“Do, or do not; there is no try”
This is a vision: a hope for humanity, and for the United States in particular. It may seem like a naive one, but there is very little standing in the way of a complete implementation, or manifestation, of a beautiful, equitable, just, sustainable society.
This is the premise:
We can all live in peace;
We can all have comfortable, healthy, and sustainable lifestyles;
We can all have both individual rights and healthy communities;
We can all have day-to-day lives filled with joy and free of fear.
What this requires is a spiritual, ethical, and moral “phase shift”: if enough people (a so-called “critical mass”) lived according the values of fairness, kindness, sustainability, personal growth, and respect for those belonging to different faiths, cultures, or lifestyles, positive change would begin to happen automatically, because those values would drive all major decisions.
Virtually every problem facing society today would soon vanish if such a phase shift were to happen.
Suspicion, paranoia, ethnic tensions, deceit, and manipulation would disappear. Environmental degradation would cease. Poverty and all forms of injustice would be eliminated. Refugees would be able to return home, or at least resettle, and rebuild, because there would be no more war, or racism.
Society would begin to transition from a competitive, growth-oriented economy to a cooperative, stability-oriented one. Corporate greed would no longer be a concern: companies would continue to provide quality goods and services to the public, and that, and only that, would be their mission. Sustainability, peace, education, universal health care, free (as in freedom) culture*, sharing culture, net neutrality, safe and affordable homes for everyone, and justice reform would prevail.
Technology would be used where appropriate (please see “Our Abundant Universe”), to filter water, restore the soil, clean the air, build new structures and vehicles, and generally improve the quality of life, through quality of goods and infrastructure. Climate change would be slowed, then reversed.
In school, students would learn the best society has to offer: not only reading, writing, arithmetic, science, and history (all crucial), but also electricity, carpentry, plumbing, agriculture, cooking, textiles, philosophy, civics, religious studies, law, and how to have healthy relationships, with themselves and others.
The country would once again become a beacon on a hill, and a light to others. People everywhere would become more conscious, more engaged, and more forgiving.
Abundance and joy would be everywhere, and more people would have an opportunity to express themselves creatively, and to heal from old hurts. People’s primary verbs would be Eat, Drink, Sing, Play, Create, Connect, Give, Receive, Celebrate, and occasionally, Work, in a meaningful and fulfilling way. Most of all, people would Thank: each other, and life itself for its beautiful, sacred, and precious gift.
The only thing preventing all this are the baser aspects of human nature: greed, cruelty, judgmentalism, pettiness, and selfishness; the “Dweller on the Threshold“. This is part of the human condition that we must acknowledge, accept, and transcend.
It would be worth it.
* This does not exclude the necessity of supporting and compensating artists for their work.
“The Nothing is spreading… It’s growing and growing, there’s more of it every day, if it’s possible to speak of more nothing…”
A little later they flew over the outer edge of “The Labyrinth,” the maze of flower beds, hedges, and winding paths that surrounded the Ivory Tower on all sides. To their horror, they saw that there too the Nothing had been at work… The once bright-colored flower beds and shrubbery in between were now gray and withered. The branches of once graceful little trees were gnarled and bare. The green had gone out of the meadows, and a faint smell of rot and mold rose up to the newcomers. The only colors left were those of swollen giant mushrooms and garish, poisonous-looking blooms that suggested nothing so much as the figments of a maddened brain.
Enfeebled and trembling, the innermost heart of Fantastica was still resisting the inexorable encroachment of the Nothing…
“Have you seen the Nothing, sonny?”
“Yes, many times.”
“What does it look like?”
“As if one were blind.”
“That’s right – and when you get to the human world, the Nothing will cling to you. You’ll be like a contagious disease that makes humans blind, so they can no longer distinguish between reality and illusion. Do you know what you and your kind are called there?”
“The Nothing pulls at you, and none of you has the strength to resist it for long…”
“When your turn comes to jump into the Nothing, you too will become a nameless servant of power, with no will of your own. Who knows what use they will make of you? Maybe you’ll help them persuade people to buy things they don’t need, or hate things they know nothing about, or hold beliefs that make them easy to handle, or doubt the truths that might save them.”
“Yes, you little Fantastican, big things will be done in the human world with your help: wars started, empires founded…”
He now realized that not only was Fantastica sick, but the human world as well. The two were connected. He had always felt this, though he could not have explained why it was so. He had never been willing to believe that life had to be as gray and dull as people claimed. He heard them say: “Life is like that,” but he couldn’t agree. He never stopped believing in mysteries and miracles.
He had seen enough. At last he really understood the horror that was spreading through Fantastica.
“Oh, nothing can happen more than once,
But all things must happen some day.
Over hill and dale, over wood and stream,
My dying voice will blow away…
The Childlike Empress is sick,
And with her Fantastica will die.
The Nothing will swallow this place,
It will perish and so will I.
We shall vanish into the Nowhere and Never,
As though we had never been.
The Empress needs a new name,
To make her well again.”
From “The Neverending Story”, by Michael Ende
Money is an abstraction which has taken on a life of its own:
It seems almost unnecessary to elaborate on the lengths people
will go to try and acquire some, and the effects it seems to have
on people’s behavior.
Nevertheless, it is important to remind ourselves that money is,
fundamentally, a useful fiction: a way to keep track of obligations,
and of energy expended, and to help implement the “Tit for Tat” social program
that optimizes the Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma.
The problem is when the abstraction (“making money”)
becomes an end in and of itself.
It doesn’t really matter how it’s made, as long as the numbers go up.
And up, and up, and up.
We celebrate higher numbers and mourn lower ones.
We celebrate even as people suffer, and mourn even as people thrive.
In Computer Science terms, this is a “Leaky Abstraction”:
the abstraction of money does not fully align with
the underlying realities of wealth and abundance
that it is supposed to represent.
Any further derivatives of the abstraction become even “leakier”,
so that the abstractions eventually become completely divorced from reality.
This is why interest is forbidden by both the Bible and the Koran:
Interest is an attempt to create wealth from the abstraction itself,
instead of creating wealth by creating something of value.
“If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor,
you shall not be to him as a creditor, and you shall not exact interest from him.”
“You shall not lend upon interest to your brother, interest on money,
interest on food, interest on anything that is lent for interest.”
Interest ostensibly commodifies time, but this too must be an illusion,
as time is the ultimate intangible, and may not even exist as such.
In other words, if money is, as an abstraction of goods and services, a useful fiction,
interest, a derivative of an abstraction, is a harmful one.
In an economy where debt is crippling both people and nations,
it is well past time to reconsider our primary mechanism for credit.
Another fiction that emerges from the abstraction that is money is
the fiction of economic growth, and more specifically,
the fiction of the necessity of economic growth.
That the number associated with the total economy ought to increase is a
strange idea indeed. Why should it?
The hypothesis seems to be that if the abstract number grows,
then perhaps “progress” is being made: “a rising tide lifts all boats”.
This is patently untrue, empirically.
Income inequality is increasing, the environment is being ravaged,
the climate is being disrupted, natural (that is, ecological) wealth is being depleted, and
institutional trust, particularly in the United States, is at a nadir.
What growth, in real, practical terms, have we as a society and a planet been seeing,
as the number goes up?
What we are actually seeing is a commodification of every aspect of human existence,
from food, water, shelter, healthcare, and education, and more recently,
to new forms of social interaction.
Religion and spirituality have not been immune to commodification, certainly.
All this in the name of economic growth.
Being that money is a convenient but “leaky” fiction, the problem is then that
it is also a consensual reality, as well as a “game”, so it is difficult to survive
in modern society without playing along.
This requires a certain cognitive dissonance, as we work aimlessly to “create value”,
even as we witness a deterioration of our ecosystems, a general reduction of quality of goods
(with “Planned Obsolescence” being the logical conclusion of prioritizing the abstraction),
heartless social policies (so-called “Austerity”), a degradation, through commercialization, of culture,
and widespread nihilism and malaise.
The solution, fortunately, is relatively simple, if not easy:
to look away from the glamour of the numbers themselves,
and to look at the reality.
Perhaps we must have income to survive, but must we charge and pay interest?
Must we speculate on “futures”?
Must we worship at the altar of “economic growth”?
Must everything in our world have an exchange rate?
These have all created at least as many problems as they’ve solved, useless abstractions that they are.
Money is useful, and I believe that ultimately we still need it
in a society where money does roughly approximate energy expended.
We need it as part of our system of give and take: it gives us a reasonable basis for trade.
But we need to focus on economic stability, and security,
so that people don’t go to bed (if they have one) at night
wondering where their next dollar will come from.
We need to focus on creating real wealth, and real abundance,
starting with protecting our greatest treasure, the planet and its ecosystems,
making sure the money part is abstracted from that,
and not pretending like it’s the other way around.
(Originally written June 7, 2017. Edited and updated.)
Technologically speaking, we live in an abundant society. We absolutely have more than enough resources to provide for every person’s needs in a sustainable manner, and we are developing new methods of increasing abundance. To name a few:
We could have solar panels on ten million homes in America for $400 billion*, or $40 billion a year for ten years, creating, among other things, thousands of fossil-free and energy-independent communities, not to mention thousands of jobs.
We have more than enough space for everyone, and more than enough food. By almost any measure of any basic need, we have more than enough.
Why, then, does our global society show such deprivation and fear, to the point where everyone is terrified of losing what they have? To put it in New Age terms, why are we manifesting such lack?
Alternatively, why are we pissing in the well from which we drink, and sawing off the branch on which we perch?
What is the underlying disorder that is causing our society to behave so irrationally?
“For whoever has will be given more, but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away.”
It doesn’t need to be this way. We can have:
- Food and shelter for every man, woman, and child on earth;
- Clean air and water;
- A total cessation of warfare;
- Technological innovation;
- Mutual respect of all nations and cultures;
- Individual autonomy and dignity;
- Universal basic health care for all people;
- Excellent public schools;
- Thriving communities and safe neighborhoods;
- Participatory democracy;
- Cooperative economies;
- A free (as in speech) and unfettered internet;
- Clean and sustainable industry;
- Vibrant and evolving arts and culture;
and more, tomorrow!
What is stopping us?
It is not sufficient to blame the government: millions of people across the country empowered (and continue to empower) the current administration and allowed for its destructive policies to be put in place, perhaps out of fear, or perhaps out of a lack of a better vision.
This is a better vision. We can do better. We must.
The opposite of Sustainability is Death.
Collectively, we must embrace a positive new vision of what we actually want as a people and a society, as opposed to reacting with a doomed “Anybody But _______” approach.
An ugly, radical new vision is being presented by those in power today, and it is likely to get worse if they continue to get their way. It is up to us to put forth a beautiful new vision to counter that ugliness, to work together to achieve this vision, to insist on it, to fight for it, and to manifest it proudly and fearlessly, with love, so that there is no room for the sickening status quo, whose tired Thanatonian philosophy has long overstayed its welcome.
(Updated April 7, 2018, with solar panel estimate)
* Based on an estimate of approximately $40,000 per home to install professional-quality solar panels.
In the name of the Vanishing Corals and the Vanishing Bees;
In the name of the Dragonfly, Horsefly, and Firefly;
In the name of the Hummingbird, Robin, and Sparrow;
In the name of the Orangutan, Chimpanzee, and Bonobo;
In the name of the Frog, Turtle, and Beetle;
In the name of the Valleys, Rivers, and Streams;
In the name of Air, Wind, and Water;
In the name of the Dandelion and the Oak;
In the name of the Constellations and the Oceans;
In the name of the Destitute, the Immigrant, and the Refugee;
In the name of the Widow, the Orphan, and the Stranger;
I call upon Humanity to Awaken to its Best Self;
To Forever Abandon Hatred;
To Forever Abandon Cruelty;
To Forever Abandon Torture;
To Forever Abandon Greed;
To Forever Abandon Evil;
To Forever Abandon Mistrust and Paranoia;
To Forever Abandon Deceit;
To Forever Abandon Poison;
To Forever Abandon Prejudice;
To Forever Abandon Sexism;
To Forever Abandon Violence, against Self or Other;
To Forever Abandon Evil;
To Forever Abandon War;
To Abandon its Suicidal Path;
To Abandon its Self-Destruction and Self-Immolation;
And to Embrace its Destiny;
To Embrace Love;
To Embrace Oneness;
To Embrace Joy;
To Embrace Abundance;
To Embrace Celebration;
To Embrace Wisdom;
To Embrace Fellowship;
To Embrace Togetherness;
To Embrace Peace;
To Embrace Fun;
To Embrace Play;
To Embrace Healing;
To Embrace Freedom;
To Embrace Beauty;
To Embrace Truth;
To Embrace Creation;
To Embrace G-d;
To Treat each other with Respect;
To Treat each other with Dignity;
To Treat each other with Love;
To Treat each other with Care;
To Treat the Earth with Respect;
To Treat the Earth with Dignity;
To Treat the Earth with Love;
To Treat the Earth with Care;
Never Harm a Child;
Never Harm a Woman;
Never Harm a Man;
Never Harm an Animal;
Never Harm the Earth;
For the Earth is Your Home;
G-d’s Gift to You;
Do Not Forsake Your Home;
Do Not Forsake G-d’s Gift.
This Truth I share;
In a Dark Time of His and Herstory, of Ourstory,
Of Love’s Story.
Do Not let Love’s Story end.
Do Not allow hatred and fear to overcome You.
G-d’s Love is here today, Now, if you want it.
The Messiah is here today, Now, if you wish it.
“Return to Me, and I will Return to You, so Sayeth the L-rd.”
“I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
So said Mr. Trump at his Inauguration on January 21, 2017. Like so many things he has said before and since, it was a lie. This morning, at 6:55AM, Mr. Trump tweeted: “With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!”
The news in question was related to Rex Tillerson’s response to Mr. Trump’s reported desire to multiply the U.S. nuclear stockpile tenfold.
Coming from the President of the United States, whose Twitter account has about 40 million followers, a comment such as Mr. Trump’s is not a hypothetical or rhetorical question: it is a threat (like his infamous and ugly “Second Amendment People” comment during the debates). He is endorsing and advocating shutting down a major news network for reporting an important story, and it is clear he would have no qualms about doing so.
This attack on the Freedom of the Press is a nasty violation of his oath to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States,” and is hardly the first instance: in fact, it is only the tip of the iceberg, and it is perfectly fair to say that Mr. Trump has nothing but contempt for the Constitution of the United States. His political methodology is authoritarian, undemocratic, and literally and unquestionably textbook Fascism.
In fact, the charge of “Fake News”, or “Lügenpresse” was incorporated by the Nazis as an attack on Jewish, Communist, and foreign newspapers (use of this term is not limited to Nazis, of course, but it’s telling) leading up to and during World War II.
Mr. Trump’s infamous attack on NFL players who choose to protest by not standing for the national anthem at games is mirrored in the Phillipines, under dictator Rodrigo Duterte, where “the country’s House of Representatives has approved a bill requiring members of the public to sing the country’s national anthem, Lupang Hinirang, ‘with fervor’ whenever it is played publicly.” Duterte has praised Mr. Trump, and vice versa.
Mr. Trump has engaged in voter suppression, and his so-called “Commission on Election Integrity” (Executive Order 13799) is a figleaf to rig elections in the United States to keep him and his cronies in power. Those who are focusing on the 2018 Congressional Elections as the means to weaken Mr. Trump’s fascist policies wrongly assume that Mr. Trump will permit this to happen. Anticipating a loss in 2016, he already tried to discredit the electoral process, and when he was running for president, he called for his supporters to “monitor” polling places, which many interpreted as an invitation to violence.
Mr. Trump will absolutely use every means in his power to prevent fair elections in 2018, and he has a lot of time to do it. Ultimately, it is his party that is in power, controlling all three branches of government, and to think that the Party of Trump will play fair is simply naive.
Mr. Trump is also engaged in targeting Free Speech online:
Trump administration lawyers are demanding the private account information of potentially thousands of Facebook users in three separate search warrants served on the social media giant, according to court documents obtained by CNN.
The warrants specifically target the accounts of three Facebook users who are described by their attorneys as “anti-administration activists who have spoken out at organized events, and who are generally very critical of this administration’s policies.”
In other words, Mr. Trump is seeking to suppress those who dare criticize him or organize to oppose his policies online. This is another gross violation of the First Amendment, and a hallmark of Fascism.
It is time for Americans everywhere, in both parties, to take this threat seriously: anyone who values the freedoms enshrined in the First Amendment, the freedom to worship as one pleases (or not to), the freedom to express oneself politically, and to disagree with those in power, and the freedom to report the news as it happens: these freedoms are under unprecedented attack by Mr. Trump.
There is already ample legal basis to impeach Mr. Trump. An opinion piece in the Boston Globe made a compelling case that Mr. Trump could already be impeached for Obstruction of Justice and violation of the Emoluments Clause, which forbids “federal officials, including the president, from receiving anything of value from foreign governments and their agents”.
All of this is sufficient cause for genuine alarm without touching on the even bigger elephant in the room, Mr. Trump’s illegal collusion with Russia leading up to the 2016 election.
Mr. Trump is leading this country, and the world, into a very dark future, and every day that Mr. Trump is allowed to remain in power is another dangerous step towards disaster.