From John Michael Greer
I’d intended this week’s post here on The Archdruid Report to continue the discussion of education that got started two weeks ago, but that’s going to have to wait a bit. As my readers have doubtless learned over the last ten years, whichever muse guides these essays is a lady of very irregular habits, and it happens tolerably often that what she has to say isn’t what I had in mind. This is one of those times.
In last month’s installment of my ongoing Retrotopia narrative, one of the characters summed up her position in a bit of intellectual heresy that left the viewpoint character flummoxed. Her argument was that progress has become the enemy of prosperity. That’s something you can’t even suggest in today’s society; the response of the viewpoint character— “With all due respect, that’s crazy”—is mild compared to the sort of reactions I’ve routinely fielded whenever I’ve suggested that progress, like everything else in the real world, is subject to the law of diminishing returns.
Nonetheless, the unspeakable has become the inescapable in today’s world. It’s become a running joke on the internet that the word “upgrade” inevitably means poorer service, fewer benefits, and more annoyances for those who have to deal with the new and allegedly improved product. The same logic can be applied equally well across the entire landscape of modern technology. What’s new, innovative, revolutionary, game-changing, and so on through the usual litany of overheated adjectives, isn’t necessarily an improvement. It can be, and very often is, a disaster. Examples could be drawn from an astonishingly broad range of contemporary sources, but I have a particular set of examples in mind.
From Dmitry Orlov
We, the undersigned, are Russians living and working in the USA. We have been watching with increasing anxiety as the current US and NATO policies have set us on an extremely dangerous collision course with the Russian Federation, as well as with China. Many respected, patriotic Americans, such as Paul Craig Roberts, Stephen Cohen, Philip Giraldi, Ray McGovern and many others have been issuing warnings of a looming a Third World War. But their voices have been all but lost among the din of a mass media that is full of deceptive and inaccurate stories that characterize the Russian economy as being in shambles and the Russian military as weak—all based on no evidence. But we—knowing both Russian history and the current state of Russian society and the Russian military, cannot swallow these lies. We now feel that it is our duty, as Russians living in the US, to warn the American people that they are being lied to, and to tell them the truth. And the truth is simply this:
Let us take a step back and put what is happening in a historical context. Russia has suffered a great deal at the hands of foreign invaders, losing 22 million people in World War II. Most of the dead were civilians, because the country was invaded, and the Russians have vowed to never let such a disaster happen again. Each time Russia had been invaded, she emerged victorious. In 1812 Nepoleon invaded Russia; in 1814 Russian cavalry rode into Paris. On June 22, 1941, Hitler’s Luftwaffe bombed Kiev; On May 8, 1945, Soviet troops rolled into Berlin.
But times have changed since then. If Hitler were to attack Russia today, he would be dead 20 to 30 minutes later, his bunker reduced to glowing rubble by a strike from a Kalibr supersonic cruise missile launched from a small Russian navy ship somewhere in the Baltic Sea. The operational abilities of the new Russian military have been most persuasively demonstrated during the recent action against ISIS, Al Nusra and other foreign-funded terrorist groups operating in Syria. A long time ago Russia had to respond to provocations by fighting land battles on her own territory, then launching a counter-invasion; but this is no longer necessary. Russia’s new weapons make retaliation instant, undetectable, unstoppable and perfectly lethal.
From Jeff Cox
When I took the job as restaurant reviewer for the Santa Rosa Press Democrat in 1993, one of my first reviews was of a restaurant called La Gare [located in Railroad Square], a supposedly French restaurant with execrable food, and I gave the place a royal pan [titled “Train Wreck of a Meal”]. Turned out that it was Sonoma County’s long-standing favorite restaurant—the kind of place you went to with your parents and then your kids. The community flew into a rage. I was vilified. I was pilloried. The phones at the newspaper rang off the hook. They told me they hadn’t had so many critical letters to the editor ever. People threatened to cancel their subscriptions.
A few days later I was in the editorial offices and met Mike Parman, the editor-in-chief, now deceased. He looked at me in that hard-boiled way of editors-in-chief and said, “You only got one thing wrong, Cox. The service sucks, too.”
I was elated to know that the editor stood behind me, and that emboldened me to tell the truth as I saw it for the next 1000+ restaurants I reviewed over the next 22 years, until the paper finally fired me from the position. Hey, it was a good run.
But it makes me sad for the hack reportage that passes for journalism in re Donald Trump. If, as an editor once said, it’s the job of the journalist to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, I see an abject failure to put Mr. Trump into the proper context. This buffoon should have his feet held to the fire of truth and justice. To be objective about Donald Trump is to see his faults for what they are: deep psychological, personal, and social flaws that exhibit chicanery not leadership.
Why are our media letting us down? I could theorize, but I won’t. I’ll just say that the principles of journalism that drew me into my life’s work seem to have stopped operating.
May 31, 2016
To Gene’s many friends from his blog, sadly, Gene passed away this morning, at home in Ohio with his family, after fighting cancer for several months. I’m sure this will come as a shock as you’ve had no warning. He continued writing up to a few days ago, and actually tried for one last column but could not get it out.
Many years ago, after corresponding for awhile, I met Gene in person when he could not find a publisher for his next book, The Contrary Farmer… and I helped him find one. I spent an afternoon at his home with he and his sweet wife, Carol, and was most struck by his great sense of humor… he just loved to laugh, and he found humor everywhere… as you well know from his writing. Later, I urged him to start a blog and volunteered to create and run it for him… and we, you and I, are all the better for it.
As he wrote at the head of the books page on his blog:
The fact that people of gentle humor and wisdom comment on my blog posts has been the most pleasant and illuminating experience of my life. Bless all of you. ~Gene
I plan to keep his blog, 9 years of wonderful posts, available online so you may visit whenever you wish to do so.
With a heavy heart,
The Contrary Farmer blog here…
Gene’s posts also on our blog here…
Anti-Vietnam war activist Daniel Berrigan at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, circa 1970.
Daniel Berrigan stood up for his beliefs – and rescued me from the draft. I’ve been pondering the meaning of resistance as I write a musical about Joan of Arc
The Rev Daniel Berrigan, who died last month, was a priest whose conscience drove him to protest what he perceived as the injustices of the world, most notably the Vietnam war. Throughout his life, Father Berrigan led marches and protests, ministered to the destitute and those dying of Aids, lived simply and wound up on the FBI’s most wanted list for his efforts.
He touched many lives, including my own.
In 1968, he and some compatriots broke into a small-town draft board in Catonsville, Maryland. They took the records out to the parking lot and set fire to them. No one was hurt, though Father Berrigan’s words articulated a change that was coming:
From John Pilger
Returning to the United States in an election year, I am struck by the silence. I have covered four presidential campaigns, starting with 1968; I was with Robert Kennedy when he was shot and I saw his assassin, preparing to kill him. It was a baptism in the American way, along with the salivating violence of the Chicago police at the Democratic Party’s rigged convention. The great counter revolution had begun.
The first to be assassinated that year, Martin Luther King, had dared link the suffering of African-Americans and the people of Vietnam. When Janis Joplin sang, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”, she spoke perhaps unconsciously for millions of America’s victims in faraway places.
“We lost 58,000 young soldiers in Vietnam, and they died defending your freedom. Now don’t you forget it.” So said a National Parks Service guide as I filmed last week at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. He was addressing a school party of young teenagers in bright orange T-shirts. As if by rote, he inverted the truth about Vietnam into an unchallenged lie.
Elizabeth Warren followed up her speech that dismantled Donald Trump with a series of tweets this afternoon that left the billionaire fumbling for childish insult and blown completely out of the water.
From Jeff Cox
Current thinking about consciousness has it that when matter becomes arranged with enough complexity, consciousness can emerge. As atoms make molecules and molecules participate in life, then brains form and evince consciousness.
It’s my contention that it’s the other way around. That consciousness is the basic ground of reality from which matter emerges.
Consider that consciousness enables experience. Without consciousness, nothing can be experienced. Without experience, there is no perception of space or time because space and time exist within the experience of a being. But, some might argue, space, time, and matter might exist before there’s a mechanism (i.e., a mind) to perceive them. I’d argue that their existence isn’t possible unless and until there is consciousness to perceive them, so consciousness must therefore precede materialization. Without the idea of space, time, and matter first, they can’t materialize on their own.
So, endowed with consciousness, what do we experience? Matter, fundamentally. We feel the cool breeze, the icy water, the hard rock, the clacking keyboards of our computers, the sense of movement through space and time as we drive our cars.
From Sam Harris
You are not aware of the electrochemical events occurring at each of the trillion synapses in your brain at this moment. But you are aware, however dimly, of sights, sounds, sensations, thoughts, and moods. At the level of your experience, you are not a body of cells, organelles, and atoms; you are consciousness and its ever-changing contents, passing through various stages of wakefulness and sleep, and from cradle to grave.
The term “consciousness” is notoriously difficult to define. Consequently, many a debate about its character has been waged without the participants’ finding even a common topic as common ground. By “consciousness,” I mean simply “sentience,” in the most unadorned sense. To use the philosopher Thomas Nagel’s construction: A creature is conscious if there is “something that it is like” to be this creature; an event is consciously perceived if there is “something that it is like” to perceive it. Whatever else consciousness may or may not be in physical terms, the difference between it and unconsciousness is first and foremost a matter of subjective experience. Either the lights are on, or they are not.
To say that a creature is conscious, therefore, is not to say anything about its behavior; no screams need be heard, or wincing seen, for a person to be in pain. Behavior and verbal report are fully separable from the fact of consciousness: We can find examples of both without consciousness (a primitive robot) and consciousness without either (a person suffering “locked-in syndrome”).
From Brain Pickings
“While stroking an octopus, it is easy to fall into reverie. To share such a moment of deep tranquility with another being, especially one as different from us as the octopus, is a humbling privilege… an uplink to universal consciousness.”
“Despite centuries of investigation by everyone from natural historians, psychologists, and psychiatrists, to ethicists, neuroscientists, and philosophers, there is still no universal definition of emotion or consciousness,” Laurel Braitman wrote in her terrific exploration of the mental lives of animals. Virginia Woolf defined consciousness as “a wave in the mind,” but even if we’re able to ride the wave, we hardly know the ocean out of which it arises.
During my annual visit to NPR’s Science Friday to discuss my choices for the year’s best science books, my co-guest — science writer extraordinaire Deborah Blum — mentioned a fascinating book that had slipped my readerly tentacles, one that addresses this abiding question of consciousness with unparalleled rigor and grace: The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness (public library) by naturalist, writer, and documentary filmmaker Sy Montgomery.
Montgomery begins with a seemingly simple premise. The octopus is a creature magnificently dissimilar to us — it can change shape and color, tastes with its skin, has its mouth in its armpit, and is capable of squeezing its entire body through a hole the size of an apple. And since we humans experience reality in profoundly different ways from one another, based on our individual consciousnesses, then the octopus must be inhabiting an altogether different version of what we call reality.
A World Crisis Looms
The American aggression against China continued Tuesday May 10th with the invasion of Chinese waters just off the Spratly Islands by an American destroyer as China’s limited stock of patience continues to run out.
By sending their ships into Chinese territorial waters on the bizarre claim that they are exercising “their right of innocent passage” and that, the “United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows,” they are in fact claiming the right to go anywhere they want, anytime they want.
They might as well claim the right to once again send gunboats up the Yangtze River bristling with guns and marines, for their passage through Chinese waters was not only illegal, because without permission; it was also certainly not “innocent” since the passage was meant to be a display of power and control, which is prohibited by the Law of the Sea Convention.
The American claim of following international law is absurd because international law requires that a naval vessel of one county wishing to enter the 12 nautical mile limit of another country must have the permission of the country whose waters they wish to cross. They have to ask permission and they have to fly that country’s flag when they make the passage.
All foreign ships entering another nation’s waters fly their own flag and that of the host nation. The Americans refuse to ask permission and they certainly do not honour the custom of flying the Chinese flag. They might as well send their ambassador to a meeting with President Xi and, in front of everyone, spit in his face. For that is what they intend, to insult China, and to dare it.
Why are millions upon millions of dead sea creatures suddenly washing up on beaches all over the world? It is certainly not unusual for fish and other inhabitants of our oceans to die. This happens all the time. But over the past month we have seen a series of extremely alarming mass death incidents all over the planet. As you will see below, many of these mass death incidents have involved more than 30 tons of fish. In places such as Chile and Vietnam, it has already gotten to the level where it has started to become a major national crisis. People see their coastlines absolutely buried in dead sea creatures, and they are starting to freak out.
For example, just check out what is going on in Chile right now. The following comes from a Smithsonian Magazine article entitled “Why Are Chilean Beaches Covered With Dead Animals?“…
I ain’t afraid of your Yahweh
I ain’t afraid of your Allah
I ain’t afraid of your Jesus
I’m afraid of what you do in the name of your god
I ain’t afraid of your churches
I ain’t afraid of your temples
I ain’t afraid of your praying
I’m afraid of what you do in the name of your god
Rise up to your higher power
Free up from fear, it will devour you
Watch out for the ego of the hour
The ones who say they know it
Are the ones who will impose it on you
There would be no Cesar Chavez without the Filipino manongs of Delano, California, whose decision to strike set off the most significant labor movement the United States has ever seen.
On a dusty Thursday evening, a couple hundred yards across the railroad tracks from old town Delano, California, Roger Gadiano ambles out of his one-story house to conduct his usual tour.
The gray-haired Filipino man grew up in Delano and can tell you not only his own story but also the story of a small, seemingly prosaic agricultural town. He hops into his aging pickup and points out passing landmarks that any outsider might consider bleak and forgotten: a rundown grocery store, a vacant lot, the second story of an old motel.
Gadiano is one of the few Delano residents left who remember the town’s true history.To Gadiano, these places are anything but forgotten.
One of the stops on his tour is a graveyard, where he walks to a headstone in the middle of the grounds. This, he proudly declares, is where his old cigar buddy, Filipino labor leader Larry Itliong, is buried.