Ram Dass on Politics

“One of the systems we’re part of, of course, is the political system. We may wish we weren’t part of it often, but we are. And all of those people playing with the power of the medium of politics, and its effect on the media and its effect on collective human consciousness, and those people that are addicted to power are there because of us. It boils down to that. That we create a field in which they can play with power, and that power is more or less compassionate. And the political system is a system in which as long as you have a passport, you are a member of it whether you like it or not. You’re part of a government, and your not voting is voting. So there’s no way out. You can’t say, “I’m not going to have anything to do with politics.” You can say it, but you’ve got to watch where you’re saying it from. You may say, “I’m not going to get involved with politics because I am so busy with something else that I think is my dominant theme, and I’ll vote, but I’m not going to put my time into campaigning for candidates and things like that, or issues, because my energies are best used here.” That’s fine. If you’ve thought it through and felt that way and can look somebody in the eye and say, “This is the way it is.” If you’re saying, “I’m not having anything to do with politics because it’s too dirty and because I don’t approve of it,”. Forget it – you are abdicating your responsibility to society. It’s as simple as that.” Ram Dass – 1995

The Insanity Quotient

All measures of progress always begin with looking back at what it is we are trying to improve upon. The American Revolution was set against a back drop of a previous system of organized civilization that wasn’t working for a lot of folks so a few thoughtful and well organized people overthrew the system that wasn’t working, the British monarchy in this case.

Or on a personal level one might seek to get into better physical shape because the performance of their human body isn’t what they’d like it to be so they do something about it. There are endless examples. In order to improve we must be aware of what it is we are improving upon. I think we can all agree on that.

In our lives there are thousands of choices we make in order to optimize the human experience ranging from the mundane to the extreme. These are usually well intentioned and valuable however, in the course of our self determination we may sometimes loose site of the global connections that we all have a stake in. For instance, in the midst of my striving to be a better father to one’s children, the father may loose site that the food he is buying to please his children’s taste buds in the short term but has a negative effect on the planet in the long term. That’s a very pedestrian example but we all share in this sort of behavior. Most of can’t claim that we are in 100% of the solution all the time. There are endless necessary evils that we participate in simply because the way our options are presented in society can’t be escaped without great difficulty or inconvenience. Unless there’s a massive shift in the collective conscious we are very slow to make any huge changes at once.

Occasionally we do simply because enough is enough. Take civiil rights for instance – the insanity went on long enough so a forceful change came about in a very short period of time. This happened because a collective spark was ignited that resulted in most people realizing that they had enough bullshit and hypocrisy. Of course, many people even today still can’t accept this and choose hatred over love. Still, some progress was made.

This is the insanity quotient. Ask yourself how much collective insanity must we continually engage in that is comfortable for you? Since the beginning of recorded history there has always been an accepted level of insanity that we as a society can seemingly accept. War, poverty, religious crusades, racism, environmental neglect – choose your poison. Most of us just proclaim “that’s just the way things are.”

Ok. Fair enough. I just drive a hybrid car that still uses gasoline and a toxic battery, it’s slightly better for the planet that a conventional car but still not ideal. Why? Because that’s just the way things are. I can’t (or am not willing) to give up my car entirely to put my money where my mouth is. I simply do the best I can even though it’s not good enough. Or, when I dine out I eat institutional food and meats that are in no way GMO free or cruelty free. Why? Because I’m not willing to not be social and source 100% of my food responsibly. I do the best I can even though it’s still not good enough. This, again, is the insanity quotient. I engage in some mundane levels of insanity simply because I can’t be bothered to completely disengage from these common behaviors.

These are personal day to day life decisions. What about the BIG collective species decisions? Take climate change or war in the middle east.

Why is there a certain group of people so intent on denying there is a problem with the human impact humans are having on the environment? Best I can make out is that changing our behavior is simply to expensive and problematic. To have a course correction at this point would change the way we conduct business and government in a way that simply can’t be tolerated by some people who control a great sum.

Or why are some people rationalizing an excuse to go to war with Iran in order to defend Israel rather than taking a road of negotiation? I won’t even attempt to answer that one, but it’s happening and anyone can read about it on any given day.

This post is one of observation, not of answers per se. Yes, I believe that changing our consciousness is the first big step. But there’s still a problem – even when we do that we’re still not doing enough. How much insanity are we willing to live with before it’s too late?

Reflections on Earth Day

“It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.” – Thomas Jefferson

In my previous post I alluded to the concept of generational tyranny and Thomas Jeffersons fascination with the concept. Again, to reiterate – this means that the actions of the current generation should be such that it not leave an indelible mark on any future generation. For instance, this generations debt is that of its own and generations to come should not be left paying the bill. Of course there was no way Jefferson could have known that this thinking could be extended to that of the ecology. And certainly one could argue that the current ecological crisis could be described as a “war of the world.”

This past Earth Day I became sensitive to the notion that the idea of generational tyranny couldn’t be any more relevant to that of the ecological/climate change cause. At the very core of what Earth Day is about is protecting the Earth and our ability to live on it for generations to come. That’s about as stark a mission as anyone can make up.

Science is in near unanimous agreement that we have caused some sort of damage to the fragile ego system of the planet which in turn means that we will have to make some huge adjustments in the way we live. And those adjustments better happen really fast. Some say that the Greenland ice shelf may break off in the middle of this century which may cause Manhattan and London to go underwater. Other reports say some very recent satellite photographs indicated that the Arctic Sea has 80% less ice than it did 20 years ago. There are mountains of evidence that make up a body of truth that says this is at a crisis level. They go on and on.

Even though most sane people know this to be true we still see very little action from any major Government and for the most part we still let the petro-dollar keep it’s relevance as the worlds true economic superpower. If we look through history’s lens we can trace both our progress and our destruction back to the rise of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century. The economic benefits of the late 19th centuries industrial advancements happened so quickly, and for so much of the Western world, that it created a universal utopia on how to view the world. There suddenly became far more ways for man to seek his own “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” than ever before due to the new found options of creating income. From here on out progress became definable only in economic terms or that of the GDP. This was such a powerful shift in the way humans were living up until that point that these profoundly Western imperialist ways have even seeped into eastern cultures like India and China.

Now that we are over 100 years past the dawn of the Industrial Revolution we are left with the bleak reality of the damage we’ve done to our the planet as a result of our economic prosperity that we are being forced to reconsider some of the ideas of what we think is important or what we define as success.

“The planet does not need more ‘successful’ people. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds. It needs people to live well in their places. It needs people with moral courage willing to join the struggle to make the world habitable and humane and these qualities have little to do with ‘success’ as our culture is the set.”
-Dalai Lama

Let’s go back and take a more macro view of the planet’s peril and perhaps adjust our sensitivities to it. Let’s go back to the idea of what the ecology and green movement is about and why an important distinction needs to be made. This is the distinction between saving the planet and saving ourselves. George Carlin brilliant and famously riffed on this saying we shouldn’t say “Save the Planet”, we should say “Save the Humans.” It’s true, the planet will be fine as it has been for 4 bilion years. It’s our ability to live on the planet which is in jeopardy. Carling goes on to say “the planet will shake us off like a bad case of fleas.”

This is funny and provides comic relief but if you step back to truly consider the differences you will see it to not only be true but to be an urgent distinction. This past Earth Day I grew tired and cynical of the new age movements rhetoric on the unofficial holiday and started to think about Carlins idea a little more . I’m truly tired of the new ager’s “honoring the mother” bumper sticker movement and it’s endlessly saccharine sweet need to hold hands and do a beach clean up. Sounds so bitter for a self professed hippie who drives a Prius I know but it’s true.

It’s important because we don’t need to go on and on about using less plastic or not driving BMWs as much as we should shift the focus to protecting the ability of our species to continue it’s survival. Anyone reading this post may still be able to enjoy our beautiful Earth as we know it but will our grandchildren? And that can not be more clearly expressed in how the future generations will view our legacy. Will some nameless environmental leader be saying 100 years from now “At present our energy crisis is at a code red level due to circumstances and planning that our ancestors failed to act on at a time when it could have been prevented.”

Quite frankly I think more people would resonate more with saving their grandchildren than they would saving a distant Alaska wilderness. The bumper sticker thinking on the movement needs to shift. Enough honoring the divine mother earth and telling her that we love her, let’s start talking brass tax.

In the latest Rolling Stone there is a worthwhile new piece that focusses on the fierceness and determination of the new climate change freedom fighters who are taking on Big Oil and the US Government very effectively. Gone are the days when hippies and “granola” types were the only ones listening to this cause. Todays climate change leaders are policy wonks, scientists and angry young people who are using technology to mobilize a movement that literally every single person can’t afford to ignore. I can’t think of one other hot button issue that applies to every person no matter what.

“It’s time to take the blinders off and see what the industry (big oil) is doing to us. The message that I want to put out there is that normal, everyday people have to take up this fight” says Cherri Foytlin in Rolling Stone. She is a mother of six who founded the Gulf Coast activist group Mothers for Sustainability.

The ripple from the 60’s new idealism has been felt for nearly 40 years now. Much of our progressive dialogue originated in the 60s, the flexibility for what art is acceptable, the continued quest for equal rights, the gay movement, the health food movement and the green movement all came to fruition because of the shift in awareness that was experienced nearly 50 years ago in that brief lightning in a bottle era. This was one of the great redo’s in modern civilization to ever happen with such swift momentum. This was was the great success of the 60’s and why it’s legacy can still be felt. However, many still view these movements to exist in cultural perceptions only and lack any sort of brick and mortar actions.

The modern green movement and it’s tent pole landmarks like Whole Foods or the Toyota Prius work because they have created actual choices, both cultural and practical, that the everyday consumer can take part in. Various Earth Day festivals that go on around the country are so easily lumped into hippie gatherings where seitan and dreadlocks rule the day.

We must stop with the notion that we are trying to save the planet as some sort of new age crusade about honoring and cherishing Mother Earth. Not only is it annoying and a cause for separation but it also falls into the cliche of airy fairy causes where the protesters smoke too much pot and don’t get anything done.

We must instead learn to talk about our survival as a species as the only reason to care about this in the first place. Again, the modern ecological movement and the potential risks of doing nothing effect every single person on our planet and every single person who has yet to be born who will live on this planet. It’s not a liberal or conservative cause. It’s not a rich or poor one either. It’s a human one.

Save the humans.

Liberal vs. Conservative

When you look at the raw definitions it almost seems like a no brainer. Which one are you?

liberal |ˈlib(ə)rəl|
1 open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values : they have more liberal views toward marriage and divorce than some people.
• favorable to or respectful of individual rights and freedoms : liberal citizenship laws.

conservative |kənˈsərvətiv; -vəˌtiv|
holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, typically in relation to politics or religion.
• (of dress or taste) sober and conventional : a conservative suit.

The age of serious satire

I love this post on Huff Po today.

Young Americans See Colbert/Stewart as becoming a serious news outlet

What Colbert and Stewart have brilliantly done is they have slowly and patiently changed the landscape of the common news language. The duo of the old guards of TV news and the political system has gotten to be such a laborious joke that everyone knows it. But to be fair everyone also knows some of the information that the news conveys is important. So why not combine the two, right? Stewart has been the master of that. I can watch The Daily Show on any given night and get all the information I need whilst also laughing my ass off.

The only downside is that I can see young people will become cynical to a fault. Extensive exposure to the Stewart Colbert vernacular creates an air of acceptance that the system is fucked beyond repair and all we can do is grin and bare it. That’s partially true but also hopeless. We must not loose site of the great experiment that America is and can still be. Anyway, it’s an interesting post on Huff Po.