Archive for the ‘Paradigm shift’ Category

Maitreya: The coming one for all humanity

March 7, 2017

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Bombarded with one negative news story after another, many people feel a pervasive pessimism close at hand. Fear and mistrust, uncertainty, are some of the results. Debilitating conditions, which sap the joy out of life, and strengthen materialistic demands of escape: alcohol, drugs and endless consumerism, which in turn feeds climate change and ecological destruction.

Largely unreported by mainstream media, an extraordinary, albeit controversial story has been spread far and wide over the last 40 years, by Benjamin Crème: A remarkable man, he died on 24th October 2016, aged 94. He would probably have described himself as an artist, a painter, and although he continued to make artwork well into his 80’s, he will undoubtedly be remembered as the man who prophesised the coming of Maitreya the World Teacher.

Crème said his task was to “create the climate of hope and expectation into which Maitreya may emerge.” He did this by travelling the world, giving public talks and media interviews, writing books and editing Share International magazine. Millions of people heard his message, were inspired by the information, touched by his humility, humour and common sense. Many of course dismiss the story; those most offended are usually fundamentalist Christians, who have a particular view of Christ and a body of theological doctrine to defend.

In my experience Benjamin Crème’s information is completely true; his sources genuine, their counsel wise. It is a message of hope, which, if legitimate, constitutes the single most important event of our time, is deserving of our attention, and for the curious, open-minded investigation.

The choice is ours

From the early talks in 1974 Benjamin Crème repeatedly spoke of a world divided along two distinct lines, with two groups battling for the minds of men; seeking to determine how we live, what type of civilisation we inhabit, what values colour our societies. With each passing year the divisions have become more clearly defined, the advocates and alternative ways more visible, the choices before us plainly revealed.

Whilst subtleties exist, broad generalisations can be made and serve to define the nature of the choice: There are the reactionary, nationalistic forces, that seek to maintain the status quo and see the answers to today’s problems in the ways of the past. And standing in a different place, despite ‘the polls’ and outward signs, is a much more significant, if less politically powerful group – the majority of humanity. Social justice and freedoms of all kinds are championed; cooperation, tolerance and understanding promoted.

Maitreya will galvanise and inspire those calling for change; he will voice the concerns of the many, the marginalised and exploited, those living in destitution and stifling poverty, suffering abuse and crippling hardship. In message number 11, made on 5th January 1978 (one of 140 messages given between September 1977 and June 1982), he outlined some of his concerns: “Throughout the world there are men, women and little children who have not even the essentials to stay alive; they crowd the cities of many of the poorest countries in the world. This crime fills me with shame. My brothers, how can you watch these people die before your eyes and call yourselves men? My plan is to save these, my little ones, from certain starvation and needless death.”

He has not come to establish a new religion, nor is he interested in attracting followers; he is a teacher in the broadest sense – for all people. His core message is that humanity is one, and says that the answers to our problems are really very simple; “share and save the world,” he advocates. “Take your brother’s need as the measure for your actions and solve the problems of the world,” he counsels.

The son of man

Throughout the ages a teacher has come forward at certain specific times; “whenever there is a withering of the law and an uprising of lawlessness on all sides, then I manifest myself. For the salvation of the righteous and the destruction of such as do evil, for the firm establishing of the Law, I come to birth age after age,” Krishna said in the Bhagavad Gita (Book IV, sutra 7 & 8). Now is such a time.

All religious groups await their particular Teacher; Christians expect Christ – usually seen as Jesus Christ; Hindus look for Krishna; Buddhists await Maitreya Buddha, Muslims, the appearance of the Imam Mahadi – some believe He is already here; and Jews, the Messiah. Students of the Esotericism, as Benjamin Crème was, understand these various titles to be different names for one individual – the Lord Maitreya, the World Teacher and Head of our Spiritual Hierarchy. He prefers to be known simply as The Teacher.

The existence of the spiritual hierarchy was first made known by Helena Blavatsky, author of Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine, published in 1875, and co-founder, with Colonel Henry S. Olcott of The Theosophical Society. She spoke of the existence of a group of perfected men, who, together with their disciples, form the spiritual hierarchy. This large group, Crème states, are the “elder brothers of humanity, [those] who have gone ahead of us in evolution.” They are, “the custodians of the evolutionary plan of planet Earth”, and have been so since the very dawn of time. The Hierarchy constitutes the “inner government as it were, of the planet.” They live in remote regions of the world, mountains, deserts and forests, far from the chaos, noise and pollution.

Following on from Helena Blavatsky’s groundbreaking work, from 1920 to 1941 another Russian woman, Helena Roerich, worked with certain senior members of the hierarchy and facilitated the writing of the Agni Yoga Teachings. Then came an extensive, highly detailed body of work transcribed by Alice A. Bailey, a British woman, from strong Christian roots. Bailey served as the amanuensis for one of the Adepts known simply as The Tibetan, from 1919 to 1949.

Details of the structure of the spiritual hierarchy are laid out in the first book penned by Bailey – Initiation Human and Solar, and in The Reappearance of The Christ as well as The Externalisation of The Hierarchy, we find information about the emergence of Maitreya. The works produced by these extraordinary women form individual parts of a series of inter connected, sequential teachings. Benjamin Crème’s writings and talks follow on, in planned order. The ideas espoused should not be understood as challenging existing religious notions or philosophical theories of existence, but rather as underpinning them.

The spiritual hierarchy is known by various names: the Great White Brotherhood, The Society of Illumined Minds, the Masters of Wisdom and Lords of Compassion, of which there are three. Maitreya is one of these Great Ones as they are known and, for the last 2,150 years (approximately) has held the office of World Teacher.

He embodies the Christ Consciousness, or Christ Principle – the energy of Love. Maitreya is, Alice Bailey relates, “that Great Being Whom the Christian calls the Christ; He is known also in the Orient as the Bodhisattva and as the Lord Maitreya.” He is the great “Lord of Love and of Compassion” as the Buddha was the Lord of Wisdom.” He is the Christ for this planet, a fact that many Christians will no doubt struggle to accept. He is the Master of all the Masters, and to Him “is committed the guidance of the spiritual destinies of men [mankind]. He is the World Teacher for this coming cycle; He is the Coming One”.

Humanity is one

According to the Ageless Wisdom, all the great teachers throughout the ages have come forth from the same centre – the spiritual hierarchy. Like teachers before him, Maitreya explains that mankind is divine: “I have come to teach the art of Self-realization, which is neither an ideology nor a religion, but benefits people of all religions and those who have none.” You are the Self he says, a divine being; “Suffering is caused by identification with anything and everything which is not the Self. Ask yourself, “Who am I?” You will see that you are identified either with matter (the body), or with thought (the mind) or with power (spirit). But you are none of these.”

On 19th July 1977 Maitreya descended from His Himalayan mountain retreat and came into the everyday world, Crème relates. In the years since, He has been gradually emerging stage by stage; a planned process that will lead to “the Day of Declaration”, when Maitreya will present Himself to the world via the media. This momentous event is thought to be very near; in a message given on 31 March 2016 Maitreya Himself said, “the time is close indeed when all men will recognize My face and respond, it is the truth…Soon humanity as a whole will awaken to My presence and will accept with all willingness the transformation of this, our world.”

The groundwork for His open work been laid: His priorities and the seeds of His teachings have been given out, accurate forecasts of world events made, a plethora of miraculous signs, from patterns of light and images of deities that weep, to healing wells and moving ‘stars’ in the skies have been seen. He has appeared to individuals and groups – notably in Kenya in 1988 where he appeared ‘out of the blue’ during a service conducted by the healer Mary Akatsa in a shantytown in Nairobi. Over 6000 people witnessed the event, many where convinced they had seen the Christ and called out His name; Photographs were taken by the editor of the Kenyan Times.

Maitreya comes to advise and to teach: Benjamin Crème says that in the first place “we will find that he will lay the emphasis on the oneness of humanity, on the fact of the human soul, and on the need for sharing and right relationships. He will teach, again, the Law of Cause and Effect and its relation to the Law of Rebirth, showing the need for harmlessness in all relationships.” He will guide and inspire humanity, and, together with a relatively large group of His closest disciples – the Masters of the Wisdom, He will show the way out of the myriad crises facing humanity, encouraging a new imagination to tackle the systemic problems and the interconnected environmental catastrophes.

But we must be open-minded, ready for change and prepared to listen; we are the ones who will make the needed changes, not Maitreya or the Masters; changes desperately needed if we are to eradicate poverty, bring about social justice, save the planet and create peace. How, Maitreya asks, “can you be content with the modes within which you now live: when millions starve and die in squalor; when the rich parade their wealth before the poor; when each man is his neighbor’s enemy; when no man trusts his brother? For how long must you live thus, my friends? For how long can you support this degradation?”

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Comment: Maitreya, Miroku, Milu, Mitra, Mithra, Mazda, Mahdi, Massiah, Messiah mean friend (mitra), usually a future savior, which means the potential of everyone to become a true friend of all. Everyone can become savior by becoming awakened in nirvana (no-wind, of karma), by sitting and stilling karma, witnessing oneness of all (in Dependent Co-origination, cause and effect in the above article).

Please refer to the following article:


paradigm shift diagram


Not Getting Enough Sleep? Camping In February Might Help

February 4, 2017

February 2, 20172:04 PM ET

Escaping artificial light even for a winter weekend can reset sleep patterns for the better, researchers say. One good place to do it: Heliotrope Ridge near Mount Baker in Washington state.
Christopher Kimmel/Aurora Open/Getty Images
It’s tempting to keep the computer running late and promise yourself an extra 30 minutes of bed rest in the morning. It’s tempting to do it again the next night, too. But sleep inevitably loses out to getting up early for school or work.

There’s a simple way to combat this: End all artificial lights at night for at least a weekend and drench your eyes in natural morning light, says Kenneth Wright, a professor of integrative physiology at the University of Colorado, Boulder and senior author on a study on resetting sleep cycles. The most straightforward way of doing this is to forbid any electronics on a camping trip.

In the study, published Thursday in Current Biology, Wright reports on the latest of a series of experiments where he sent people out camping in Colorado parks to reset their biological clocks. Small groups of people set out for a week during the summer, an experiment published in Current Biology in 2013.

This most recent study shows the results of camping a week in winter and once over a winter weekend. Others stayed at home to live their life. Along with sleep, Wright kept track of people’s circadian rhythms by measuring their levels of the hormone melatonin, which regulates wakefulness and sleep.

Before each camping trip, Wright says that he noticed something odd about the study participants’ melatonin levels.

Many Grouchy, Error-Prone Workers Just Need More Sleep

Many Grouchy, Error-Prone Workers Just Need More Sleep
In general, melatonin makes us feel tired. Levels of the hormone rise a couple of hours before we sleep, and they fall right when we wake up. “In the modern environment, those melatonin levels fall back down a couple of hours after we wake up,” Wright says. “Our brains say we should be sleeping several hours after we wake up.” The participants’ sleep and wake times were slightly out of step with their internal clocks, like constantly being a little jet lagged.

But after people got back from a week-long camping trip, the jet lag was gone.

“[Melatonin] would go down at sunrise and right when people woke up,” Wright says. And people’s entire sleep schedules had shifted earlier so that they were going to bed and rising two or more hours earlier than they had been before camping. Those who had gone camping for just a weekend had their sleep schedules shifted by a little less than an hour and a half.

Why this happens probably has to do with how drastically different an environment lit by light bulbs and laptops is from one of sun and starlight.

Up Late? Looks Like Our Paleo Ancestors Didn’t Sleep Much Either
Up Late? Looks Like Our Paleo Ancestors Didn’t Sleep Much Either
Outside, “you are pretty constrained by natural light-dark cycles and the intensity and light spectrum that you see in nature,” says Dr. Phyllis Zee, director for the Center for Circadian and Sleep Medicine at Northwestern University who was not involved with the study. Natural light, particularly morning sunshine, which is enriched with blue light, has a very powerful influence on setting internal clocks.

That bright light can affect our circadian rhythm is nothing new, Zee says. But this collection of studies make very clear how an artificially lit environment at night can push our sleep timing further back, while bright, blue-rich light can train our circadian rhythms to sync earlier in a way that is actionable. Sleep doctors will often suggest that people use a light box indoors in the morning to simulate dawn, but’s not always as effective as real dawn.

“I actually have used that [summer camping] study to treat some of my patients,” Zee says. “We see people who can’t fall asleep until 4 am. It can be very difficult to use this light box in the morning and avoid light at night. So you say, okay, there’s this camping thing.”

Sleep’s Link To Learning And Memory Traced To Brain Chemistry
Sleep’s Link To Learning And Memory Traced To Brain Chemistry
If camping is not your thing, Zee suggests trying to copy a natural light-dark cycle, at least on the weekend. “Over 60 percent of the shift can happen over a weekend. It’s pretty amazing,” she says. “We can on weekends or days off go out or sit by the window and just expose ourselves to a natural light-dark cycle.”

And in a perfect world, homes, schools and offices would have artificial light that could mimic the spectrum and the intensity of natural light. “As a new design philosophy, think about light as important as having clean air,” Zee says. “It’s possible. It’s totally possible.”

Angus Chen is on Twitter @angRchen

Reflections on the Anthropocene

September 2, 2016
Published on

Dear humanity: It’s time to grow up. (Photo: Pixabay/CC0)

“However these debates will unfold, the Anthropocene represents a new phase in the history of both humankind and of the Earth, when natural forces and human forces became intertwined, so that the fate of one determines the fate of the other. Geologically, this is a remarkable episode in the history of this planet.”

This is a little too big to simply call “news.” Indeed, I can’t move beyond these words — especially that heart-stopper, “intertwined” — until I’m able to summon sufficient inner quiet and humility. Geologically, the paradigm has already shifted. How about spiritually?

The words are those of four geologists and climate scientists, including Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen, writing in 2010 in the journal Environmental Science & Technology (and quoted at — making the point that the human phenomenon has become, for better and for worse, essentially partnered with nature, a co-creator of the planet’s future.

This hypothesis has returned to public attention, as the International Geological Congress meets in Cape Town, South Africa, and a working panel has voted that the Anthropocene Epoch — a planetary shift to a new geological state of existence — be officially acknowledged by the world’s scientific community. That is to say, the planet has moved beyond what has been called the Holocene: some 12,000 years of climate stability, which emerged after the last ice age. In this window of opportunity, human civilization created itself and, in the process, seized hold of, and began changing, the planet’s geological infrastructure.

The current hypothesis is that the Anthropocene began, uh . . . about the time “Ozzie and Harriet” was hitting the airwaves, disposable ballpoint pens were finding their market niche and the Baby Boomers were starting kindergarten. That is to say, the 1950s.

The primary cause of the geological shift, the Guardian reports, are “the radioactive elements dispersed across the planet by nuclear bomb tests, although an array of other signals, including plastic pollution, soot from power stations, concrete, and even the bones left by the global proliferation of the domestic chicken were now under consideration.”

None of this is good news. Short-sighted human behavior, from nuclear insanity to agribusiness to the proliferation of plastic trash, has produced utterly unforeseen consequences, including disruption of the climate that has nurtured our growth and becoming over the last dozen millennia. This is called recklessness. And mostly the Anthropocene is described with dystopian bleakness: a time of mass extinctions. A time of dying.

But I return to the words quoted above: “. . . the Anthropocene represents a new phase in the history of both humankind and of the Earth, when natural forces and human forces became intertwined. . . .”

What I hear in the silence of these words is something far more resonant than mere pessimism or cynicism. I hear awareness. I hear urgency. I hear hope.

I hear the largest challenge that humanity has ever faced or imagined — a challenge that transcends religion, politics and science, indeed, everything we believe and everything we know, or think we know. This includes a belief in our own reckless immaturity.


Consider: “Human occupation is usually associated with deteriorated landscapes, but new research shows that 13,000 years of repeated occupation by British Columbia’s coastal First Nations has had the opposite effect, enhancing temperate rainforest productivity.”

The story, also at, talks about research data showing that the trees growing at sites formerly inhabited by the tribal peoples “are taller, wider and healthier than those in the surrounding forest,” thanks to various practices, including the burying of the remains of intertidal shellfish over thousands of years, enriching the soil. “For more than 13,000 years —500 generations—people have been transforming this landscape,” environmental scientist Andrew Trant is quoted as saying. “So this area that at first glance seems pristine and wild is actually highly modified and enhanced as a result of human behavior.”

There are many, many examples of how “primitive” cultures have been true stewards of their environment and enhanced its health and eco-diversity, but such stories are easily dismissed with a despairing shrug: This isn’t how the modern world works. Nor has eco-stewardship been the force that has brought on the Anthropocene. That has come about, rather, by a combination of extraordinary technological breakthroughs and cold indifference to their consequences: human evolution, you might say, outside the circle of life. But here we are nonetheless.

“. . . when natural forces and human forces became intertwined. . . .”

It’s time to grow up. Simply looking at the news in the context of the ongoing geological shift puts things in a radically different perspective. I grab, almost at random, a recent story that slapped me in the face with its absurdity: San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sends shockwaves across spectator America when he refuses to stand for the national anthem. Fans burn replicas of his jersey.

What I see in Kaepernick’s courageous act transcends even the racism he was protesting. The consciousness symbolized by the national anthem — that only part of this planet matters, and all of it is available for our exploitation — is what has cluelessly ushered in the Anthropocene. We need to build a new world on the far side of that consciousness: on the far side of the flag, on the far side of the national anthem.

Robert C. Koehler

Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His new book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound is now available. Contact him or visit his website at


Comment: We need the Trifold Paradigm Shift in individual (from karma to nirvana), social (from pyramidal power civilization to cyclical Indra-net culture), ecologically (from nature discrimination to nurture synthesis, as shown in the First Nation’s nurturing life in the above article).

Political Progress, powered by people

May 20, 2016

When we started this campaign, my greatest fear was that if we did not do well that it would be a setback not just for me, but for the ideas driving our campaign.

We had no campaign organization, no money, and very little name recognition. The corporate media called us “fringe,” we were taking on the entire Democratic establishment, and we were down 60 points or more in the national polls.

Then a supporter from Chicago, Illinois made the first contribution to our campaign — for $3. A few minutes later, $50 from a supporter in California, then $10 from someone in Georgia. A little more than 12 months later, I am humbled to share that our campaign has received more than 7.6 million contributions through April, more than any presidential candidate at this point in a campaign ever. And we’re just getting started.

Your support has powered us to 21 victories and a much larger lead against Donald Trump than Secretary Clinton’s campaign. So we’ve created a website to show everyone the depth and diversity of our political revolution. It’s very important that you visit and share it with everyone you know today.

– Bernie

Take a look at our new website showing the depth of our political revolution

Colossus of Man-Made Misery Demands Fundamental Changes: UN Chief

February 9, 2016
Published on

With ‘Agenda for Humanity,’ Secretary General Ban Ki Moon calls for sweeping overhaul of global conflict response

Syrian children stand in the entryway of their tent shelter in the Bab Al Salame camp for internally displaced persons in Aleppo Governate. (Photo: UNICEF/Giovanni Diffidenti)

Syrian children stand in the entryway of their tent shelter in the Bab Al Salame camp for internally displaced persons in Aleppo Governate. (Photo: UNICEF/Giovanni Diffidenti)

With hundreds of millions of people across the planet facing the impacts of war, displacement, hunger, and other man-made crises, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon is demanding a “fundamental change” in how the international community responds to conflict—one that prioritizes political solutions and a preservation of humanity above all else.

The Agenda for Humanity, released Tuesday in advance of the UN’s World Humanitarian Summit, lays out the responsibilities that global leaders should commit to as they rush to address numerous international challenges including climate-induced disasters, violent extremism, intractable conflicts, growing economic inequality, migration, pandemics and other global health threats.

At the forefront of this agenda is a call for “global leaders to place humanity—the concern for the dignity, safety and well-being of our citizens—at the forefront of all policies, strategies, and decision-making.”

“Levels of need are at record levels, but the political solutions to relieve them are elusive,” Ban declared in a speech in New York City on Tuesday at the launch of the report. “We need to restore trust in our global world order and in the capacities of our national and regional institutions to confront these challenges effectively.  We need to show the millions of people living in conflict—with chronic needs and constant fear—the solidarity that they deserve and expect.”

Speaking last week, Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson echoed the need for a “bold” political actions in response to what he described as “a number of atrocious man-made catastrophes.”

“The suffering is enormous and international humanitarian law is being disregarded to a shocking degree,” Eliasson said.

Without singling out any particular country at fault, the report states that people are “outrage[d] that national sovereignty and security are placed above people’s rights to protection and assistance, and that the most basic tenets of international humanitarian and human rights law are violated every day without accountability.”

Since first announcing the Summit in 2012, Ban has consulted with more than 23,000 people in 153 countries on these measures.

Further, the report notes that there is “frustration from governments and local organizations who struggle to be seen by the international community as the primary agents of response and to access resources, and feel their governance and coordination structures are pushed aside by international actors rather than respected and strengthened.”

With a record 125 million people across the world now in need of humanitarian assistance, the report recognizes that “humanitarian action is still often used as a substitute for political solutions.” Ban has requested that governments come to the Summit, which will be held in Istanbul in May, prepared to commit to a strategic shift through the core responsibilities laid out in the agenda.

These include increased political leadership, a commitment to adhering to international law in conflict zones, reinforcing national and local systems, preserving the dignity and rights of displaced peoples, sharing responsibility for addressing large-scale movements of refugees, and more transparent humanitarian financing.

International anti-poverty group Oxfam commended the report for its emphasis on the need for political action to address global crises.

“This couldn’t be truer,” said the group’s humanitarian representative, Charlotte Stemmer, “The humanitarian system is overwhelmed with the amount of rising needs in a world racked by crises. World leaders should deal with world problems—and there is nothing more pressing than the number of crises that we are seeing now. They should not pay lip service to this, as concrete action is urgently needed.”

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Creating New Systems to Replace Dysfunctional Systems

July 22, 2015

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OpEdNews Op Eds 7/20/2015 at 15:27:55

By Michael Richards (about the author) Permalink (Page 1 of 4 pages)
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Understanding Present Dysfunctional Systems/Creating New Systems
At our present time in human history we are rapidly coming to the endgame of the social, economic and political structures that grew out of the industrial revolution. These systems have defined human life on our planet for the last 400 years. We are now in the process of unprecedented systems breakdown of the core components that make up industrial/consumer society.

All core components of the collapsing industrial/consumer society are in a state of diminishing effectiveness and they are in fact decaying rapidly. These systems are thus sick. A medical doctor that provides a clear diagnosis of a dying human body is not being negative, they are simply stating the facts. As a lifelong researcher of the human condition, I study and write about the breakdown and dysfunction of the core components” the organs of our present body politic. That does not make me negative ” I am simply stating facts. I also research and implement solutions. I am actually a very positive optimist; I spend 90% of my time and energy identifying the positive pods of human revolution that are presently building an emerging sane and healthy new planetary culture. I also work directly with many of these hopeful initiatives. There are literally tens of thousands of such “pods of progress” all over the world. They are creating new economic structures that are in harmony with their local ecology. There are thousands of new communities based on trust and joint human action growing in every corner of the planet.

Initiating systemic change is very challenging. The 1% that actually control and benefit most from keeping the present systems in place will fight tooth and nail to prevent change. The majority of the vast body politic accept present systems and act in collusion with the present power structure, even though maintaining present systems is not really in their best interest. The majority resist change simply because they live in fear of an unknown future. A planetary vanguard of 5% of the population are actively and courageously building the new components of an ecological and just society. It does not take a majority to bring deep change, just a very dedicated and persistent front line of innovators. The American Revolution that formed our own nation was brought about by a vanguard 5% of change agents. The majority passively waited on the sidelines of history until the tide turned to a new paradigm. We presently sit at the very tipping point on the edge of a new planetary shift.

Human beings have never been able to build effective large scale social structures. The British Empire was a failed experiment, but the USA took on that mantle, and is now finishing the Brits’ pathway to systemic collapse. The Soviet experiment with a large scale, centrally planned economy collapsed.

Throughout history, all military empires have collapsed, there are no exceptions to this historic fact. The present global industrial society is actually our most comprehensive global attempt as a species to build such unnatural structures.

The most effective scale for human action is the small/local scale. The human village model has proven resilient and effective for 100 thousand years. The present large scale globalized industrial model is an historic anomaly that is only kept in place by force. As the global military industrial complex collapses, human beings are returning to what works. This is not a retreat into the past, as small scale human initiatives are now linked by global electronic networks. I refer to this rapidly growing new global social structure as “techno-ecological village building”.
As an old tree dies, a new sapling is taking root. In order to chart our path to a healthy new paradigm, I also spend 10% of my time with the active diagnosis and understanding of our decaying present systems. Unless we understand our history, we could very well repeat it. We most both diagnose the problems, and actively seek and apply innovative solutions. Both intellectual pursuits are valid and necessary, both are part of the whole effort to foster a shift into new social, economic, political systems as we exit the industrial era and enter the ecological/humanitarian era.


Here is a brief summary overview of present human systems at the very endgame of the industrial era:

Economics. Never in history has there been a wider gap between those that have far too much for a happy human existence and those that have far too little to even survive. A world economy where 50,000 children die of starvation each day on a planet with an abundant life supporting ecology is as sick as it gets. The economy is dying. The 2008 crash was a small ripple compared to the emerging economic earthquake. This crash will bring on the collapse of present systems, and provide the evolutionary catalyst for new systems to emerge to move humanity forward.

Political Systems; only 6% of the U.S. population have trust in U.S. Congress. 10% think that the President has the best interests of the body of citizens as a priority. We have a global crisis of confidence in our present social structures. Both parties are absolutely owned by corporate interests. Every 4 years the two parties engage in a “bread and circus” spectacle. Yale University economists this year publicly stated that the USA is an oligarchy, not a democracy. The public perception of outward political power dominance may shift every 4 to 8 years between the two main parties, but the behind the scenes power structure never changes. Many major corporations hedge their bets with massive campaign contributions to both parties. The power brokers always win. This is a cynical, but highly practical strategy. Even “socialist” Bernie Sanders supports global imperialist action carried out by the entrenched military/industrial complex. There are no active agents of real systemic change within either of the two main parties. If a candidate issues a public clarion call for real change , they do not get past the gate keepers of the established power brokers in the two parties. All real social and economic change is presently taking place below the radar of official national discourse. There are hopeful seeds of change taking root all over the nation and yjrl world at the local/activist level.
Health Care Systems can only be described as a disease management industry that is totally controlled by global pharmaceutical companies. 95 per cent of all health care costs are spent by the most elderly, as life long earnings are consumed as a planned final profit extraction system. This takes place while the United States has one of the most disastrous infant mortality rates in the developed world. The evidence is clear; this system is built to profit from disease, not to foster health.


Education Systems; Our current schools from kindergarten to college cannot even use the word education in any valid meaning of the word. The Latin etymological root of “education” is educare, which means “to draw out”, Instead of inspiring students to engage in critical intellectual inquiry and to draw out the innate intelligence and creative responses of an individual, our schools “pump in” the dogma that supports the present paradigm of the industrial era. Schools are training camps for corporate cogs to dutifully take their subservient place within the present political and economic structures. Students that “color outside of the lines” are not encouraged in the least, and at worst punished for original thinking and courageous creative action. Education “reform” will not suffice. We need an outright revolution to serve as the catalyst to create a new citizen body engaged in lively life-long learning from cradle to the grave. There are hundreds of new education models and initiatives now germinating that meet this urgent need.

Organized Religion; Millions of people head into churches, mosques and synagogues on each Sabbath to return each week into the spiritual void of their daily lives. Real spiritual practice can best be experienced as a conscious immersion in the present sacred moment, not by being passively fed prepared religious pablum. The fact is, for the past thousand years of religious history, 100 million people have been murdered over disagreements about unprovable theological theories. From the Crusades to modern Jihad, the path of dogmatic religion is paved with the “Blood of Christ” the blood of Islamic martyrs and many bloody wars of humanity.

Philanthropy and “Corporatized Charity”

Real charity takes place person to person within strong networks of mutual aid and concern. The mutual aid of real community bonds has largely been replaced and undermined by Corporatized Charity. “I gave at the Office” is a common refrain. Philanthropy is a human practice carried out by the “haves” as they deliver a few crumbs to the starving and despairing masses of “have nots”. Most often in the USA, such economic activity takes place within the arcane systems of tax law to bring tax relief or outright tax advantage to the wealthy class. Real charity is simply doing the right thing, not calculating a write off. Real charity empowers the recipient and does not approach our fellow human brothers and sisters as poor wretches that have no hope for economic self-sufficiency. A safety net can also serve as a permanent systemic snare that anchors recipients in a low economic status. The largest philanthropy on earth provides insight into current aspects of this sick system:

From Iceberg
(image by Rghrous) License DMCA

In order to understand the Gates Foundation, we first need an understanding of the total economic structure of such large financial holdings. An iceberg provides an excellent metaphor; The public at large see just the surface “good works” presented by an expert team of Gates Foundation PR professionals. Below the surface it is very telling to see how the majority of Gates Foundation funds prop up the current industrial/military/pharmaceutical complex. The Foundation preserves their hard assets and attempts to aggressively grow their “principle” or underlying Foundation assets. The Foundation directs only the “interest” into their “philanthropic” activity. At best, 10% of Gates funds would be directed into “humanitarian work”. The 90% represented as permanent assets are invested in many industries that actually bring harm or subvert the work carried out by grant recipients of the Gates Foundation.

You cannot just accept the PR dished out about all of the good that the Gates Foundation carries out, -it is imperative to also dig down a layer to understand the social and environmental harm rendered by the massive global power of the 40 billion dollar Gates investment fund. For the most part, Gates investments support the “status quo” of the military/pharmaceutical/industrial/corporate complex. Real change cannot be brought about by directing 10% of a fund into “good works”, while 90% of assets actually harm the planet and its’ people. Systemic change is necessary to bring about an improved human and ecological future, not just misleading green washing and expert corporate PR programs.

As the global, corporatized economy collapses under its own weight and as a predictable result of its present systemic dysfunction, the human community will return to the time tested response of family care and mutual community aid. The systems that humanity has applied to survive through all ages will re-emerge.

Gates Foundation Facts

Soon after Susan Desmond-Hellmann became chancellor of the University of California San Francisco medical center campus, she faced an acute personal embarrassment. Financial disclosures revealed that she and her husband, both physicians, owned a sizable chunk of stock in Altria Corporation, a top cigarette maker. The chancellor commendably divested those shares and donated the proceeds to tobacco-control research. In May, Desmond-Hellmann became the first physician to head the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest private foundation and one of the most influential forces in global health. Desmond-Hellmann could draw on her own personal experience–both as a doctor and as a once-oblivious investor–to synthesize investment with the Gates’ stated social purpose.


For all its generosity and thoughtfulness, the Gates Foundation’s management of its $40 billion endowment operates with a puzzling ethical blind spot.

In 2007, a group of colleagues at the Los Angeles Times, examined whether those investments tended generally to support the foundation’s philanthropic goals or subvert them. This investigative journalistic inquiry found that The Gates Foundation reaped vast profits by placing billions of dollars in firms whose activities and products subverted the foundation’s good works. For example, Gates donated $218 million to prevent polio and measles in places like the Niger Delta, yet invested $423 million in the oil companies whose delta pollution literally kills the children the foundation tries to help.

Gates has vast holdings in Big Pharma firms that priced AIDS drugs out of reach for desperate victims the foundation wanted to save. Gates invests in predatory lenders whose practices sparked the Great Recession and they hold shares in chocolate firms said by the US government to have supported child slavery in Ivory Coast.
After the LA Times investigations were published, the foundation briefly considered changing its policy of blind-eye investing, but ultimately pulled funds only from firms that provided the financial basis for genocide in Darfur. Even in that case, when the glare of adverse publicity faded, the foundation hopped back into such companies, including the Chinese construction giant NORINCO International.


The Gates Foundation boasts about its grants to help poor farmers adapt to droughts and floods caused by global warming. Yet according to the foundation’s most recent tax filing and recent SEC filings, it holds more than $1.2 billion in a rogues’ gallery of corporate actors, including BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil, whose environmental despoliation promotes the climate change that is destroying those farmers’ livelihoods. You cannot fight global warming by investing in those global firms that help to create it. 10% good works, countered by 90% of funds actually causing damage results in a net ecological and social loss.

By comparison, a group of seventeen other charitable foundations showed philanthropic leadership when they recently decided to divest from companies that do business in fossil fuels. The head of the Wallace Global Fund wrote that the effort “seeks to break the industry’s grip on our political process as it helps catalyze the global energytransition that the climate crisis demands.” Stanford University, a major beneficiary of Gates largesse, recently announced that it would divest all coal company investments from its endowment. In contrast, as of the most recent publicly available annual report, the Gates foundation held $30 million in coal firms.

Gates also has placed big bets on mining firms whose operations have proved environmentally disastrous for foundation beneficiaries in the developing world. This includes stakes in Brazil’s Vale S.A. and Rio Tinto–often cited for egregious pollution. Both companies, among others in the Gates portfolio, are jumping into the burgeoning market for rare earth elements essential to electronics, hybrid cars and windmills, yet they are notorious for laying to waste wide areas around mines and processing plants.

Dr. Desmond-Hellmann of the Gates Foundation should understand the Hippocratic imperative, “First, do no harm.” “so she could begin to push Bill and Melinda Gates to restructure the Foundation endowment by starting close to home and direct the massive financial clout of the Gates Foundation that support, or at the very least do not subvert the stated humanitarian objectives of the Gates Foundation. After the tobacco investment episode, she and her husband pledged to “monitor our portfolio to ensure that it reflect our values,” and barred further personal investments in alcohol and firearms.

Bill and Melinda Gates publicly oppose tobacco while the Foundation has held large investments in tobacco companies. Gates investments in manufacturers of military equipment and weapons and alcoholic beverage stock exceeds $1.2 billion.

The foundation says that it must guard against inevitably lower returns from a portfolio that tries to reduce social harm. That tired argument has long since been debunked. Not every mutual fund structured to reduce harm to the environment, to support good governance and fairness to a diverse labor force, and to create safe products outperforms funds designed purely to maximize returns. But many do. For example, the $10 billion Parnassus Core Equity Fund, one of the largest such investment vehicles, beat the annual returns of the booming S&P 500 index by 2 percent over the past three years–one of numerous large funds with social and environmental goals to outstrip the market in recent years.

Even if socially conscious investing shaved a thin slice from the bottom line, harm reduction would much better support the Gates Foundation’s oft-stated goal, that “every person deserves the chance to live a healthy, productive life.” In the financial world, you must analyze the total profit and loss to understand net gain.

Undeniably, there are shades of gray in the world of global investing. But to use economic complexity as an excuse for doing nothing–for rejecting the opportunity to lead into holistic philathropy–seems a shortsighted approach.

The Gates Foundation was described as a shell for tax avoidance by philanthropist and accounting expert, Sheldon Drobny.

Through the Gates foundation, Bill, Melinda and Microsoft maintain pharmaceutical patent investments, tobacco investments, investments in alcoholic beverages, petroleum investments, investments in experimental and controversial GMO crops, and even investments in news/media that shape public perception of the Gates Foundation. Bill Gates need not pay tax in this structure, even though he keeps control of the assets and uses that control and influence private and public policy. Money talks and politicians can in turn be persuaded to buy from Microsoft and engage with other industries associated with Gates. This dependence/lock-in cascades down to Gates’ many business interests, creating a revenue stream that would not exist in a free market. Gates is also able to bring public money to his operations through energy and public health policy. As Gates has diversified, his massive influence has spread to other portions of the economy” often with measurable social, economic and ecological harm.

Many philanthropic organizations are beginning to seriously look at both the net effect of their investments and the philantropic initiatives that they fund. Large organizations usually move much slower as they engage change.

A Local Example of how “Philanthropy” is not what it seems on the surface.

– Advertisement -We have an example in Iowa of how what you see on the surface of the organizational “iceberg” does not tell the whole truth of what goes on under the surface. Liz Mathis, professional spin artist does all of the PR work for Four Oaks. On the surface, Four Oaks is presented as a “not for profit” doing good works. Below the surface, Four Oaks channels millions of dollars into for profit business interests” many of which have a direct connection to Four Oaks board of directors. “inside dealing” takes place, providing massive amounts of money to for profit business in projects with extremely inflated budgets. Four Oaks is a huge organization that controls large assets; they operate in all 99 Iowa counties and sit on a 80 million dollar endowment. Look below the surface to understand it.

Many small non profits do good work and struggle with inadequate funds, and no pay… or very little pay for the management team. -one local case in point is the not for profit “FEED IOWA FIRST”, Inc. Feed Iowa first uses their meager funds for actual urban ag seeds and equipment. There are no salaried employees. All work is done by volunteers. Feed Iowa First has 22 plots of land in production, and the food produced is distributed without cost to families in need in Linn County. The huge contrast to this are large, well established not for profits, where management are often paid as much or more than private industry. Local examples, such as Four Oaks/Affordable Housing Network, also direct millions of dollars in contracts to area builders, contractors and others in projects with very inflated budgets; and spending well beyond what private enterprise would pay for the same thing.

The example of how Four Oaks works that I cited in the formal ethics complaint that I filed with the 5 member Cedar Rapids Ethics Board was the Brown Apartment project of Affordable Housing Network when then Four Oaks C.E.O. was also the Chairman of a City board distributing public city funds for housing development.

Here are the facts about The Brown Apartments adjacent to the “Medical District” in Cedar Rapids

1. $170,000 plus was spent by Four Oaks/AHNI to simply rehab existing apartments in an existing, structurally sound building. Not one existing wall; was moved, not one new wall was built. The Brown Apts. maintained all original floor plans in one to two bedroom apartments. This was simply cosmetic remodeling, yet the cost per unit was an astounding $170,000 per unit. The $170,000 funds came from City of CR, State of Iowa and Federal funds… (our funds, as taxpayers)


2. In preparation for filing on this issue with the City Ethics Board I did a survey of local contractors. The response was that this type of cosmetic rehab should cost in the range of $35,000 up to $50,000. $50,000″ -if there were luxury features. How can the economics for private contractors be so much lower than a large not for profit? -because people spending their own money use tight financial controls, and do not waste funds. They get the job done efficiently.

3. How can a large not for profit such as Four Oaks, Affordable Housing Network spend $170,000 per unit? (over 300% more than private property owners on the same type of project) Answer; by directing “for profit funds” into highly profitable, over paid for profit business partners (many of whom have direct relationships on the board or with board members of Four Oaks; Skogman Realty, OPN, Ryan Engineering). Former Iowa Senator Jack Hatch was paid as a “consultant” on this project, and that drove up the extremely inflated per unit cost even more.

4. When I arrived to present these facts to the “Ethics” Board, I found out that the 5 member board included both the Accountant and the Attorney of Four Oaks. (these 2 recused themselves, but on a small 5 member board, the other 3 bowed to informal peer pressure from these 2 cohorts as the 3 remaining Ethics Board members voted unanimously that there was “no conflict of interest”. The Catholic nun from Mercy Hospital on the ethics Board commented that “Skogman is a good person who is on the Mercy Board and donates to the Hospital, so there is no way he could engage in conflict of interest”. There can be no objective weighing of facts with such a stacked Ethics Board. The very composition of this board is a conflict of interest. There is no accountability with this kind of structure.


Often, “not for profit” funds are channeled into very lucrative payouts to for profit business interests. (You just have to be a for profit business with the right political connections in town) Many “charities” spend more on paid employees and administration costs than on service. There is need for new systems on this front.

At present Four Oaks/Affordable Housing network is engaged in a massive project of social engineering as they purchase hundreds of housing units in Cedar Rapids. Four Oaks has very strict credit and legal history requirements for families to participate in their housing programs. The poorest of the poor are actually being evicted to fend for themselves, as they are screened out by Four Oaks effort to forcibly restructure the neighborhood. It is not too difficult to see that one motive is to carry out a cleansing of the neighborhood as the adjacent medical district expands. The City of Baltimore spent 100 million dollars and a decade with the same attempt at neighborhood social engineering now attempted by Four Oaks. That experiment was a predictable dismal failure; you cannot change a neighborhood or a city without changing the underlying economic structure. Four Oaks is simply shuffling the deck; undesirable tenants are booted out. Those that meet their credit and legal history move in. It may look like change on the surface, but the human suffering and poverty just gets moved out of sight to another location.
To understand any system, it is imperative to understand the whole system. This is not really that difficult” simply look beyond the official PR dished out by each component of the present power structure and explore what lies beneath the surface of each iceberg. Also, follow the money” -In a profit driven economy, someone benefits from almost every action taken. Find out who benefits from each action, and you will start to understand how the system works. This requires the use of critical thinking skills that are glaringly absent from the official curriculum in our schools. This is not by accident. Our present industrial/consumer society depends on a very passive and compliant population. An alert citizen that asks questions and researches the unseen levels of each economic action is seen as a real threat.

During a time of deceit and deception, telling the truth is a revolutionary and necessary act.

Ask questions. Seek out facts. Analyze the system. Build a better system.


Take action — click here to contact your local newspaper or congress people:
We need to understand present dysfunctional systems as a basis to build effective new systems

Click here to see the most recent messages sent to congressional reps and local newspapers

Michael Richards is a life long innovator, entrepreneur and author. His most recent book is; SUSTAINABLE OPERATING SYSTEMS/The Post Petrol Paradigm (available on line at; Mr. Richards has presented as an author, speaker and (more…)

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National Kucinich Events: From Terror to Peace #911to1111

September 12, 2014

Dear Friend,
On this 13th anniversary of 9/11, this solemn day of remembrance and reflection, let us resolve to change the present paradigm of fear, endless war and destruction of liberty.
Let us begin a new journey to redefine “National Security” to be truly reflective of our practical aspirations and “Human Security” needs: Food Security, Water Security, Economic Security, Job Security, Health Security, Education Security, Environmental Security, and Peace.
During the next 2 months, from 9/11 (Terror) to 11/11 (Armistice), Elizabeth and I will be making national appearances to begin a conversation to redefine national security around these important topics.
Last night, on the eve of 9/11 we witnessed a replay of the official response that cast us as helpless players in an ever-widening cycle of warfare.
We reject endless, mindless war. Yes, we live in an uncertain world, but we can be certain of our own choices and their consequences. Let us create new paths toward self-empowerment, towards transformational courage.
We hope you will join us in the upcoming months in Iowa (Occupy the World Food Prize in Des Moines, & Redefining National Security events), New York (Climate Change Conference), Oregon (Food Security & GMO Labeling), Southern and Northern California (Peace & the Middle East, 5K walks for UNRWA), Colorado (Food Security & GMO Labeling) and others to follow.
All details of our appearances and the topics will be posted and shared on our Facebook events pages.
We still have a few dates open. If you wish to work with either of us in creating a forum in your community, please contact us directly: Elizabeth & Dennis
Please like our FB pages, and please share what you are doing to help forge a path to transformation in our homes, our communities and our nation.
Let us embark together on a path which transforms terror to peace.
Dennis & Elizabeth

Paid for by Kucinich Action PAC

PO Box 110475 | Cleveland | OH | 44111

The Impossibility of Growth Demands a New Economic System

May 29, 2014

Why collapse and salvation are hard to distinguish from each other.

Let us imagine that in 3030BC the total possessions of the people of Egypt filled one cubic metre. Let us propose that these possessions grew by 4.5% a year. How big would that stash have been by the Battle of Actium in 30BC? This is the calculation performed by the investment banker Jeremy Grantham(1).The trajectory of compound growth shows that the scouring of the planet has only just begun. We simply can’t go on this way.

Go on, take a guess. Ten times the size of the pyramids? All the sand in the Sahara? The Atlantic ocean? The volume of the planet? A little more? It’s 2.5 billion billion solar systems(2). It does not take you long, pondering this outcome, to reach the paradoxical position that salvation lies in collapse.

To succeed is to destroy ourselves. To fail is to destroy ourselves. That is the bind we have created. Ignore if you must climate change, biodiversity collapse, the depletion of water, soil, minerals, oil; even if all these issues were miraculously to vanish, the mathematics of compound growth make continuity impossible.

Economic growth is an artefact of the use of fossil fuels. Before large amounts of coal were extracted, every upswing in industrial production would be met with a downswing in agricultural production, as the charcoal or horse power required by industry reduced the land available for growing food. Every prior industrial revolution collapsed, as growth could not be sustained(3). But coal broke this cycle and enabled – for a few hundred years – the phenomenon we now call sustained growth.

It was neither capitalism nor communism that made possible the progress and the pathologies (total war, the unprecedented concentration of global wealth, planetary destruction) of the modern age. It was coal, followed by oil and gas. The meta-trend, the mother narrative, is carbon-fuelled expansion. Our ideologies are mere subplots. Now, as the most accessible reserves have been exhausted, we must ransack the hidden corners of the planet to sustain our impossible proposition.

On Friday, a few days after scientists announced that the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is now inevitable(4), the Ecuadorean government decided that oil drilling would go ahead in the heart of the Yasuni national park(5). It had made an offer to other governments: if they gave it half the value of the oil in that part of the park, it would leave the stuff in the ground. You could see this as blackmail or you could see it as fair trade. Ecuador is poor, its oil deposits are rich: why, the government argued, should it leave them untouched without compensation when everyone else is drilling down to the inner circle of hell? It asked for $3.6bn and received $13m. The result is that Petroamazonas, a company with a colourful record of destruction and spills(6), will now enter one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, in which a hectare of rainforest is said to contain more species than exist in the entire continent of North America(7).

The UK oil company Soco is now hoping to penetrate Africa’s oldest national park, Virunga, in the Democratic Republic of Congo(8); one of the last strongholds of the mountain gorilla and the okapi, of chimpanzees and forest elephants. In Britain, where a possible 4.4 billion barrels of shale oil has just been identified in the south-east(9), the government fantasises about turning the leafy suburbs into a new Niger delta. To this end it’s changing the trespass laws to enable drilling without consent and offering lavish bribes to local people(10,11). These new reserves solve nothing. They do not end our hunger for resources; they exacerbate it.

The trajectory of compound growth shows that the scouring of the planet has only just begun. As the volume of the global economy expands, everywhere that contains something concentrated, unusual, precious will be sought out and exploited, its resources extracted and dispersed, the world’s diverse and differentiated marvels reduced to the same grey stubble.

Some people try to solve the impossible equation with the myth of dematerialisation: the claim that as processes become more efficient and gadgets are miniaturised, we use, in aggregate, fewer materials. There is no sign that this is happening. Iron ore production has risen 180% in ten years(12). The trade body Forest Industries tell us that “global paper consumption is at a record high level and it will continue to grow.”(13) If, in the digital age, we won’t reduce even our consumption of paper, what hope is there for other commodities?

Look at the lives of the super-rich, who set the pace for global consumption. Are their yachts getting smaller? Their houses? Their artworks? Their purchase of rare woods, rare fish, rare stone? Those with the means buy ever bigger houses to store the growing stash of stuff they will not live long enough to use. By unremarked accretions, ever more of the surface of the planet is used to extract, manufacture and store things we don’t need. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that fantasies about the colonisation of space – which tell us we can export our problems instead of solving them – have resurfaced(14).

As the philosopher Michael Rowan points out, the inevitabilities of compound growth mean that if last year’s predicted global growth rate for 2014 (3.1%) is sustained, even if we were miraculously to reduce the consumption of raw materials by 90% we delay the inevitable by just 75 years(15). Efficiency solves nothing while growth continues.

The inescapable failure of a society built upon growth and its destruction of the Earth’s living systems are the overwhelming facts of our existence. As a result they are mentioned almost nowhere. They are the 21st Century’s great taboo, the subjects guaranteed to alienate your friends and neighbours. We live as if trapped inside a Sunday supplement: obsessed with fame, fashion and the three dreary staples of middle class conversation: recipes, renovations and resorts. Anything but the topic that demands our attention.

Statements of the bleeding obvious, the outcomes of basic arithmetic, are treated as exotic and unpardonable distractions, while the impossible proposition by which we live is regarded as so sane and normal and unremarkable that it isn’t worthy of mention. That’s how you measure the depth of this problem: by our inability even to discuss it.



2. Grantham expressed this volume as 1057 cubic metres. In his paper We Need To Talk About Growth, Michael Rowan translated this as 2.5 billion billion solar systems. ( This source gives the volume of the solar system (if it is treated as a sphere) at 39,629,013,196,241.7 cubic kilometres, which is roughly 40 x 1021 cubic metres. Multiplied by 2.5 billion billion, this gives 1041 cubic metres. So, unless I’ve got the wrong figure for the volume of the solar system or screwed my units up, which is eminently possible, Michael Rowan’s translation looks like an underestimate. I’ll stick with his figure though, as I don’t have much confidence in my own. Any improvements, comments or corrections via the contact form gratefully received.

3. EA Wrigley, 2010. Energy and the English Industrial Revolution. Cambridge University Press.









12. Philippe Sibaud, 2012. Opening Pandora’s Box: The New Wave of Land Grabbing by the Extractive Industries and the Devastating Impact on Earth. The Gaia Foundation.



15. Michael Rowan, 2014. We Need To Talk About Growth (And we need to do the sums as well.)

Creating the World We Want

February 24, 2014
Published: Sunday 23 February 2014
In many respects we are in a conflict with big finance capitalism and seeking to birth a new economy that serves the people. Gar Alperovitz defines the transition as ‘evolutionary reconstruction’, a way that we gradually build a better world.

February marks the third anniversary of the 2011 revolt in Wisconsin, the occupation of the state capital and mass protests against the attack on workers. Wisconsin was the largest of the protests at that time, but across the United States there were a series of protests against foreclosures, austerity and the unjust economy.

The Wisconsin uprising, along with the Arab Spring and Indignado movement in Europe, inspired Occupy, a revolt that began on Wall Street and spread across the nation. It was a revolt against an economic system – big finance capitalism – that is causing a corrupt and unfair economy; as well as against a government that serves the interests of the wealthiest before meeting the necessities of the people.

People often want to know what the movement for social and economic justice wants.  Occupy Wall Street issued itsDeclaration of the Occupation of New York City which laid out a series of grievances. But, in addition to knowing what we oppose, we need to define what we stand for. If we do not like big finance capitalism, what will take the place of the current economy?

During the organizing of the occupation in Washington, DC on Freedom Plaza we developed a list of 15 core crisis issues that the country is facing and we outlined solutions to them. These solutions are supported by super-majorities of Americans who, polls show,  could rule better than the elites.

At the core of these solutions is the desire to put in place aneconomic democracy agenda, building institutions that are controlled by and benefit communities while also protecting the planet. By building wealth in a way that is more equitable and democratic, the rule of money is weakened. A democratized economy shifts political power away from concentrated capital to the public and further empowers people by meeting their basic needs for shelter , food, education, healthcare and income.

In many respects we are in a conflict with big finance capitalism and seeking to birth a new economy that serves the people.  How do we get there? In her book, Getting Past Capitalism: History, Vision, Hope, Cynthia Kaufman suggests we are in a variety of struggles and rather than seeking total replacement, we need to build healthy institutions while challenging those unhealthy ones we can defeat. Gar Alperovitzdefines the transition as ‘evolutionary reconstruction’, a way that we gradually build a better world.

Economic Democracy

This week, we re-launched It’s Our Economy, a project dedicated to reporting on and assisting the growing movement for economic democracy. We define economic democracy as:

… premised on the idea that people should not cede power to mega-corporations, big finance, or a “professional” political class. The people have the shared knowledge to help build an economy that works to strengthen communities and build wealth for all, not just a few. We recognize the internal contradictions of big finance capitalism and we have seen the failures of state-based socialism and are seeking to create a new type of economy that is democratized, empowers people to gain control over their economic lives and encourages cooperative solutions that create wealth for ourselves and our communities….

Economic democracy also emphasizes the commonwealth.  The commons includes not only roads, land, water and resources but also the knowledge and technology developed, often with public dollars, which has been built up over  generations….

Economic democracy stands in contrast with neoliberal economics. Neoliberalism privatizes public goods and seeks to commodify everything possible to create profit-centers while cutting public services in the name of austerity.

One way to understand what makes healthy institutions that serve the people is to use a human rights framework. There are five human rights principles. These include:

Universality: Human rights must be afforded to everyone, without exception.


Equity: Every person is entitled to the same access to services and public goods. 

Accountability: Mechanisms must exist to enforce the protection of human rights.

Transparency: Government institutions must be open and provide the public with information on the decision-making processes.

Participation: People need to be empowered to participate in the decision-making process.

The need for a new economy based on the goal of benefitting all people, not just the wealthiest, has become more urgent as the impact of the economic collapse and its false recovery are felt. These include high rates of Americans dropping out of the labor force, the wealth divide expanding, record poverty and lowered incomes for most people.

People Are Creating the New Economy in Many Ways 


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Political and economic leadership continues to go in the opposite direction of what people want: cutting the social safety net and doing little to invest in re-building the economy while the costs of energy, food, healthcare and other necessities rise.  People across the country are acting on their own to build an economy that will serve them. 

The building of the new economy, sometimes called a ‘solidarity economy,’ has been developing for many years, particularly in other areas of the world such as Latin America. As a result we can now see reports of its success. A fundamental belief of economic democracy is to build from the bottom up, starting with local communities.  A report this week from the Institute for Self Reliance found that communities with buy local programs have seen local businesses grow three times as fast as communities without such programs and businesses report a 75% increase in customer traffic.

One key aspect of buying local is our food supply. TheInternational Forum on Globalisation reports that “the average plate of food eaten in western industrial food-importing nations is likely to have traveled 2,000 miles from source to plate.” Around the country people are working to change that. Two programs that were in movement news this week were “Our Harvest” and “CropMobster.”

Our Harvest comes out of a 2009 agreement between the United Steelworkers and the Mondragon Co-op to create union co-ops. Our Harvest is a produce farm and food hub for aggregation and food processing. The goal is to re-create this model around the country to provide local foods and good jobs in union co-operatives.

CropMobster is a project from Petaluma, CA that seeks to redistribute food to reduce waste and to provide healthy food while growing a shared economy. CropMobster is an instant-alert service linking communities-in-need with local farmers, producers and food purveyors who have excess food to sell or donate. In one year it has spread to the greater SF Bay Area, with a dozen counties participating. Already, more than 300,000 pounds of food has been saved and over 1 million servings eaten; more than 4,000 participants and hundreds of farmers and small food businesses are joining with CropMobster.

Another issue that has been in the news lately because of multiple environmental disasters is the quality of drinking water. The chemical spill in West Virginia, coal slurry spills, hydrofracking and pipelines bursting in multiple states have been a few examples of how fresh water is now at risk. In addition, the extraction of fossil fuels and uranium are consuming tremendous amounts of water even in areas that are facing droughts. Water will be an item on the political agenda at the state and national level.  This week in Europe, 1.66 million people were able to put the issues of the right to clean water and stopping water privatization before the European Parliament.

At the center of so many issues – the environment, climate, water, air, jobs – is energy.  President Obama and the bi-partisans in Congress continue to push a disastrous “all of the above” energy strategy that is leading to extreme energy extraction with terrible environmental consequences.  The corporate duopoly seems unable to challenge big oil, gas, coal and nuclear to put in place the carbon-free, nuclear-free energy economy that is needed.

In the absence of national leadership, people are moving forward. Over 80 landowners have dedicated nearly 20,000 acres to what will become the largest wind farm in South Dakota that will increase the wind energy output in the state by 50%. As solar rapidly grows in the United States, research is now showing that more people will be employed by solar than by oil and coal combined.

Big changes are also on the horizon in the labor front. There are widespread battles for raising the minimum wage to a living wage, and while many companies treat their employees as if they were disposable, in other workplaces employees are becoming owners so they can share in the wealth created by their labor. There is a growing movement for worker-owned cooperatives with national meetings in the United States and inEurope.

An example that was in the news this week was WinCo, a growing competitor to Walmart. WinCo is now operating 93 employee-owned stores in seven states with nearly 15,000 employees.  The company has lower prices than Walmart and provides employees with a health plan that includes dental and vision as well as an Employee Stock Ownership Plan for their pension.

Other businesses are creating a more just world by redefining corporate charters so that one of their purposes is to provide public benefits rather than profits to investors. In the past few years, 20 states, including the District of Columbia, have enacted legislation that allows companies to register as benefit corporations and 16 more states are considering it. Delaware, the home of half of US corporations and two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies, enacted a B Corp. law. This status protects corporations from lawsuits by shareholders for not maximizing profit, and it even gives shareholders the right to sue the corporation for failing to optimize its social mission.

We are in a Renaissance

The examples above just give a taste of all of the changes that are taking place to create new systems that replace the old failing ones. For more ideas, visit the “Create” section of or

What is amazing is that around the world, the same ideas and values are being put forward. People are joining together to create societies that respect life and the planet and that are more horizontal and just. We are truly in a time of transformation which is made more urgent by the many crises we face.

There has been talk of global revolution, and in some areas, revolution – the changing of governments – is occurring. But we are not yet in a global revolution. In his article, “Revolution, or Digital-Age Renaissance,” Bernardo Gutierrez writes, “Ruskoff argues that the revolution has not arrived and what we are experiencing is a new renaissance. ‘Renaissances are historical instances of widespread recontextualisation. It is the rebirth of old ideas in a new context. Renaissance is a dimensional leap, when our perspective shifts so dramatically that our understanding of the oldest, most fundamental elements of existence changes. The stories we have been using no longer work.’” Gutierrez explains that revolutions come after the renaissance.

Currently people are not only creating new systems, but they are questioning the stories that have been told to maintain the status quo and are recognizing that many of our restraints are artificial. People do have the ability to rethink the premises upon which we base our assumptions and to change their views and behaviors.

For decades we have been taught to believe in capitalism and neo-liberalism. We have been told that there will always be poor people and we must accept that. We’ve been told that wealth trickles down and that we should all compete to achieve the “American Dream.” We’ve thought that in order to achieve that dream we must go into debt. And we’ve believed that the people in power should be trusted to make decisions for us, that we didn’t have the capacity to make them.

All of that is changing and being turned in its head. Awareness is growing that we can do things differently. People are actively confronting the old ways through both resistance and the creation of new approaches or the re-emergence of older methods. One area is the recognition that there are alternatives to debt-based economies. This is not a new idea. There were debt jubilees in ancient history.

In the article, “Debt Refusal Essential To Rebuilding Popular Democracy,” the editor writes that “resisting debt is not only moral, it may be essential to re-envisioning a democracy built on legitimate bonds to our community.” StrikeDebt, which was organized out of Occupy Wall Street, teaches us that “working together to build greater economic democracy would mean weaving a dense, creative network where our debts are to each other, not to them (read: the big banks).”StrikeDebt created a Debt Resister’s Manual and is organizing a nationwide debt resistance movement. Their new manual is due out soon.

Another area of renaissance is globalization. To date, globalization has been based on the neoliberal economic modelthat leaves poverty and environmental destruction in its wake. But now that we understand these consequences , it is becoming more difficult for governments to continue on this path. A case in point is the current Trans-Pacific Partnership which was negotiated for years in secret and the plan was to pass it quietly through Congress using Fast Track. That effort has stalled for now and instead civil society groups are working together to redefine what global trade should look like and how it should be governed.

There is a call for ‘deglobalization’ which does not oppose global trade but refers to orienting trade so our communities can build local economies, to produce goods that are needed and to become more self-reliant. A detailed plan for this is outlined in the blog on systemic alternatives. They write that deglobalization is not about withdrawing from the world economy but is about restructuring it: “Today’s need is not another centralized global institution but the deconcentration and decentralization of institutional power and the creation of a pluralistic system of state and non-state institutions and organizations interacting with one another, guided by broad and flexible agreements and understandings, which receive their authority and legitimacy from below.”

We have an opportunity right now while trade deals are stalled to redefine global governance. Collectively, the people can confront the dominant paradigms and global power structure and rebirth a world grounded in the principles of human rights and protection of the planet. Resistance is not only protest, but includes acts of creation. When you get involved in your community to build democratized economies, you are part of the global transformation.



Kevin Zeese is an attorney who has been a political activist since graduating from George Washington Law School in 1980.  He works on peace, economic justice, criminal law reform and reviving American democracy. His twitter is @KBZeese.  Zeese has used his law degree to work to end the war on drugs, stop the use of the military and National Guard in drug enforcement and allow the medical use of marijuana. He has filed bar complaints against lawyers in the Bush and Obama administrations who used their legal degrees to justify torture, as well as against Justice Clarence Thomas for conflicts of interests. He has also filed complaints against attorneys at Hunton and Williams who worked with the Chamber of Commerce and HB Gary Federal to target him for his work criticizing the Chamber. Zeese serves on the steering committee of the Bradley Manning Support Network.  Zeese filed a complaint with the Justice Department against Rupert Murdoch and News Corp for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act as well as with DOJ against Karl Rove’s American Crossroads for violating the non-profit tax laws and the federal election laws.


Margaret Flowers, M.D. is a pediatrician and mother of 3 teens from Baltimore, MD. Margaret left medical practice in 2007 to advocate full-time for single payer health care. She served as Congressional Fellow for Physicians for a National Health Program and is on the board of Healthcare-Now. She is co-director of She has organized and participated in protests for health care, peace and economic justice which have included arrests for nonviolent resistance.

The Myth of Human Progress and the Collapse of Complex Societies

January 27, 2014

January 27, 2014


By Chris Hedges

To emotionally accept impending disaster, to attain the gut-level understanding that the power elite will not respond rationally to the devastation of the ecosystem, is as difficult to accept as our own mortality. The most daunting existential struggle of our time is to ingest this awful truth–intellectually and emotionally–and rise up to resist the forces that are destroying us.


Source: TruthDig

Editor’s note: The following is the transcript of a speech that Chris Hedges gave in Santa Monica, Calif., on Oct. 13, 2013. To purchase a DVD of Hedges’ address and the Q-and-A that followed, click here.

The most prescient portrait of the American character and our ultimate fate as a species is found in Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.” Melville makes our murderous obsessions, our hubris, violent impulses, moral weakness and inevitable self-destruction visible in his chronicle of a whaling voyage. He is our foremost oracle. He is to us what William Shakespeare was to Elizabethan England or Fyodor Dostoyevsky to czarist Russia.

Our country is given shape in the form of the ship, the Pequod, named after the Indian tribe exterminated in 1638 by the Puritans and their Native American allies. The ship’s 30-man crew — there were 30 states in the Union when Melville wrote the novel — is a mixture of races and creeds. The object of the hunt is a massive white whale, Moby Dick, which in a previous encounter maimed the ship’s captain, Ahab, by dismembering one of his legs. The self-destructive fury of the quest, much like that of the one we are on, assures the Pequod’s destruction. And those on the ship, on some level, know they are doomed — just as many of us know that a consumer culture based on corporate profit, limitless exploitation and the continued extraction of fossil fuels is doomed.

“If I had been downright honest with myself,” Ishmael admits…

“I would have seen very plainly in my heart that I did but half fancy being committed this way to so long a voyage, without once laying my eyes on the man who was to be the absolute dictator of it, so soon as the ship sailed out upon the open sea. But when a man suspects any wrong, it sometimes happens that if he be already involved in the matter, he insensibly strives to cover up his suspicions even from himself. And much this way it was with me. I said nothing, and tried to think nothing.”

Our financial system — like our participatory democracy — is a mirage. The Federal Reserve purchases $85 billion in U.S. Treasury bonds — much of it worthless subprime mortgages — each month. It has been artificially propping up the government and Wall Street like this for five years. It has loaned trillions of dollars at virtually no interest to banks and firms that make money — because wages are kept low — by lending it to us at staggering interest rates that can climb to as high as 30 percent. … Or our corporate oligarchs hoard the money or gamble with it in an overinflated stock market. Estimates put the looting by banks and investment firms of the U.S. Treasury at between $15 trillion and $20 trillion. But none of us know. The figures are not public. And the reason this systematic looting will continue until collapse is that our economy [would] go into a tailspin without this giddy infusion of free cash.

The ecosystem is at the same time disintegrating. Scientists from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean, a few days ago, issued a new report that warned that the oceans are changing faster than anticipated and increasingly becoming inhospitable to life. The oceans, of course, have absorbed much of the excess CO2 and heat from the atmosphere. This absorption is rapidly warming and acidifying ocean waters. This is compounded, the report noted, by increased levels of deoxygenation from nutrient runoffs from farming and climate change. The scientists called these effects a “deadly trio” that when combined is creating changes in the seas that are unprecedented in the planet’s history.

This is their language, not mine. The scientists wrote that each of the earth’s five known mass extinctions was preceded by at least one [part] of the “deadly trio” — acidification, warming and deoxygenation. They warned that “the next mass extinction” of sea life is already underway, the first in some 55 million years. Or look at the recent research from the University of Hawaii that says global warming is now inevitable, it cannot be stopped but at best slowed, and that over the next 50 years the earth will heat up to levels that will make whole parts of the planet uninhabitable. Tens of millions of people will be displaced and millions of species will be threatened with extinction. The report casts doubt that [cities on or near a coast] such as New York or London will endure.

Yet we, like Ahab and his crew, rationalize our collective madness. All calls for prudence, for halting the march toward economic, political and environmental catastrophe, for sane limits on carbon emissions, are ignored or ridiculed. Even with the flashing red lights before us, the increased droughts, rapid melting of glaciers and Arctic ice, monster tornadoes, vast hurricanes, crop failures, floods, raging wildfires and soaring temperatures, we bow slavishly before hedonism and greed and the enticing illusion of limitless power, intelligence and prowess.

The corporate assault on culture, journalism, education, the arts and critical thinking has left those who speak this truth marginalized and ignored, frantic Cassandras who are viewed as slightly unhinged and depressingly apocalyptic. We are consumed by a mania for hope, which our corporate masters lavishly provide, at the expense of truth.

Friedrich Nietzsche in “Beyond Good and Evil” holds that only a few people have the fortitude to look in times of distress into what he calls the molten pit of human reality. Most studiously ignore the pit. Artists and philosophers, for Nietzsche, are consumed, however, by an insatiable curiosity, a quest for truth and desire for meaning. They venture down into the bowels of the molten pit. They get as close as they can before the flames and heat drive them back. This intellectual and moral honesty, Nietzsche wrote, comes with a cost. Those singed by the fire of reality become “burnt children,” he wrote, eternal orphans in empires of illusion.

Decayed civilizations always make war on independent intellectual inquiry, art and culture for this reason. They do not want the masses to look into the pit. They condemn and vilify the “burnt people” — Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader, Cornel West. They feed the human addiction for illusion, happiness and hope. They peddle the fantasy of eternal material progress. They urge us to build images of ourselves to worship. They insist–and this is the argument of globalization –that our voyage is, after all, decreed by natural law. We have surrendered our lives to corporate forces that ultimately serve systems of death. We ignore and belittle the cries of the burnt people. And, if we do not swiftly and radically reconfigure our relationship to each other and the ecosystem, microbes look set to inherit the earth.

Clive Hamilton in his “Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change” describes a dark relief that comes from accepting that “catastrophic climate change is virtually certain.” This obliteration of “false hopes,” he says, requires an intellectual knowledge and an emotional knowledge. The first is attainable. The second, because it means that those we love, including our children, are almost certainly doomed to insecurity, misery and suffering within a few decades, if not a few years, is much harder to acquire. To emotionally accept impending disaster, to attain the gut-level understanding that the power elite will not respond rationally to the devastation of the ecosystem, is as difficult to accept as our own mortality. The most daunting existential struggle of our time is to ingest this awful truth — intellectually and emotionally — and rise up to resist the forces that are destroying us.

The human species, led by white Europeans and Euro-Americans, has been on a 500-year-long planetwide rampage of conquering, plundering, looting, exploiting and polluting the earth — as well as killing the indigenous communities that stood in the way. But the game is up. The technical and scientific forces that created a life of unparalleled luxury — as well as unrivaled military and economic power for a small, global elite — are the forces that now doom us. The mania for ceaseless economic expansion and exploitation has become a curse, a death sentence. But even as our economic and environmental systems unravel, after the hottest year [2012] in the contiguous 48 states since record keeping began 107 years ago, we lack the emotional and intellectual creativity to shut down the engine of global capitalism. We have bound ourselves to a doomsday machine that grinds forward.

Complex civilizations have a bad habit of ultimately destroying themselves. Anthropologists including Joseph Tainter in “The Collapse of Complex Societies,” Charles L. Redman in “Human Impact on Ancient Environments” and Ronald Wright in “A Short History of Progress” have laid out the familiar patterns that lead to systems breakdown. The difference this time is that when we go down the whole planet will go with us. There will, with this final collapse, be no new lands left to exploit, no new civilizations to conquer, no new peoples to subjugate. The long struggle between the human species and the earth will conclude with the remnants of the human species learning a painful lesson about unrestrained greed, hubris and idolatry.

Collapse comes throughout human history to complex societies not long after they reach their period of greatest magnificence and prosperity.

“One of the most pathetic aspects of human history is that every civilization expresses itself most pretentiously, compounds its partial and universal values most convincingly, and claims immortality for its finite existence at the very moment when the decay which leads to death has already begun,” Reinhold Niebuhr wrote.

That pattern holds good for a lot of societies, among them the ancient Maya and the Sumerians of what is now southern Iraq. There are many other examples, including smaller-scale societies such as Easter Island. The very things that cause societies to prosper in the short run, especially new ways to exploit the environment such as the invention of irrigation, lead to disaster in the long run because of unforeseen complications. This is what Ronald Wright in “A Short History of Progress” calls the “progress trap.” We have set in motion an industrial machine of such complexity and such dependence on expansion, Wright notes, that we do not know how to make do with less or move to a steady state in terms of our demands on nature.

And as the collapse becomes palpable, if human history is any guide, we, like past societies in distress, will retreat into what anthropologists call “crisis cults.” The powerlessness we will feel in the face of ecological and economic chaos will unleash further collective delusions, such as fundamentalist beliefs in a god or gods who will come back to earth and save us. The Christian right provides a haven for this escapism. These cults perform absurd rituals to make it all go away, giving rise to a religiosity that peddles collective self-delusion and magical thinking. Crisis cults spread rapidly among Native American societies in the later part of the 19th century as the buffalo herds and the last remaining tribes were slaughtered. The Ghost Dance held out the hope that all the horrors of white civilization — the railroads, the murderous cavalry units, the timber merchants, the mine speculators, the hated tribal agencies, the barbed wire, the machine guns, even the white man himself — would disappear. And our psychological hard wiring is no different.

In our decline, hatred becomes our primary lust, our highest form of patriotism. We deploy vast resources to hunt down jihadists and terrorists, real and phantom. We destroy our civil society in the name of a war on terror. We persecute those, from Julian Assange to [Chelsea] Manning to Edward Snowden, who expose the dark machinations of power. We believe, because we have externalized evil, that we can purify the earth. And we are blind to the evil within us.

Melville’s description of Ahab is a description of the bankers, corporate boards, politicians, television personalities and generals who through the power of propaganda fill our heads with seductive images of glory and lust for wealth and power. We are consumed with self-induced obsessions that spur us toward self-annihilation.

“All my means are sane,” Ahab says, “my motive and my object mad.”

Ahab, as the historian Richard Slotkin points out in his book “Regeneration Through Violence,” is “the true American hero, worthy to be captain of a ship whose ‘wood could only be American.'” Melville offers us a vision, one that D.H. Lawrence later understood, of the inevitable fatality of white civilization brought about by our ceaseless lust for material progress, imperial expansion, white supremacy and exploitation of nature.

Melville, who had been a sailor on clipper ships and whalers, was keenly aware that the wealth of industrialized societies was stolen by force from the wretched of the earth. All the authority figures on the ship are white men–Ahab, Starbuck, Flask and Stubb. The hard, dirty work, from harpooning to gutting the carcasses of the whales, is the task of the poor, mostly men of color. Melville saw how European plundering of indigenous cultures from the 16th to the 19th centuries, coupled with the use of African slaves as a workforce to replace the natives, was the engine that enriched Europe and the United States. The Spaniards’ easy seizure of the Aztec and Inca gold following the massive die-off from smallpox and [other diseases] among native populations set in motion five centuries of unchecked economic and environmental plunder. Karl Marx and Adam Smith pointed to the huge influx of wealth from the Americas as having made possible the Industrial Revolution and modern capitalism. The Industrial Revolution also equipped the industrialized state with technologically advanced weapons systems, turning us into the most efficient killers on the planet.

Ahab, when he first appears on the quarterdeck after being in his cabin for the first few days of the voyage, holds up a doubloon, an extravagant gold coin, and promises it to the crew member who first spots the white whale. He knows that “the permanent constitutional condition of the manufactured man … is sordidness.” And he plays to this sordidness. The whale becomes like everything in the capitalist world a commodity, a source of personal profit. A murderous greed, one that Starbuck, Ahab’s first mate, denounces as “blasphemous,” grips the crew. Ahab’s obsession infects the ship.

“I see in [Moby Dick] outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it,” Ahab tells Starbuck. “That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him. Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I’d strike the sun if it insulted me.”

Ahab conducts a dark Mass, a Eucharist of violence and blood, on the deck with the crew. He orders the men to circle around him. He makes them drink from a flagon that is passed from man to man, filled with draughts “hot as Satan’s hoof.” Ahab tells the harpooners to cross their lances before him. The captain grasps the harpoons and anoints the ships’ harpooners — Queequeg, Tashtego and Daggoo — his “three pagan kinsmen.” He orders them to detach the iron sections of their harpoons and fills the sockets “with the fiery waters from the pewter.” “Drink, ye harpooneers! Drink and swear, ye men that man the deathful whaleboat’s bow — Death to Moby Dick! God hunt us all, if we do not hunt Moby Dick to his death!” And with the crew bonded to him in his infernal quest he knows that Starbuck is helpless “amid the general hurricane.” “Starbuck now is mine,” Ahab says, “cannot oppose me now, without rebellion.” “The honest eye of Starbuck,” Melville writes, “fell downright.”

The ship, described as a hearse, was painted black. It was adorned with gruesome trophies of the hunt, festooned with the huge teeth and bones of sperm whales. It was, Melville writes, a “cannibal of a craft, tricking herself forth in the chased bones of her enemies.” The fires used to melt the whale blubber at night turned the Pequod into a “red hell.”

Our own raging fires, leaping up from our oil refineries and the explosions of our ordinance across the Middle East, bespeak our Stygian heart. And in our mad pursuit we ignore the suffering of others, just as Ahab does when he refuses to help the captain of a passing ship who is frantically searching for his son, who has fallen overboard.

Ahab has not only the heated rhetoric of persuasion; he is master of a terrifying internal security force on the ship, the five “dusky phantoms that seemed fresh formed out of air.” Ahab’s secret, private whale boat crew, who emerge from the bowels of the ship well into the voyage, keeps the rest of the ship in abject submission. The art of propaganda and the use of brutal coercion, the mark of tyranny, define our lives just as they mark those on Melville’s ship. The novel is the chronicle of the last days of any civilization.

And yet Ahab is no simple tyrant. Melville toward the end of the novel gives us two glimpses into the internal battle between Ahab’s maniacal hubris and his humanity. Ahab, too, has a yearning for love. He harbors regrets over his deformed life. The black cabin boy Pip is the only crew member who evokes any tenderness in the captain. Ahab is aware of this tenderness. He fears its power. Pip functions as the Fool did in Shakespeare’s “King Lear.” Ahab warns Pip of Ahab. “Lad, lad,” says Ahab, “I tell thee thou must not follow Ahab now. The hour is coming when Ahab would not scare thee from him, yet would not have thee by him. There is that in thee, poor lad, which I feel too curing to my malady. Like cures like; and for this hunt, my malady becomes my most desired health. … If thou speakest thus to me much more, Ahab’s purpose keels up in him. I tell thee no; it cannot be.”

A few pages later, “untottering Ahab stood forth in the clearness of the morn; lifting his splintered helmet of a brow to the fair girl’s forehead of heaven. … From beneath his slouched hat Ahab dropped a tear into the sea; nor did all the Pacific contain such wealth as that one wee drop.” Starbuck approaches him. Ahab, for the only time in the book, is vulnerable. He speaks to Starbuck of his “forty years on the pitiless sea! … the desolation of solitude it has been. … Why this strife of the chase? why weary, and palsy the arm at the oar, and the iron, and the lance? How the richer or better is Ahab now?” He thinks of his young wife — “I widowed that poor girl when I married her, Starbuck” — and of his little boy: “About this time — yes, it is his noon nap now — the boy vivaciously wakes; sits up in bed; and his mother tells him of me, of cannibal old me; how I am abroad upon the deep, but will yet come back to dance him again.”

Ahab’s thirst for dominance, vengeance and destruction, however, overpowers these faint regrets of lost love and thwarted compassion. Hatred wins. “What is it,” Ahab finally asks, “what nameless, inscrutable, unearthly thing is it; what cozening, hidden lord and master, and cruel, remorseless emperor commands me; that against all natural lovings and longings, I so keep pushing, and crowding, and jamming myself on all the time. …”

Melville knew that physical courage and moral courage are distinct. One can be brave on a whaling ship or a battlefield, yet a coward when called on to stand up to human evil. Starbuck elucidates this peculiar division. The first mate is tormented by his complicity in what he foresees as Ahab’s “impious end.” Starbuck, “while generally abiding firm in the conflict with seas, or winds, or whales, or any of the ordinary irrational horrors of the world, yet cannot withstand those more terrific, because spiritual terrors, which sometimes menace you from the concentrating brow of an enraged and mighty man.”

And so we plunge forward in our doomed quest to master the forces that will finally smite us. Those who see where we are going too often lack the fortitude to actually rebel. Mutiny was the only salvation for the Pequod’s crew. It is our only salvation. But moral cowardice turns us into hostages.

I am reading and rereading the debates among some of the great radical thinkers of the 19th and 20th centuries about the mechanisms of social change. These debates were not academic. They were frantic searches for the triggers of revolt. Lenin placed his faith in a violent uprising, a professional, disciplined revolutionary vanguard freed from moral constraints and, like Marx, in the inevitable emergence of the worker’s state. [Pierre-Joseph] Proudhon insisted that gradual change would be accomplished as enlightened workers took over production and educated and converted the rest of the proletariat. [Mikhail] Bakunin predicted the catastrophic breakdown of the capitalist order, something we are likely to witness in our lifetimes, and new autonomous worker federations rising up out of the chaos. [Peter] Kropotkin, like Proudhon, believed in an evolutionary process that would hammer out the new society. Emma Goldman, along with Kropotkin, came to be very wary of both the efficacy of violence and the revolutionary potential of the masses. “The mass,” Goldman wrote bitterly toward the end of her life in echoing Marx, “clings to its masters, loves the whip, and is the first to cry Crucify!”

The revolutionists of history counted on a mobilized base of enlightened industrial workers. The building blocks of revolt, they believed, relied on the tool of the general strike, the ability of workers to cripple the mechanisms of production. Strikes could be sustained with the support of political parties, strike funds and union halls. Workers without these support mechanisms had to replicate the infrastructure of parties and unions if they wanted to put prolonged pressure on the bosses and the state. But now, with the decimation of the U.S. manufacturing base, along with the dismantling of our unions and opposition parties, we will have to search for different instruments of rebellion.

We must develop a revolutionary theory that is not reliant on the industrial or agrarian muscle of workers. Most manufacturing jobs have disappeared, and, of those that remain, few are unionized. Our family farms have been destroyed by agro-businesses. Monsanto and its Faustian counterparts on Wall Street rule. They are steadily poisoning our lives and rendering us powerless. The corporate leviathan, which is global, is freed from the constraints of a single nation-state or government. Corporations are beyond regulation or control. Politicians are too anemic, or more often too corrupt, to stand in the way of the accelerating corporate destruction. This makes our struggle different from revolutionary struggles in industrial societies in the past. Our revolt will look more like what erupted in the less industrialized Slavic republics, Russia, Spain and China and uprisings led by a disenfranchised rural and urban working class and peasantry in the liberation movements that swept through Africa and Latin America. The dispossessed working poor, along with unemployed college graduates and students, unemployed journalists, artists, lawyers and teachers, will form our movement. This is why the fight for a higher minimum wage is crucial to uniting service workers with the alienated college-educated sons and daughters of the old middle class. Bakunin, unlike Marx, considered déclassé intellectuals essential for successful revolt.

It is not the poor who make revolutions. It is those who conclude that they will not be able, as they once expected, to rise economically and socially. This consciousness is part of the self-knowledge of service workers and fast-food workers. It is grasped by the swelling population of college graduates caught in a vise of low-paying jobs and obscene amounts of debt. These two groups, once united, will be our primary engines of revolt. Much of the urban poor has been crippled and in many cases broken by a rewriting of laws, especially drug laws, that has permitted courts, probation officers, parole boards and police to randomly seize poor people of color, especially African-American men, without just cause and lock them in cages for years. In many of our most impoverished urban centers–our internal colonies, as Malcolm X called them–mobilization, at least at first, will be difficult. The urban poor are already in chains. These chains are being readied for the rest of us. “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets or steal bread,” Anatole France commented acidly.

Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan examined 100 years of violent and nonviolent resistance movements in their book “Why Civil Resistance Works.” They concluded that nonviolent movements succeed twice as often as violent uprisings. Violent movements work primarily in civil wars or in ending foreign occupations, they found. Nonviolent movements that succeed appeal to those within the power structure, especially the police and civil servants, who are cognizant of the corruption and decadence of the power elite and are willing to abandon them. And we only need 1 to 5 percent of the population actively working for the overthrow of a system, history has shown, to bring down even the most ruthless totalitarian structures. It always works on two tracks — building alternative structures such as public banks to free ourselves from control and finding mechanisms to halt the machine.

The most important dilemma facing us is not ideological. It is logistical. The security and surveillance state has made its highest priority the breaking of any infrastructure that might spark widespread revolt. The state knows the tinder is there. It knows that the continued unraveling of the economy and the effects of climate change make popular unrest inevitable. It knows that as underemployment and unemployment doom at least a quarter of the U.S. population, perhaps more, to perpetual poverty, and as unemployment benefits are scaled back, as schools close, as the middle class withers away, as pension funds are looted by hedge fund thieves, and as the government continues to let the fossil fuel industry ravage the planet, the future will increasingly be one of open conflict. This battle against the corporate state, right now, is primarily about infrastructure. We need an infrastructure to build revolt. The corporate state is determined to deny us one.

The state, in its internal projections, has a vision of the future that is as dystopian as mine. But the state, to protect itself, lies. Politicians, corporations, the public relations industry, the entertainment industry and our ridiculous television pundits speak as if we can continue to build a society based on limitless growth, profligate consumption and fossil fuel. They feed the collective mania for hope at the expense of truth. Their public vision is self-delusional, a form of collective psychosis. The corporate state, meanwhile, is preparing privately for the world it knows is actually coming. It is cementing into place a police state, one that includes the complete evisceration of our most basic civil liberties and the militarization of the internal security apparatus, as well as wholesale surveillance of the citizenry.

Moby Dick rams and sinks the Pequod. The waves swallow up Ahab and all who followed him, except one. A vortex formed by the ship’s descent collapses, “and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago.”

As the planet begins to convulse with fury, as the senseless greed of limitless capitalist expansion implodes the global economy, as our civil liberties are eviscerated in the name of national security, shackling us to an interconnected security and surveillance state that stretches from Moscow to Istanbul to New York, how shall we endure and resist?

Our hope lies in the human imagination. It was the human imagination that permitted African-Americans during slavery and the Jim Crow era to transcend their physical condition. It was the human imagination that sustained Sitting Bull and Black Elk as their land was seized and their cultures were broken. And it was the human imagination that allowed the survivors in the Nazi death camps to retain the power of the sacred. It is the imagination that makes possible transcendence. Chants, work songs, spirituals, the blues, poetry, dance and art converged under slavery to nourish and sustain this imagination. These were the forces that, as Ralph Ellison wrote, “we had in place of freedom.” The oppressed would be the first — for they know their fate — to admit that on a rational level such a notion is absurd, but they also know that it is only through the imagination that they survive. Jewish inmates in Auschwitz reportedly put God on trial for the Holocaust and then condemned God to death. A rabbi stood after the verdict to lead the evening prayers.

African-Americans and Native Americans, for centuries, had little control over their destinies. Forces of bigotry and violence kept them subjugated by whites. Suffering, for the oppressed, was tangible. Death was a constant companion. And it was only their imagination, as William Faulkner noted at the end of “The Sound and the Fury,” that permitted them — unlike the novel’s white Compson family — to “endure.”

The theologian James H. Cone captures this in his book “The Cross and the Lynching Tree.” Cone says that for oppressed blacks the cross was a “paradoxical religious symbol because it inverts the world’s value system with the news that hope comes by way of defeat, that suffering and death do not have the last word, that the last shall be first and the first last.” Cone continues:

“That God could ‘make a way out of no way’ in Jesus’ cross was truly absurd to the intellect, yet profoundly real in the souls of black folk. Enslaved blacks who first heard the gospel message seized on the power of the cross. Christ crucified manifested God’s loving and liberating presence in the contradictions of black life — that transcendent presence in the lives of black Christians that empowered them to believe that ultimately, in God’s eschatological future, they would not be defeated by the ‘troubles of this world,’ no matter how great and painful their suffering. Believing this paradox, this absurd claim of faith, was only possible in humility and repentance. There was no place for the proud and the mighty, for people who think that God called them to rule over others. The cross was God’s critique of power — white power — with powerless love, snatching victory out of defeat.”

Reinhold Niebuhr labeled this capacity to defy the forces of repression “a sublime madness in the soul.” Niebuhr wrote that “nothing but madness will do battle with malignant power and ‘spiritual wickedness in high places.'” This sublime madness, as Niebuhr understood, is dangerous, but it is vital. Without it, “truth is obscured.” And Niebuhr also knew that traditional liberalism was a useless force in moments of extremity. Liberalism, Niebuhr said, “lacks the spirit of enthusiasm, not to say fanaticism, which is so necessary to move the world out of its beaten tracks. It is too intellectual and too little emotional to be an efficient force in history.”

The prophets in the Hebrew Bible had this sublime madness. The words of the Hebrew prophets, as Abraham Heschel wrote, were “a scream in the night. While the world is at ease and asleep, the prophet feels the blast from heaven.” The prophet, because he saw and faced an unpleasant reality, was, as Heschel wrote, “compelled to proclaim the very opposite of what his heart expected.”

Primo Levi in his memoir “Survival in Auschwitz” tells of teaching Italian to another inmate, Jean Samuel, in exchange for lessons in French. Levi recites to Samuel from memory Canto XXVI of Dante’s “The Inferno.” It is the story of Ulysses’ final voyage.

We cheered, but soon that cheering turned to woe,

for then a whirlwind born from the strange land

battered our little vessel on the prow.

Three times the boat and all the sea were whirled,

and at the fourth, to please Another’s will,

the aft tipped in the air, the prow went down,

Until the ocean closed above our bones.

“He has received the message,” Levi wrote of his friend and what they shared in Dante, “he has felt that it has to do with him, that it has to do with all men who toil, and with us in particular.” Levi goes on. “It is vitally necessary and urgent that he listen, that he understand … before it is too late; tomorrow he or I might be dead, or we might never see each other again.”

The poet Leon Staff wrote from the Warsaw ghetto: “Even more than bread we now need poetry, in a time when it seems that it is not needed at all.”

It is only those who harness their imagination, and through their imagination find the courage to peer into the molten pit, who can minister to the suffering of those around them. It is only they who can find the physical and psychological strength to resist. Resistance is carried out not for its success, but because by resisting in every way possible we affirm life. And those who resist in the years ahead will be those who are infected with this “sublime madness.” As Hannah Arendt wrote in “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” the only morally reliable people are not those who say “this is wrong” or “this should not be done,” but those who say “I can’t.” They know that as Immanuel Kant wrote: “If justice perishes, human life on earth has lost its meaning.” And this means that, like Socrates, we must come to a place where it is better to suffer wrong than to do wrong. We must at once see and act, and given what it means to see, this will require the surmounting of despair, not by reason, but by faith.

“One of the only coherent philosophical positions is revolt,” Camus wrote. “It is a constant confrontation between man and his obscurity. ” It is not aspiration, for it is devoid of hope. That revolt is the certainty of a crushing fate, without the resignation that ought to accompany it.”

“… [T]he people noticed that Crazy Horse was queerer than ever,” Black Elk said in remembering the final days of the wars of Western expansion. He went on to say of the great Sioux warrior: “He hardly ever stayed in the camp. People would find him out alone in the cold, and they would ask him to come home with them. He would not come, but sometimes he would tell the people what to do. People wondered if he ate anything at all. Once my father found him out alone like that, and he said to my father: “Uncle, you have noticed me the way I act. But do not worry; there are caves and holes for me to live in, and out here the spirits may help me. I am making plans for the good of my people.”

Homer, Dante, Beethoven, Melville, Dostoevsky, Proust, Joyce, W.H. Auden, Emily Dickinson and James Baldwin, along with artists such as the sculptor David Smith, the photographer Diane Arbus and the blues musician Charley Patton, all had it. It is the sublime madness that lets one sing, as bluesman Ishman Bracey did in Hinds County, Miss., “I’ve been down so long, Lawd, down don’t worry me.” And yet in the mists of the imagination also lie the absurdity and certainty of divine justice:

I feel my hell a-risin’, a-risin’ every day;
I feel my hell a-risin’, a-risin’ every day;
Someday it’ll burst this levee and wash the whole wide world away.

Shakespeare’s greatest heroes and heroines — Prospero, Antony, Juliet, Viola, Rosalind, Hamlet, Cordelia and Lear — all have this sublime madness. King Lear, who through suffering and affliction, through human imagination, is finally able to see, warns us all that unbridled human passion and unchecked hubris mean the suicide of the species. “It will come,” Albany says in “Lear.” “Humanity must perforce prey on itself, Like monsters of the deep.” It was the poems of Federico Garcia Lorca that sustained the republicans fighting the fascists in Spain. Music, dance, drama, art, song, painting [have been] the fire and drive of resistance movements. The rebel units in El Salvador when I covered the war there always traveled with musicians and theater troupes. Art, as Emma Goldman pointed out, has the power to make ideas felt. Goldman noted that when Andrew Undershaft, a character in George Bernard Shaw’s play “Major Barbara,” said poverty is “[t]he worst of crimes” and “All the other crimes are virtues beside it,” his impassioned declaration elucidated the cruelty of class warfare more effectively than Shaw’s socialist tracts. The degradation of education into vocational training for the corporate state, the ending of state subsidies for the arts and journalism, the hijacking of these disciplines by corporate sponsors, sever the population from understanding, self-actualization and transcendence. In aesthetic terms the corporate state seeks to crush beauty, truth and imagination. This is a war waged by all totalitarian systems.

Culture, real culture, is radical and transformative. It is capable of expressing what lies deep within us. It gives words to our reality. It makes us feel as well as see. It allows us to empathize with those who are different or oppressed. It reveals what is happening around us. It honors mystery. “The role of the artist, then, precisely, is to illuminate that darkness, blaze roads through the vast forest,” James Baldwin wrote, “so that we will not, in all our doing, lose sight of its purpose, which is, after all, to make the world a more human dwelling place.”

“Ultimately, the artist and the revolutionary function as they function, and pay whatever dues they must pay behind it because they are both possessed by a vision, and they do not so much follow this vision as find themselves driven by it,” wrote Baldwin. “Otherwise, they could never endure, much less embrace, the lives they are compelled to lead.”

I do not know if we can build a better society. I do not even know if we will survive as a species. But I know these corporate forces have us by the throat. And they have my children by the throat. I do not fight fascists because I will win. I fight fascists because they are fascists. And this is a fight which in the face of the overwhelming forces against us requires us to embrace this sublime madness, to find in acts of rebellion the embers of life, an intrinsic meaning that lies outside of certain success. It is to at once grasp reality and then refuse to allow this reality to paralyze us. It is, and I say this to people of all creeds or no creeds, to make an absurd leap of faith, to believe, despite all empirical evidence around us, that good always draws to it the good, that the fight for life always goes somewhere–we do not know where; the Buddhists call it karma–and in these acts we sustain our belief in a better world, even if we cannot see one emerging around us.

The Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet, who spent most of his adult life in prison or in exile, knew something of despair. But he knew something too of resistance, of that rebellious spirit which must define us in times of terrible oppression and woe if we are to remain fully human. Any act of resistance is its own eternal triumph. Hikmet captured this in his poem “On Living.”

Living is no laughing matter:
you must live with great seriousness
like a squirrel, for example —
I mean without looking for something beyond and above living,
I mean living must be your whole occupation.
Living is no laughing matter:
you must take it seriously,
so much so and to such a degree
that, for example, your hands tied behind your back,
your back to the wall,
or else in a laboratory
in your white coat and safety glasses,
you can die for people —
even for people whose faces you’ve never seen,
even though you know living
is the most real, the most beautiful thing.
I mean, you must take living so seriously
that even at seventy, for example, you’ll plant olive trees–
and not for your children, either,
but because although you fear death you don’t believe it,
because living, I mean, weighs heavier.

Let’s say we’re seriously ill, need surgery —
which is to say we might not get up
from the white table.
Even though it’s impossible not to feel sad
about going a little too soon,
we’ll still laugh at the jokes being told,
we’ll look out the window to see if it’s raining,
or still wait anxiously
for the latest newscast . . .
Let’s say we’re at the front —
for something worth fighting for, say.
There, in the first offensive, on that very day,
we might fall on our face, dead.
We’ll know this with a curious anger,
but we’ll still worry ourselves to death
about the outcome of the war, which could last years.
Let’s say we’re in prison
and close to fifty,
and we have eighteen more years, say,
before the iron doors will open.
We’ll still live with the outside,
with its people and animals, struggle and wind–
I mean with the outside beyond the walls.
I mean, however and wherever we are,
we must live as if we will never die.

This earth will grow cold,
a star among stars
and one of the smallest,
a gilded mote on blue velvet–
I mean this, our great earth.
This earth will grow cold one day,
not like a block of ice
or a dead cloud even
but like an empty walnut it will roll along
in pitch-black space . . .
You must grieve for this right now
–you have to feel this sorrow now–
for the world must be loved this much
if you’re going to say “I lived”. . .

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Submitters Bio:

Chris Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.

Hedges was part of the team of reporters at The New York Times awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for the paper’s coverage of global terrorism. He also received the Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism in 2002. The Los Angeles Press Club honored Hedges’ original columns in Truthdig by naming the author the Online Journalist of the Year in 2009, and granted him the Best Online Column award in 2010 for his Truthdig essay “One Day We’ll All Be Terrorists.”

Hedges is a senior fellow at The Nation Institute in New York City and has taught at Columbia University, New York University and Princeton University. He currently teaches inmates at a correctional facility in New Jersey.

Hedges began his career reporting the war in El Salvador. Following six years in Latin America, he took time off to study Arabic and then went to Jerusalem and later Cairo. He spent seven years in the Middle East, most of them as the bureau chief there for The New York Times. He left the Middle East in 1995 for Sarajevo to cover the war in Bosnia and later reported the war in Kosovo. Afterward, he joined the Times’ investigative team and was based in Paris to cover al-Qaida. He left the Times after being issued a formal reprimand for denouncing the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq.

He has written nine books, including “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle” (2009), “I Don’t Believe in Atheists” (2008) and the best-selling “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America” (2008). His book “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning” (2003) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction. His latest book is “Death of the Liberal Class” (2010)

Hedges holds a B.A. in English literature from Colgate University and a Master of Divinity degree from Harvard University. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, Calif. Hedges speaks Arabic, French and Spanish and knows ancient Greek and Latin. In addition to writing a weekly original column for Truthdig, he has written for Harper’s Magazine, The New Statesman, The New York Review of Books, Adbusters, Granta, Foreign Affairs and other publications.