From The Humanist
It feels like we live in a world where movies and shows keep getting darker. It’s a pop culture where viewers tune in for their weekly dose of misery on The Walking Dead, depravity on Game of Thrones, and where even classic children’s heroes like Batman and Superman are portrayed as mass-murdering vigilantes in Dawn of Justice. Comic book and science fiction fans have even coined the term “grimdark” to describe this apparent one-upmanship of doom and gloom assaulting audiences
In contrast, for over five decades Star Trek has remained positive, philosophical, and moral, portraying a society built on Enlightenment values. With six television series totaling 716 episodes across thirty seasons, seventy million books in print, over forty video games, a new television series in the works, and this summer’s thirteenth feature film, Star Trek endures because there’s nothing like it in American media: a positive, humanist vision of humanity’s future based on rationality, science, and human-improvability.
With over fifty years of content, it’s important to note that one can find Star Trek stories to support nearly any hypothesis and also that Star Trek isn’t perfect. Conservative critics have a valid point that Starfleet appears communistic, while liberals correctly criticize the fictional organization for being militaristic. There are episodes where the writing is appalling, with plot holes and nonsensical situations that offend reason, along with bad acting. But there are also so many episodes that can bring tears to our eyes for their insightfulness and the beauty of their ideas. So please indulge my cognitive biases as I share the three aspects of the Star Trekcanon that most appeal to me as a humanist.
The Library of Things movement is emerging in communities around the world. These spaces give people access to a huge spectrum of items, from board games, party supplies and tennis rackets to saws, kitchen appliances, turntables, clothing and tents, without the burden of ownership.
Specialty libraries, which lend out a specific type of good, have pointed the way for the Library of Things movement and proven the model to be successful. The tool library movement has seen incredible growth in recent years; toy lending libraries, both in library branches and as semi-informal neighborhood projects, are on the rise; and kitchen libraries, such as the Toronto Kitchen Library, give people access to commercial-grade and household kitchen supplies on an as-needed basis. There are also lending libraries within traditional library branches loaning out musical instruments, neckties, learning materials, crafting tools and much more.
As Gene Homicki, co-founder and CEO of myTurn, a platform that enables people to create their own lending platform, explains, many community-based Library of Things locations lend over 1,000 items per week, offer classes, and have workshops or makerspaces.
“The most successful Libraries of Things are the ones do more than just lend items,” he says, “they also create a strong sense of community. For example, some offer sliding scale subscriptions based on income or usage to help ensure a diverse community can afford to access the library.”
Through myTurn, Homicki sees the growth of the movement firsthand as he works with universities, businesses, cities and hundreds of lending libraries of all types.
“We’re helping build a future in which anywhere you live, anywhere you work, and anywhere you travel, you’ll be able to access what you want and need at a Library of Things in our network,” he says.
The Library of Things movement challenges people to rethink whether we need (or want) to own goods we rarely use. It also brings people together around a shared vision and reduces wasted resources. Here are 8 of our favorite Library of Things…
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7,827 PEOPLE DIED TODAY. Men, women, children, and all religions alike. It was avoidable, it was unnecessary, and the same thing will happen again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day, and every single day that we chose to do nothing about Anthropogenic Climate Change
I’ll explain. Let’s just pretend that we have 35 years to do something about climate change, after which it is too late. Let’s also pretend that if we do nothing before that 35 year mark, that 100 million people will die (famine, disease, extreme weather…). That means that we have 12,775 days (365 * 35) left to save 100 million people from an unnecessary death. 100,000,000 people / 12,775 days = 7,827 people / day.
This is just a way to make the intangible feel tangible. There is no precise and scientifically agreed upon deadline, a deadline before which we can still chose to either do “something” or “nothing”, after which it is too late. There are a series of milestones that will be crossed, and most of them only visible in hindsight. There are infinite “somethings” that can be done, and no indisputable delineation between what is the “right” something or the “wrong” something. It is a game of nuance. A game where words such as “assuming”, “might”, and “if” are used a lot. But the end results are definite and dire, that much is known. So to avoid getting lost in the endless mire of debating numbers, I gave it a number.
What really eats at me personally, is how almost without mention we are indiscriminately committing hundreds of millions, if not billions to death and suffering, and they are us, and our children, and it is all completely unnecessary, and the mainstream media and government don’t seem to pay it but the occasional meaningless lip service compared to the immediacy and scope of the problem.
What if they had names? Maybe if we were to arbitrarily chose 100 million people and their unborn children, and every ten minutes another 54 would be listed. Undoubtedly a morbid and interesting ploy, but unlikely to change the course of history. It would be pretty interesting to send that list out to various groups though; news organizations, political organizations. I would love to see that email sent directly to the desks of top fossil fuel executives and the investors who support their companies.
What can be done? Something. Do something. Say something. The silence is deafening. Every day that nothing is done, the problem grows.
I’ll say something; Go fly a kite Rupert Murdoch, I’ll take the truth and spread it. Screw you Exxon, I’ll take your carbon and put it back in the Earth. I am a warrior in a battle to save the Holocene, the best darn climate humanity has ever known.
But somehow, for some reason, this sort of conversation is socially taboo. We don’t talk about it much, lest we be labeled a Debbie downer, or get stuck in endless debates of “if’s” and “maybe’s”. Or perhaps we need new ways to talk about it? I guess in time… but it couldn’t be sooner, because while I have sat here at my desk frustrated, angry, writing, another 326 people died.
From The Young Turks
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”).