Sunday, 30 January 2011

the band plays on

Like the Titanic, the momentum of technological society is so huge that even if we reversed the engines and steered hard right now, the short-term and mid-term course of events would not change much. We are on a collision course with nature that can no longer be averted. Yet not only have we done little to brake or steer away from the looming iceberg, we have maintained an oblivious policy of "full speed ahead!" In the United States, Republican policy has been essentially, "What iceberg?" while the Democrats try to change course by a few degrees—but not so quickly as to spill the drinks on the first class deck. The "practical" proposals and workable compromises on the table are woefully inadequate. One party repudiates the Kyoto Treaty and the other endorses it, but few acknowledge that even that is far too little, far too late. Outside the United States, "developing" countries such as India and China, abetted by Western institutions, stoke the Titanic's furnaces with their headlong industrialization using the old linear model of extraction, processing, consumption, and waste.
And meanwhile, on deck the party continues, as it will continue to continue even after the first crunch reverberates through the ship, even as the icy torrent consumes compartment after compartment. On the top deck the band will play on even as the ship lists and rolls, maintaining a desperate and deadly illusion of normalcy.

Charles Eisenstein, from The Ascent of Humanity

a man in a burning house

If all that stuff were true—about the ecological destruction, the genocide, the starving children, and the whole litany of impending crises—then wouldn't everyone be in an uproar about it? The normalcy of the routines surrounding me here in America tells me, "It couldn't be that bad." That little voice echoes throughout the culture. Every advertising flyer, every celebrity news item, every product catalog, every hyped-up sports event, carries the subtext, "You can afford to care about this." A man in a burning house wouldn't care about these things; that our culture does care about them, almost exclusively, implies that our house is not burning down. The forests are not dying. The deserts are not spreading. The atmosphere is not heating. Children are not starving. Torturers are not going free. Whole ethnicities are not being exterminated. These crimes against humanity and crimes against nature couldn't really be happening. Probably they have been exaggerated; in any event, they are happening somewhere else. Our society will figure out solutions before the calamities of the Third World affect me. See, no one else is worried, are they? Life hums on as usual.

Charles Eisenstein, from his The Ascent of Humanity

Monday, 24 January 2011


The old paradigm is based on control. But our old paradigm "civilisation" has no control over its destiny. As Adam Sacks writes, in "The Natural Laws of Collapse":
That birds fly and pigs don't is a consequence of laws of nature governing physics and biology. Nothing that transpires on physical planet Earth is any different: the laws of nature are inviolate. Always.
Collapse of civilisations, including ours, is inevitable and always has been. Hidden in plain sight, we have not grasped what will sooner or later become obvious: Civilisational collapse is not up to any of us, no matter what we do. As when faced with an unstoppable Hurricane Katrina, which is only obeying the laws of nature, the best we can do is to be prepared.
As civilisations grow larger the ability to change seems to dwindle, and we witness all civilisations in history going through their birth, vigour, then death.
Social complexity is very expensive, and the more a civilisation grows the less you get back per unit of input (also called "diminishing returns"). Sooner or later every civilisation busts its budget, cannot afford its armies or its bureaucracies, is unable to suppress increasing dissatisfaction among the masses who must be at least nominally pacified (think bread and circuses), exhausts its resources, suffers from its environmental travesties (the most salient of which is destruction of trees and soil), runs out of food, and is eventually supplanted by simpler more sustainable groups (if there are any around) or just disperses (if there's any place left to disperse to).
The civilisational life cycle, as described above, is a law of nature. The collapse is therefore predictable. It has nothing to do with our specific Euro-American now-gone-global deplorable civilisation -- it has to do with any civilisation that gets to a certain size, necessitating hierarchy and class
And that's where we are now. The determining factor is size (relative to resources). All else is simply the stories we tell ourselves. Therefore:

We can write to politicians, we can riot in the streets, we can write learned tomes, we can cavort through the vast wasteland of talk radio, we can make impassioned documentaries, we can bring down Monsanto, we can put up solar panels and drink organic yak's milk. None of that will change the outcome one bit (as tragic as that may be now that humans have become a global force) -- because civilisation is on a course prescribed by laws of nature which have no regard whatsoever for human wishful thinking.
Resistance is futile. Any energy expended on trying to rescue this "civilisation" is energy wasted - this applies both to physical resources, and to human resources, i.e. our thoughts, words, and actions. We can go down with the sinking ship, or we can get into the lifeboats. The lifeboats are the new paradigm, based on unity rather than hierarchy and class. We cannot stop the old ship from sinking. We can only prepare for change.

no comment

Following the minimalist example of Leo Babauta, I have removed the comment facility from this blog. I have been considering this move for a while, and I was provoked into action by a very abusive comment received. In this blog I am expressing what I see and understand of our current predicament. I write from inspiration, and I am not looking for argument or intellectual analysis, let alone abuse. I am grateful to those who have left thoughtful or appreciative comments on this blog in the past - it has been good to realise that some people are reading and enjoying my writing. However, I do not wish to act as moderator of comments. Going forward, if you wish to comment, please do so via your own blog, or on social networking services.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

go your own way

This weekend my horoscope said "mind your own business"! A simple but stark message... it seems that I have been poking my nose into the affairs of others, and it is doing neither me nor them any good. I don't agree with what they are saying and doing, and they don't understand or care about what I am saying and doing. A previous horoscope said "go your own way" and it is the same message, essentially.

I see people all around me stuck in the meme of the old paradigm. They are worrying about money, about their possessions, having problems with complex technology, they never seem to have enough time to do everything they "need" to do. They are concerned about the "recession", austerity cuts, climate change. They are pointing fingers at others - it is the governments fault, it is the bankers' fault - somebody else is to blame. I have been there myself - I spent a long time getting angry, upset, and depressed, watching our "civilisation" being taken apart by greedy incompetents, and even worse, watching our planet suffer terrible abuses by our hands. I came to hate mankind and everything we have come to be. I blamed our leaders for leading us into hell. I blamed the sleepwalking masses who follow them for staying asleep. I ranted at my friends and family "wake up wake up".

Then I realised: I am not responsible for them. I am not responsible for their actions. Just as they are not responsible for me. There should be no pointing of fingers, no blame. Each one of us is responsible for our own actions. We can change only ourselves. We have (or should have) no control over others. We are responsible only for ourselves. We can change ourselves, and we have to change ourselves. Nobody else can change us against our will. Change comes from within. And when we change ourselves in a positive direction, the world then changes with us, because we become a positive influence on others.

And so I have to go my own way. I have to change myself, and I am working on so doing. I can give my opinions to others, but I should not be concerned about whether or not they understand me or pay attention. That is their business. My business is to align myself with the rising energies of the new paradigm, and to detach myself from the falling energies of the old paradigm. The old fear-based controlling ways, that spawned our blame culture, are heading into an abyss. Everyone who remains attached to the old paradigm will be dragged down with it. The sooner we set ourselves free from it the better for each of us. There is nothing to be gained there, only further loss. And the chains that bind us to the old ways are an illusion - in reality there is nothing stopping us from walking away, other than our old fixed attitudes and habits.

Meanwhile the new paradigm of light and love offers unprecedented hope, comfort, and joy. What is there to dislike about love, caring, and sharing?

And so, for now, I am going to mind my own business! I am going to go my own way. I am focusing on self transformation, on transitioning from the old paradigm to the new. We have to get there individually, because we are surrounded by discord, argument, and strife, which will only bring us down or hold us back if we get involved in it. I am setting an example. You may follow as you please, or do your own thing!

For now we must focus on ourselves. But, once the new paradigm is in the ascendency, our hands will be joined in harmony.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

out of sync

The new paradigm is all about sharing and co-operation, while the old paradigm is all about selfishness and solitary separation. So, all we have to do is start focusing on giving to each other, instead of taking from each other, right? If only it was that simple....

Most of the population of the world are still locked in to the old fear-based paradigm of selfishness and material desire. In effect they are lost souls, at least for now. Those of us who have found our souls, and have learned how to let some of our natural inherent love flow out to others, are thoroughly outnumbered. We are surrounded by old paradigm thinking and behaviours. If I radiate pure selfless spiritual love to lost souls they may enjoy the feeling, but they will misinterpret what is happening. They may feel the love and think I am making romantic or sexual overtures! Or they may associate my radiance with the false charisma of salesmen, and think I am trying to con something out of them. Or they may just ignore the love, and focus on my unconventional appearance and unusual behaviour, and deduce that I am dangerous and probably insane. Most will in some way or another misinterpret selfless love as something selfish. They are accustomed to understanding the world in a selfish way, and they project their habitual ways of thinking on to others when attempting to understand them.

So we cannot simply give to others indiscriminately. If we do so we will inspire false hopes in others, or be taken advantage of in some way or other, or shunned. We may incite anger or violence against us.

So, what to do? We have to learn to discriminate very accurately. Being loving and giving should be our natural default position. But we must be very alert for signs of being misunderstood, or manipulated by others with less lofty aims and ideals. And when we encounter such negative responses, we must either withdraw, for our own protection, back into the separation which is anathema to us, or we must challenge the misconceptions and misdeeds of others. There is a time to be loving and a time to be stern and strong. The paradox is, that to be loving in a loveless society, we must develop very thick skins, and we must frequently adopt behaviours very similar to those we are trying to move on from.

While seeking to encourage community, we must be prepared to withdraw into hermetic isolation. While promoting peace, we must be prepared to stand firm and defend ourselves against vicious attacks.

This is a temporary phase. The tide is turning our way. As time moves on we will be less outnumbered, and the new paradigm ways will become better understood by the many who are currently sleepwalking. Then we will be able to love more freely, and to live with each other in peace.

A Gandhi said: "first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win".

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Malfunction Terminal

You are on a long distance train, the Snowball Express, making your way to your home town of Prosperity, in Redemption Valley. You have to change to a local train at Malfunction City.

The Snowball Express is a fast smooth modern train, with electric doors, automated announcement system, comfortable seating, and a restaurant car with bar. The train is full, and most of your fellow passengers are asleep, or inebriated, or both. You are awake and watching out of the window - your watch indicates you should be at Malfunction already, so you know the Snowball Express is running late. Your connection with the local train is going to be tight. You decide to get your luggage and head for the door, so as to be first off the train. The Snowball Express slows down to a crawl as it pulls into Malfunction Terminal - you can see the Redemption Local across the platform - there is still time to make the connection. The train stops. The door remains closed. You press the override switch to open the door. There is no response. You pick up your baggage and head through to the next carriage - that door opens. Now there is a barrier in your way, with many electronic turnstiles in which you have to insert your ticket. You fumble feverishly in your pockets and find your ticket. You can see the guard of the Redemption Local closing the carriage doors - it is an old style train with manual doors.... You find your ticket and insert it in a turnstile - the turnstile spits it out. You notice there is a red "no entry" indicator on the gate. You search along the row of gates for one with a green indicator, and there is one, which takes your ticket and lets you through.... you run to the train and clamber on, just as the guard is raising his whistle to blow it...

Several of your fellow passengers on the Snowball Express intended to catch this same train to Redemption. Few made the connection. There is a later train to Delusionville, and another to Miracle City, but that was the last train to Redemption Valley. Some of these people are still asleep on the Snowball Express. Some did not even realise they had to change trains at Malfunction. Others are awake and looking out of the windows - they realised the train had stopped and they were wondering if it was time to get off the train. But there was no announcement, so they cannot have arrived yet... and, hey, as they look out of the window now, they see that the train is moving forward again. No problem - they can go back to sleep... Actually, the announcement system is broken, and they are seeing an optical illusion - it is the other train that is moving, in the opposite direction!

A few people did realise they had reached Malfunction, and headed for the doors. Some waited patiently for the doors to open, and missed the connection. Others had doors that worked, but they had too much baggage, and struggled with the turnstiles, and missed the connection. Others were so frustrated and angry at the lack of announcements, the broken doors, and the broken turnstiles, that they lost their focus and failed to find their way through in time.

The lucky few, who made it onto the last train to Redemption Valley, now find themselves on a rattly old train, with hard seats and no air-conditioning. But the journey is not far - this is a local train. A friendly guard comes along, checking that everyone is OK. He promises to let you know when your stop is approaching. Just as you are feeling tired and hungry, a cheerful lady appears with a trolley offering coffee, tea, and snacks. It is a bit warm, so you open a window, letting in sweet fresh country air.... you are almost home, and you can relax now, as the rest of the journey will be easy.

This little tale is a metaphor, for the transition from the old paradigm to the new paradigm. Our train is already stopped at Malfunction City. Most of us are fast asleep. Others sense the hiatus, but feel sure that the train will continue on its way shortly. Only a few realise that they have to change train, and only some of these actually manage to make it past the obstacles they encounter at Malfunction Terminal.

This is a time to be free of unnecessary baggage, to travel light. This is a time to be alert, with a clear intellect. This is a time to be flexible and ready to change direction at moment's notice.

Those who sincerely wish to reach Redemption Valley, and who make appropriate efforts, will get there. The new paradigm is very easy, once you are in it. The difficulties are created by the old paradigm. We have all been born and raised in the old paradigm ways, and we have to make determined and consistent efforts to change our patterns of thought and behaviour. Most of us are surrounded by people who are thinking, talking, and behaving in these old ways, and their influence will pull us back into our old habits, unless we are constantly vigilant. It is too easy to take assurance from those around us, forgetting that they are sleepwalking. They trust the old paradigm systems even as these systems are in terminal breakdown, and they trust the old paradigm figures of authority even as they are clearly revealed as crooks and shysters. Do not fall into such a trap.

There is only a short window of opportunity to make the transition from the old paradigm to the new paradigm. This window is closing. Many tried to change too soon, and become dispirited at the obstacles in their way. The automatic doors of the Snowball Express would not let them off early, on the grounds that they might injure themselves. But now that train is stationary and some of the doors are open - don't become dispirited when faced with the broken turnstiles, and don't try to take too much baggage with you. With intelligence and determination it is possible to change to the new paradigm now. Soon it will be too late.