stuff like that.

Sumeria predates ancient Egypt, Babylon, Greece, and Biblical times, though it was a completely forgotten civilization until very recently. The civilization spanned roughly 3,500 years, between 5,500 BCE & 1,750 BCE.

Remember, modern Western civilization is a mere 400 years old. Just a baby, by comparison.

The Sumerian civilization, mythology and writings inspired the book of Genesis and Homer, for example, and provided one of the primary the seedbeds for Western civilization, such as it is. Unfortunately they also invented or co-invented war, empire, conquest, ecological degradation, class division, hierarchy, plunder and inequality. Crappy stuff we’re still living with today. 

They did uphold gender equality, however. Mind you, this seems to indicate Eisler was wrong and Bookchin was right: hierarchy spreads as a corrosive social model that comes to infect everything, but it does not necessarily begin with gender. 

“Even so, the culture had been struggling to retain its autonomy ever since the Amorites had gained power in Babylon. A shift in cultural influence, evidenced in many respects but, notably, in the male-female ratio of the Mesopotamian pantheon, came with the rise to power of the Semitic Amorites in Babylon and, especially, during the reign of Hammurabi (r. 1792-1750 BCE) who completely reversed the Sumerian theological model in elevating a supreme male god, Marduk, over all others. Temples dedicated to goddesses were replaced by those for gods and, even though the goddesses’ temples were not destroyed, they were marginalized.

At this same time, women’s rights – which were traditionally on par with men’s – declined as did the great Sumerian cities. Overuse of the land and urban expansion, coupled with ongoing conflicts, are cited as the primary reasons for the fall of the cities. The correlation between the decline in the status of female deities and women’s rights has never been adequately explained – it is unknown which came first – but it is a telling detail in the decline of a culture which had always held women in high regard. By the time the Elamites invaded c. 1750 BCE, the Sumerian culture was already deteriorating and the [invading] Elamites simply finished the process.”

   – Joshua J. Mark, Ancient History Encyclopedia 

Hierarchy, inequality of class, empire, war, conquest, pillage and plunder, and ecological destruction: all of these things existed in Sumer alongside gender equality, it seems, and gender equality both in terms of cultural values, religion and mythology, and in practice. Therefore, we have to conclude that gender imbalance is a severe social, spiritual, and moral problem, but the evidence seems to indicate that it is not the root of all evils that it is sometimes presented to be.

That being said, when gender imbalance begins, society rapidly spirals into ever deeper problems, because the fundamental balance between agency and communion is destroyed; until the society finally collapses, or rediscovers a balance.

Sumeria was well on the way to collapse, regardless of external threats, exactly as with the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. Internal imbalance always brings internal decline, and finally, either an eventual renaissance and rebirth, or the collapse of the civilization.

“Sumerian was well established as the written language by the late 4th century BCE and Sumerian culture, religion, architecture, and other significant aspects of civilization were as well. The literature of the Sumerians would influence later writers, notably the scribes who wrote the Bible, as their tales of The Myth of Adapa, The Eridu Genesis, and The Atrahasis would inform the later biblical accounts of the Garden of Eden, Fall of Man, and the Great Flood. Enheduanna’s works would become the models for later liturgy, Mesopotamian animal fables would be popularized by Aesop, and The Epic of Gilgamesh would inspire works such as the Iliad and Odyssey.

The concept of the gods living in the city’s temple, as well as the shape and size of the Sumerian ziggurat, is thought to have influenced the Egyptian development of the pyramid and their beliefs about their own gods. The Sumerian concept of time, as well as their writing system, was also adopted by other civilizations. The Sumerian cylinder seal – an individual’s sign of personal identification – remained in use in Mesopotamia until c. 612 BCE and the fall of the Assyrian Empire. There was literally no area of civilization the Sumerians did not make some contribution to but, for all their strengths, their culture began to decline long before it fell.”

   – Joshua J. Mark

Their civilization began to decline long before it fell and actually collapsed. Then as now. History is repeating.

We must regain the balance, in multiple ways, or we too are headed for collapse.

“When I observe the ruts in a road, I am compelled to think, how much deeper the ruts in the mind.”

– Henry David Thoreau

But as Thoreau said, it is never too late to give up our bad habits, or our old ideas. Remember: “There is more day yet to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.”

JTR,

May 19, 2020

Post-Script:

On a comic note, for comedic relief, note this. Trump must have been advising the Sumerians on wall construction. Something was clearly amiss. The futility is amusing, in any case. Decline and collapse was due to internal factors, not external threats. But it surely is a Homer Simpson moment to build a wall, and not even get the basic concept right!

“The Sumerian civilization collapsed c. 1750 BCE with the invasion of the region by the Elamites. Shulgi of Ur had erected a great wall in 2083 BCE to protect his people from just such an invasion but, as it was not anchored at either end, it could easily be walked around – which is precisely what the invaders did.”

Wow. Is that how historians will look at us in 4,000 years, presuming humans are alive on Earth by then? Ending our civilization with one big, “Doh!”

Oh, Marg….

 

Critical Reading:

Rianne Eisler, The Chalice and The Blade

Murray Bookchin, The Ecology of Freedom

Erich Fromm, Escape From Freedom

Ronald Wright, A Short History Of Progress

Wade Davis, The Wayfinders

David Suzuki, Elders’ Wisdom

Joanna Macy, World As Lover, World As Self

Allan Wallace, Choosing Reality

Noam Chomsky, Year 501

Noam Chomsky, Necessary Illusions

Henry David Thoreau, Walden and On Civil Disobedience

Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces

Kindred Spirits & “Civilization”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on May 19, 2020 by jtoddring

Thinking about questions of human society and what is “civilized” or “civilization” makes me realize again how much I agree with Chomsky, Gandhi and Thoreau. They have all been deeply critical of what is called Western “civilization”. It also makes me think it’s time to read Vine Deloria Jr. All of them seem like definite kindred spirits to me. I take that thought with a great deal of comfort.

JTR,

May 18, 2020

The end of civilization? I’d like to see its beginning

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on May 19, 2020 by jtoddring

 

Civilization? Technology does not define it. Morality does. That makes all empires uncivilized, because they are based in conquest, plunder, mass murder and theft.

Amazing… Scholars still talking about the Roman Empire as civilized and civilizing… By what definition? Because they had sewers? I agree with Gandhi, Western civilization, “would be a good idea”. 

An otherwise thoughtful historian writes typical gibberish, which is universally accepted in Western civilization (sic) as matter of fact, common sense, and informed opinion:

“Wolfram points out that no other nationality, such as the Celts, seems to carry as much emotional and historical baggage as the Goths. They are either traditionally blamed for the destruction of the civilization of the Roman Empire that plunged western culture into a “dark age” or as heroes who refused to bear the yoke of Rome submissively (best exemplified in the figures of Athanaric, Fritigern, Alaric I, and Totila). It is entirely possible, however, to see the Goths as both these entities. Recent scholarship presents a view of the Goths which is more balanced than the either-or view, which has defined them for so long. The historian Philip Matyszak writes:

Until recently it was automatically assumed that Roman civilization was a Good Thing. Rome carried the torch of civilization into the barbarian darkness, and after the unpleasantness of conquest, Rome brought law, architecture, literature and similar benefits to the conquered peoples…There is now an alternative view, which suggests that Rome became the only civilization in the Mediterranean area by destroying half a dozen others. Some of these civilizations were as advanced as Rome’s, or even more so. Others were developing, and the form they might have finally taken is now lost forever. (9)

Since histories have relied primarily on Roman sources to present the history of the Goths, these people are frequently equated with the concept of the “uncivilized barbarian” or the “noble savage”. In fact, they were neither. As Wolfram points out, their history cannot be claimed as that of the ancient German people nor of the Slavic people nor of any people presently living (74-75).

The Goths entered history at a pivotal moment in the decline of the Roman Empire and played their part in that drama. With the empire gone, they ruled over two great kingdoms: one of Odoacer and Theodoric the Great in Italy, and the other in France (that of Theodoric I).  In Totila, the last great king of the Ostrogoths, they produced one of the most brilliant military leaders in history, a match for the legendary Belisarius of Rome, known as the “Last of the Romans’. With Belisarius’ victory, the history of the Goths ends.”

It is therefore difficult at first to determine exactly what the legacy of the Goths is to the modern-day world until one realizes that, without them, there would not be one. The kingdom of Odoacer preserved the best aspects of the Roman Empire and that of Theodoric the Great maintained that preservation. Western civilization continued after the fall of Rome, an entity that was disintegrating daily and would have fallen anyway even if the Goths had never set a single boot on Roman soil; it was the Goths who preserved the light of western civilization, even as they helped to topple the empire that had given rise to it.”

(From Joshua J. Mark’s, The Goths, though it could be almost any standard issue text)

See notes above. Think again. 

Preserving civilization? What civilization?

Again, I say:

The end of civilization? I’d like to see its beginning.

JTR,

May 18, 2020

Bad-Asses Wanted

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 7, 2020 by jtoddring

 

Sometimes you have to be a little bit bad-ass – just to be a decent person, and do what must be done to help and protect others. Gandhi was right: cowards can never be moral.

Moreover, it is true: the world is a dangerous place, not because a few people do terrible things, but because millions of people let them. Complacency in the face of evil is complicity with evil. We are collaborators with evil if we do nothing in the face of it. To say this is morally unacceptable would be a most extreme understatement.

Joan of Arc, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and yes, Churchill, Roosevelt and Eisenhower, despite their faults – we need more people like them now, and fewer Neville Chamberlains, Vichys and Quislings, which unfortunately are our present norm.

Image result for joan of arc

Joan of Arc

Step one is to think for yourself. Question authority, question the media, question the standard narrative, question what you assume to be true – because it may not be. Question everything. Don’t be afraid of drawing conclusions, at least tentatively. But do question, for heaven’s sake.

Step one is to question, and to seek the truth. Step two is to speak the truth. Orwell was right, and it certainly applies now: “In times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

Beyond that, trust yourself. That is most essential. Use your natural intelligence, keep a good heart, and trust yourself.

Be bold. We don’t need to have all the answers before we act. In fact, we will never have all the answers. We are not born to be omniscient, necessarily; we are born to do what we can, with great love. That is enough. That is more than enough. And furthermore, we are capable of far more than we generally imagine – as individuals, and especially when we unite.

Courage. Life is short, and as Shakespeare said, “rounded by a little sleep”. Let’s give our best while we are here, in this fleeting dream. It matters. It always matters.

JTR,
May 7, 2020

Video Calls: Communication In A Hyper-Connected & Deeply Dissociated Society

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2020 by jtoddring

Thoughtful commentators to the Smithsonian and BBC recently “recommended limiting video calls to only those that are necessary. Petriglieri adds that positioning the video screen to your side may make it feel like you’re in a nearby room instead of under scrutiny. University of Québec psychologist Claude Normand tells National Geographic that turning off your camera and, if possible, taking the call by phone while going for a walk might be more productive.”

Re-read Orwell and Huxley now. We are being conditioned to accept the all-pervasive panopticon telescreen of Orwell’s dark vision, and a new global technocratic corporate police state. Resist. Seek the truth. Speak the truth. And disconnect in order to more truly connect.

We are increasingly disconnected, alienated, manipulated, and dissociated from reality, by our society’s norms; which are, increasingly, severely unhealthy for body and mind, for the body politic, and for our countries and our communities; as well as being increasingly authoritarian, crypto-fascist, technocratic and neofeudal. In this context, unplugging from the digital-electronic mesh is priority one, along with reflection, quiet time, reading, and reconnection with one another, nature, our bodies, hearts and spirits, on a deeper, more authentic and more richly meaningful level.

When possible, I would urge, we prioritize communications this way:

Some people will say the following is impractical or idealistic; but note that I said these should be choice rankings, not imperatives that can never be bent or strayed from.

We can make compromises. But we should also keep a clear set of values, goals, and guidelines in mind; otherwise, we succumb to the global race to the cultural and sociological, health and psychological bottom, where we will be nothing but hollow dead shells, and lifeless, mindless drones, in a neofeudal technocratic gulag society that would make Orwell shudder.

We are certainly well on our way to such a dark destiny. We need to change course, or further down will be our path.

*

First choice: face to face communication – in an office, board room, classroom or cubicle, if you must; but far better, when possible, outdoors, in a clean, green, quiet, natural setting. This is often achievable, with planning, if we value it enough to simply choose it.

Second choice: by typed or hand written letter.

Third choice: email – with courtesy, warmth, respect, full sentences, maybe even decent grammar.

Fourth choice: digital text or messaging – but please, with warmth, respect, full sentences, and attentiveness: not manic hyperactivity and inability to concentrate, focus, or show basic human warmth, civility or common courtesy.

Variable choice: Telephone is sometimes preferable to some people, over any of the above, at least for certain times. That may be fine for some people, but not all. It may further be deemed a necessary compromise at times; but face to face remains best; and often, letters and email are also better than the phone. (Corded, wired landlines are best, because evidence has been accumulating that artificial emfs, like artificial chemicals, do indeed increase health risks and cause harm. Speaker phones are second best.)

Last choice: Generally speaking, though there may be exceptions of course, video calls are worst – for stress, for health, and for human alienation and dissociation, despite surface appearances and corporate marketing PR.

Disconnect to reconnect, I say – at least sometimes, and much, much more than is the current norm.

Two hours a day, maximum, would be a wise limit on staring into any and all electronic screens – including cell phones, computers, video games and TV. Beyond this level, we are unquestionably degrading and decaying our bodies, our health, our relationships, our spirits and our minds, and are sowing dissociation and disconnection from one another, from nature, from our deeper selves, and from reality.

Dissociation, disconnection, alienation and division are poisoning us and our society, mentally, spiritually, politically and socially. We must reverse this trend, or it truly is a dark age ahead.

Remember, as the brilliant philosopher and social psychologist Erich Fromm said, “Normal only exists in relation to a profoundly abnormal norm.”

When the norm becomes toxic, it is time to change the norm.

JTR,

April 30, 2020

 

See also:

Brain Wash – Perlmutter

Manufacturing Consent – Herman and Chomsky

Necessary Illusions – Chomsky

Data Trash – Kroker

And the writings of Orwell, Huxley and Thoreau

Work and Workaholism: Puritanism – and, A Day Off

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 29, 2020 by jtoddring

A few thoughts aloud, for anyone who might be interested – with a little philosophical, historical and political reflection in the midst:

This morning when I got up, feeling exhausted again from the on-going 30-year stint of sleeplessness and insomnia, I thought, I should take a day off – considering I pretty much never take a day off.

(Some people imagine that writers and philosophers sit around all day staring at their navels. Obviously they have never lived the life.)

But, despite my good intentions, shortly after mid-day I realized that my, admittedly joyous and quiet, “day off”, had consisted, so far, of readings in philosophy, politics and history, and the writing of three new essays. Then, as usual, I feel guilty for not accomplishing more. I’m not boasting – I am complaining to myself gently, that I don’t know how to stop or take a break, even when faced with physical and mental exhaustion. This is not a virtue – it’s simple idiocy.

I’m as stubborn as a mule, as the saying goes (though I hear that is unfair and inaccurate with regard to these noble, gentle beasts). And I realize again, what I have realized recently (we are a mystery to one another, by and large, and even to ourselves, at least for a long time): that I am indeed, and always have been, a workaholic.

Again, that’s nothing to be proud of. It is sheer stupidity. My Puritan up-bringing and cultural indoctrination – which everyone north of Paris and the Mexican border, and from Switzerland and Germany, at least, West to the Pacific Ocean, has been condemned with from birth for some few hundred years now – is hard to shake; even with decades of highly conscious efforts!

(I have gotten far better at life balance, but it is a definite work in progress. From purism and ascetic minimalism, and being exceedingly in my head and always lost in thought, to trying to balance that out and in turn becoming, unintentionally, a certified bon vivant, and then back again more moderately in the other direction, and finding, finally and at last, a bit of a better balance…but still definitely working it out…)

And so I say to myself, as a reminder (and to anyone who feels it may apply to them – and I would say it applies to virtually everyone in the North-West quadrant of the globe called The West, and more recently, The North, and to most urbanites outside this capitalist-Puritan empire’s heartland – and to the Japanese and Koreans, as well.):

First of all, unplug. Take a break, at least once in a while. Then…

Go outside! Remember what it is like just to sit and watch the birds and squirrels, the leaves and the grass, the trees in the wind, the sky and the clouds, and to simply be alive. And at least for a few minutes a day, sit or walk outdoors, with no music, no podcasts, no reading, no talking – just silence and nature.

Breathe. Just sit and breathe – for five minutes, at least. Do nothing but breathe, and pay attention to your breathe, as a focal point simply, letting your thoughts and your mind do whatever they like, but gently guiding them back to your breathe, every time they wander. Just sit (or walk) and breathe. And maybe smile as you do.

I am not joking, nor am I being pretentious. I am reminding myself to meditate daily – at least for five minutes, if not twenty minutes or an hour. It is simple, it is uncomplicated, it is something anyone can do, and it is powerful beyond all medicine, at least in the most important of ways: gradually, slowly, over time, grain by grain, it brings peace, calm, and clarity of mind, as well as openness of heart, and a simple joy of being alive. Just sit, and breathe. It is that simple.

Don’t over-complicate things. As my Swiss aunt liked to say, “Complicated works too.” But then, why choose complicated, when simple generally works better, or at least as well.

Take a walk in the forest (see Forest Bathing, if that inspires you, or the writings of Thoreau); or walk by the water – or at least around the block! (No headphones or earbuds, of course, preferably – if you possibly can be quiet for a few minutes, without distraction. Some people can’t. Or think they can’t. Fortunately, that I can do.)

Take a sauna, sweat-bath or steam – or a hot bath (ideally with Epsom salts).

Read a book for sheer pleasure – not out of duty, not for work, not even joyful seriousness (which is my normal reading), but sheer pleasure.

(A Wizard Of Earthsea, I have meaning to get to! Ah, how I love high fantasy, a la, Tolkien – and I love Ursula Le Guin!)

This corner of the world, which is Northern Europe and North America, north of the Mexican border, came, largely through a series of historical accidents (and brutal, genocidal conquest, followed by violent colonialism, neocolonialism and imperialism) to dominate the globe for the past 500 years. (The declining relative power of the North-Western elite and their empire is now bringing a tectonic, fascistic, Orwellian, world-endangering power struggle into play, by the way, as some alert few have realized.)

That conquest mentality was a horrific mistake, as well as a horrific crime against humanity and nature. But the conquest began at home, we should realize. The mass of men, women and children in Europe, and in what became Canada and the United States, were first colonized, conquered, dominated and subjugated (incompletely and temporarily) by the ruling domestic elite, before that same elite sent them off to fight and die, to subjugate, colonize, conquer and dominate other peoples in other parts of the globe.

(The 99% great majority of the settler-colonial culture was being subjugated internally while its elite were busy with conquest, subjugation, slavery and genocide of the cultural “other” in the Americas, Africa and Asia. But the internal subjugation of the many by the few began first, and was necessary for the latter to occur at all. In short, we were pawns. We still are pawns. But no free man or woman is content to live as a pawn – much less as a pawn in some evil man’s game.)

The mechanisms of this foreign and domestic conquest and subjugation were, and remain: elitism in its various forms and its ideological rationalizations, subtle or overt authoritarianism, the sowing of fear, mistrust, paranoia, alienation and division, materialism and consumerism, the “manufacture of consent” and “necessary illusions”, along with thought control, PR and propaganda; and yes, Puritanism – and, not only a radically unbalanced way of life and approach to life, which arises from it, and a secretly self-loathing masochistic martyr complex and eagerness to be virtual slaves; along with a radical mistrust of nature, one another, and ourselves – which is the root of alienation, division, disconnection, dissociation and dualistic delusion, and is pure spiritual, intellectual, psychological, political and sociological poison.

This, among other things, is what we must unearth and exhume from our collective subconscious, this rattling skeleton, or rotting corpse, which not only haunts the world, but to a large degree controls, through insidiously, through stealth, the modern Western mind – up to and including the present day. By bringing it into the light of day, the light of consciousness, we strip it of its power; and thus, liberate ourselves, our societies, and our world: so that we can be free, and the world can indeed be born again.

And Thomas Paine was right: it is within our power to begin the world again.

As Arundhati Roy said,

“A better world is not only possible; it is already being born. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathe.”

Balance, re-connection, re-integration, re-examination, reflection, de-cluttering of the mind, simplifying of our lives and our approach – and with these things, and from these things, empowerment: this is what is needed now.

Time for a greater balance. We are too busy, yet, also put up with too much. We settle for too little. Bells and baubles and trinkets, distractions and entertainment, we have galore – we’re drowning in it. It is a sea of shiny, glittery sewage, and our world is drowning in it. But the things we need most, and which give our lives the greatest richness, meaning, and joy, we are impoverished in; or, as with liberty and democracy, and our basic human rights and freedoms, we are losing before our eyes.

We must now disconnect, in order to re-connect. Slow down, in order to re-balance. Do less, in order to regain a greater clarity, heart-centredness, and inner power. Then, begin again – with more power, more clarity, and more openness of heart; and all will be better, you can be assured.

At least, we can know this: lacking these things, and not taking time for such replenishing and re-focusing and re-connection, we can and will do less, and accomplish less – and will do it all with less clarity, and possibly with disastrous results, due to a lack of clarity.

Slow down, and sometimes, simply stop. Pause. Take a breath. The world will go on. Or it won’t. Being forever frenetically busy will not help anything. It will only cloud the issues, cloud the mind, and sow exhaustion and ill-health, while depriving your life of richness, meaning and joy – as well as many a great potential accomplishment.

Slow…down.

Breathe.

Life is not a race – no matter the conditions, or what is going on.

No matter the urgency, no matter the stakes: never hesitate, and never rush.

Remember the words of Rumi, and Emma Goldman:

“Ours is not a caravan of despair.”

And,

“If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.”

Amen, sister.

Moreover, if we do not slow down and find a better balance, our chances of success in anything important – including rescuing humanity from suicidal ecological destruction, or from slavery to the new global neofeudal corporate empire – will be slim.

Nourish yourself in body, spirit and mind. Slow down. And know when to take a break!

Peace.
JTR,
April 29, 2020

See also:

The Ecology of Freedom – Murray Bookchin

The Chalice and the Blade – Rianne Eisler

The Hero With A Thousand Faces – Joseph Campbell

World As Lover, World As Self – Joanna Macy

Psychotherapy East and West – Alan Watts

Choosing Reality – Allan Wallace

Stolen Continents – Ronald Wright

A Short History of Progress – Ronald Wright

Year 501: The Conquest Continues – Noam Chomsky

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism – Max Weber

The Pathology Of Normalcy – Erich Fromm

Escape From Freedom – Erich Fromm

Necessary Illusions – Noam Chomsky

Walden, and On Civil Disobedience – Henry David Thoreau

The Discourse On Voluntary Servitude – Etienne de La Boetie

The speeches and writings of MLK and Gandhi

 

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