Green Energy versus The Uncivil War

Chris Hedges hosted the political writers Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton on his television program (yesterday, on the RT network/channel) for a discussion of the Syrian War, and its many current harmful impacts, as well as its possible grave future consequences for the Middle East, Europe, the United States, and the world. (That episode of Chris Hedges’ program is linked near the bottom.)

My reaction to that program follows.

The problem, as presented so compellingly by Chris Hedges, Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton, is of such large scope that it is difficult to see how any one nation – even the United States – could act alone to “solve it” (forever).

However, the recommendation that the U.S. stop funding destabilization groups in the Middle East (and everywhere), and that the U.S. “pull back” from or “pull out” of the Middle East, would be a very, very helpful step for the reduction of suffering in that region: for example reducing the incidence of wars and the displacements causing huge refugee streams. Such a change in US policy would also benefit the American people by freeing public money now absorbed by covert and overt militarism, to be used instead for much more domestic socialism (like Medicare-for-all, and free college for all).

However, even were such a change in US Middle East policy to occur, there would still be many evils in the region:
– authoritarian and oppressive regimes continuing to hurt the people under them,
– the export of Wahhabism from Saudi Arabia and Qatar,
– the regional Sunni-Shia proxy wars (basically, Saudi Arabia vs. Iran),
– the war by Israel against the Palestinians (who include Muslims and Christians),
– Israel’s agitation against Syria (for regime change, and to keep the Golan Heights),
– Israel’s agitation against Iran (which helps prop up Hezbollah in Lebanon),
– Israel’s agitation includes its own covert and overt military actions, as well as lobbying for the United States to make war against Israel’s designated enemies.

As an engineer without expertise on the Middle Eastern affairs, I have believed since 1973 that the best long-term plan for the U.S. to insulate itself from Middle Eastern turmoil would have been to use the U.S.’s vast fossil fuel resources (and even the nuclear ones) as a stop-gap energy source to power the building of a national solar (“green”) energy collection and distribution system.

That national green energy system would be made of many local solar energy networks interconnected into regional systems, which in turn would be interconnected into a national system. The local power sources would include:
– direct solar-collection to electrical-output arrays (solar panels),
– solar heat collection for boilers that power steam turbines cranking electric generators,
– river hydroelectric (the dams we already have),
– ocean-tidal hydroelectric,
– land-based wind-electric,
– offshore wind-electric,
– a few sites for solar-powered desalination for potable water,
– and solar-powered hydrogen recovery from water for H2-O2 fuel-cell propulsion for civilian aircraft, and road and rail transit.

Given real energy independence, the Unites States could stop funding and supporting Saudi Arabia and Israel (arming them to the teeth so extravagantly). I realize that defunding Israel would be harder to do regardless of circumstances, because of the metastasis of the Israel Lobby within the US body politic. But, if the U.S. could shut off its massive dollar streams currently paying for Middle East petroleum (and bribes to Egypt and Jordan to not annoy expansionist Israel), then many of the Middle East oppressor regimes would be weakened and likely overthrown by more popular and democratic alternatives, and the U.S. would be immune from blackmail by oil embargoes.

Also, a green national energy system for the U.S., replacing the 19th and 20th century fossil and fissile fuel system still in use, would offer a long term, sustainable and low-(no?)-pollution energy-flow for domestic consumption: it would not accelerate climate change.

Obviously, myopic greed such as by fossil and fissile fuel companies opposes such a strategy as they prefer to make private capital gains by extractive exploitation of Nature, and by setting off “pipeline wars” at public expense. The green energy vision and strategy described here is at its core socialist (it is best for the US commons), and it is also internationalist without being belligerent and interventionist, because by sharing such green energy technology internationally the U.S. would help boost the standard of living globally: the human development index (HDI) would increase everywhere, and poverty would decrease everywhere.

The Uncivil War, with Max Blumenthal & Ben Norton
CHRIS HEDGES
16 April 2017
https://www.rt.com/shows/on-contact/384914-uncivil-war-blumenthal-norton/

or, on YouTube:

Of all the articles I have ever written, the one I most wish had gotten wide attention and actually affected public thinking and action, is linked below.

Energy for Society in Balance with Nature
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2015/06/08/energy-for-society-in-balance-with-nature/

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Dracula Dems and Neo-Nazi Rubes (a rant!)

Dracula Dems:

There are basically four groups of American voters:

1, Corporatist robbers (and associated wannabe flunkies);
2, Trump fans;
3, Hillary cultists; and
4, Bernie “berners.”

The Big Capitalists and corporatists are mainline Republicans and Democrats (1), who by and large voted for Hillary Clinton this last time because she was the current face of the money-grubbing robber elite (they vote for any Repub or Dem who is the current main front for the Big Money).

The Trump fans (2) are by and large poor dumb honest bigots, many down-and-out.

The Hillary cultists (3) are by and large pale-face suburban-type dishonest bigots (and their “poor relations,” the associated darker-skinned, poorer, Stockholm-Syndromed-to-Dems, wishing-and-hoping-in-vain, and reliably suckered “minority” voters).

The awakened multi-generational anti-corporate anti-neoliberal insurrectionists are Bernie people (4).

The election of 2016 was a battle between the American people and the corporations (the Big Money robber elite), and that election was lost by the American people in July 2016, when Hillary Clinton and the DNC influence-peddling mafia (including Obama) sidelined Bernie Sander’s campaign: the authentic will of the vast majority of the American people (to this day!). The Democratic Party has no continuing legitimacy ever (and the Repub Party, a wannabe-fascist national-robbery conspiracy, is only very slightly worse).

The contest in November 2016 was between two would-be figureheads fronting the Big Money management of the USG, and Trump won that contest because Hillary was odious to groups 2 and 4; and group 2 had no other option (as Bernie was out) for registering their just complaints (no jobs, no income, poisoned water, and government didn’t care about them), and Trump appeared sympathetic (e.g., anti-TPP) while Hillary was decidedly hostile to them (pro-TPP, “single-payer healthcare will never happen,” “[blue collar] jobs are never coming back,” “[you’re] irredeemables…deplorables”).

So, the real “civil war” and “economic war” in the US is between group 1 versus groups 2 and 4 (group 3 is/are the associated wannabe flunkies of group 1). It is imperative that Berners and Trump fans realize that they are fundamentally on the same side (except for the Group 2 bigotry). The most important force for revitalizing America, and kicking out the corruption eating it out, would be a strong coalition of groups 2 and 4 to become very active behind Bernie’s initiatives, AND for the dismissing of group 3 — to Mars if possible — the Hillary cultists, who are the single biggest impediment to any useful progress in America (the second biggest impediment is the obdurate bigotry of Trump fans of all colors).

Group 1 can never be dismissed (with anything less than 1793 French methods), but as in the F.D.Roosevelt administration, it can be regulated given enough popular pressure. Group 3 are deplorable parasitic airhead irredeemables. There is no reason to ever listen to, or pay attention to, or respect any irredeemable Hillary cultist. Theirs were the key votes for Trump, whose administration actually began on 25 July 2016. The Democratic Party, under the control of Hillarists and the DNC, is a political Dracula bloodsucking on the American people. It needs to be killed with a stake driven through its DNC heart, so it fades into dust blown away in the wind, and only then can a new and REAL DEMOCRATIC party, under Bernie and Berners be formed, and the 2+4 Coalition can begin putting some straitjackets on Group 1 for the good of the nation, and world.

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Neo-Nazi Rubes:

Given the amount of ignorance, superstition, fear, bigotry and greed in the USA, it is no wonder that Donald Trump is president. He is a reflection, not an aberration.

I stand corrected (on my characterization of Trump fans in Dracula Dems): Trump voters were motivated by bigotry more than by economic hardships. From the article linked below:

“…whether it’s good politics to say so or not, the evidence from the 2016 election is very clear that attitudes about blacks, immigrants, and Muslims were a key component of Trump’s appeal,…

“Racial identity and attitudes have further displaced class (economics) as the central battleground of American politics,…

“Race trumped economics,…

“…evidence suggests that racial resentment is driving economic anxiety, not the other way around,…

“Always remember: You have to identify the disease before you can begin work on a cure. In the case of support for Donald Trump, the results are in: It isn’t the economy. It’s the racism, stupid.”

So, Trump really is the image of White (and anti-immigrant Black) America: racist to the core. See the article at this link:
https://theintercept.com/2017/04/06/top-democrats-are-wrong-trump-supporters-were-more-motivated-by-racism-than-economic-issues/

Trump is Wall Street’s puppet whose strings are being pulled through his son-in-law Jared Kushner. Trump has kicked his Goebbels — Steve Bannon — into a corner, but Trump hasn’t had Bannon thrown out of Mister T’s clubhouse yet because Bannon is useful as a political mannequin to focus the attention of the Neo-Nazi rubes, and keep them attached to the Trump brand, as the most reliably conned component of Trump’s demographics.

Hear this slaves!: your bigotry is the slave-masters power over you.

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A psychological disorder is:

“Any personal construction which is used repeatedly in spite of consistent invalidation.”
— George Alexander Kelly (1905-1967), http://oaks.nvg.org/george-kelly.html.

Kelly’s definition is the oldest likely source of the several quotes that have been blended into the well-known saying attributed to Albert Einstein (1879-1955): “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”

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The Endless Reality Of The Imperfect Now

“If we can stop thinking about what the future might bring and embrace the present for what it is, we would be a lot better off,” reasons John Gray in his Christmas Day editorial posted on the Internet by the BBC News Magazine, A Point of View: The endless obsession with what might be.* Gray is an English political philosopher who compares the ideas of Francis Fukuyama and Arthur Koestler to develop his argument, and justify his conclusion:

“The task that faces us is no different from the one that has always faced human beings — renewing our lives in the face of recurring evils. Happily, the end never comes. Looking to an end-time is a way of failing to cherish the present — the only time that is truly our own.”

This is pure Zen. Also, it is exactly the perspective Raymond Aron gave in both The Opium of the Intellectuals (1955) and Politics and History (1978, especially the essay “Machiavelli and Marx”). Aron criticized the Christian-like historicism of Marxists, and said that “politics” not “revolution” would always be the order of the day, since people would perennially have to address the problems of the present rather than hoping for “salvation,” or waiting for a presumed historical inevitability to deliver “a revolution” that would produce Nirvana: an ideal society in perpetual stasis, the end of history, “heaven.”

The Machiavelli view (we avoid the pejorative “Machiavellian”) is that so long as human psychology remains unchanged (which seems true for the last 200,000 years of Homo sapiens) there will be human conflicts regardless of the specifics of the forms of government and relationships of power, economics, and social structures. Thus, compromises and consensus of any kind are always provisional and will always have to be revised, or even totally changed, “later.” In a nominally peaceful and well-managed society, this would be the day-to-day norm of managing collective life on every scale: local, state, regional, global.

From Carl G. Jung’s theory of personality types, “P” style people, who naturally deal with uncertainty, ambiguity, “sloppiness” and improvisation more easily than “J” type people, who like certainty, finality, “forms” and hierarchy, will more readily adapt to living in a situation of “managed fluidity” necessary for the continuing operation of a collective enterprise that involves groups with competing interests. The obsession with “the future” is very much a J characteristic (“getting things settled,” “getting things organized,” “nailing it down”). Jung made the point that the successful achievement of psychological maturity (physical development plus experience, by age 37 he estimated) led one to possess a balanced personality, one that incorporated both J and P styles of decision-making rather than being lopsided by remaining with one’s default strong suit from birth (“infantile behavior”).

Life — individual and collective — is a process, its only finality is death, the end of the conscious processes considered here. The Zen Buddhists say the past and future are illusions, you only actually breathe and can have awareness (the two indicators of life) in the present. To not be “in the moment” (which we interpret for practical political purposes as: in the social situations of current times) is to waste some of your limited time of aliveness to delusions, by distracting yourself with the unrecoverable (the past) or the unattainable (the distant “perfect” future).

Delusions of the future include the Christian heaven and the Marxist end-of-history with the triumph of historically inevitable socialism, a determinism set by the presumed inevitable collapse of capitalism due to its internal contradictions, and society’s rebirth by the ascendancy of the proletariat. Both of these cults of the future instill a passivity in their believers. For Christians, to not seek rewards “on Earth” but to accept temporal authority, keep the faith, and reap rewards in the afterlife. Marxists can be filled with smugness, from their belief that they know history’s script for the delivery of their heaven, and they need only await for history’s train to pull events past them till their boarding call is sounded and they can take their seating in the vanguard coach; no point wasting time in the here and now with “reformism” for a capitalist system that will only be swept away, and “soon.”

The managed fluidity I mentioned earlier is entirely the practice of karma yoga: the merging with (yoga) the consequences of our acts (karma). Once this is an established practice, we are simultaneously solving our legacy problems while preventing many new ones from arising, by anticipatory awareness. We accept that we will never have no problems, or that we can ever solve them all “for good.” We do what is possible at the moment to prevent creating lingering difficulties, and to minimize those we still have. This is the daily reality that will always be true. This reality can always be made worse by our collective obtuseness; but even if we manage the flow of our collective reality with collective elegance, we can be assured that so long as Earth harbors human life, the conflicts of maintaining our collectivity will never be eliminated.

Obsessing about the future, as discussed by John Gray, is simply an evasion from dealing with reality. The static Nirvana of political imagination is a delusion; the only possibly achievable Nirvana is an unending dynamic reformism.   <><><>

Gilles d’Aymery (30 June 1950 – 9 May 2015) pointed me to John Gray’s article, a thoughtful suggestion for which I thank him.   <><><>

A Point of View: The endless obsession with what might be
by JOHN GRAY
26 December 2011
http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-16245250

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The above was originally published as:

The Endless Reality Of The Imperfect Now
2 January 2012
http://www.swans.com/library/art18/mgarci37.html

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For a closely related ramble see:

Renewal
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2016/03/27/renewal/

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Honey And Pepper – A Cat Tale

I live in the hills just east of San Francisco Bay with my human family, and for some years with two feline brothers, neutered, who we purchased from the Feral Cat Foundation when they were kittens five months old. They were American Short Hair kittens that were just too cute to separate. “Honey” is a yellow tiger-striped with a white nose (to each side of the pink nose-pad), chin, chest, belly and paws; and “Pepper” was a speckled-striped charcoal-gray with white chin, chest, belly, legs, paws and a bit of the face, with an island of the gray pattern on his right foreleg. Pepper was sitting up in their cage at the pet adoption site, squeaking when approached, and Honey was laying down huddled up to Pepper, doe-eyed and seeming to seek protection under his brother’s forward stance. The people of the Feral Cat Foundation find cats and rehabilitate them to reintroduce them to domestication, by having them live in foster homes till their health and behavior are good and stable. Pepper was noted to be particular and preferred seeking out affection on his terms and timetable. Honey was always a willing sponge of affection, once he had approved of a human. (He’s yowling at the door now, must interrupt).

The first night, we kept them both in a bathroom with trays of dry food and kitty-litter (they had been trained in their foster home), and we all jammed in there and scrunched onto the floor so they could approach, then crawl all over us, eventually seeking to curl up and purr with their little vibrator motors on full throttle, suckling our fingers. As kittens, both had been very attached to suckling our fingers, and kneading us with their outstretched claws. Female cats must have insensate mammaries because kitten teeth and claws are sharp! Honey loved sucky-suck so much he would follow us and yowl for it till well over a year old. Pepper liked it too. Clearly, from the first night in the bathroom, we were the new mothers.

After probably two hours in the bathroom with them that first night, we left so they would sleep (babies of all types need plenty of sleep). The next day we let them explore bits of the house, and both quickly scooted off to find hiding places deep behind and under furniture. After extracting them (by moving a lot of stuff) and letting them unwind in their bathroom haven for a few days, they were ready for wider adventures, and soon explored every room. The Feral Cat Foundation people had urged us to keep them as indoor cats, but this house is too small for that and we live in a forest, which is too tempting for a cat not to explore. So, after about two months indoors we got body-harness leashes (kitten necks are too delicate to yank on) and let them out tethered, following their first furtive and excited forays around the house and property. They quickly discovered how to crawl under the house to hide.

Within about two weeks of their first tethered excursion, on a beautiful bright mid-summer day, we opened the door and they cautiously, curiously, and quite determinedly went out. They stayed near the house, and at even the hint of a twig snapping would make a mad dash under the house. For each of them on separate occasions, we had to wait one or two days before they would come out from hiding. A cold night alone outdoors without food can make anyone bolder the next day. Very quickly after these episodes, they gained the confidence to come and go; they had mapped their little domain.

By their first birthday, in October, they were ranging off into the woods past our property, and getting chased back by tomcats and older females. Over time they each became more confident, and fierce hunters. Up to this time, they had hunted indoors, consuming numerous spiders and moths. Once they began ranging outdoors, they became great hunters of field mice, deer mice, rats, moles, birds, and crickets. Honey is our ace hunter, and emerged as the alpha male.

Our young mature cats had it good: their own wooded hillside, comfortable safe billets and good grub. Sometimes Honey would reward us with a live mouse brought into the house, or perhaps a decapitated one. During any season they could decide to take off for a jaunt of two days, and come home quite self-assuredly looking just fine. A few times they came home with some battle scars, but it seems both had enough good sense to take flight before confrontations became too dangerous. They have each gotten skunked (very unpleasant), and they have each run into larger wildlife that lives here in the hills, like raccoons, opossum, foxes, skunks and deer; the raccoons are a danger to them (and they wreck havoc with the garbage cans; the deer eat the garden and drop nasty ticks).

It is interesting that my wife would always speak of cats as being female, and snakes as male (my pet snake, Beaujolais, was female). Somehow, in her mind Honey and Pepper were so ingratiating and yet childish that they were always “she” and “her.” After a while she’d witnessed enough brawls and began calling them affectionately her “brat boys,” and they love her as mommy number one. Perhaps the human female identification with cats is related to some Eve archetype deep in the psyche. It turns out that both my wife and I can think of all the other creatures living here, bugs, arachnids, snake, cats, child and each other as “the beasts,” and we are. Honey certainly also thinks so, when he jumps into a lap at dinner time and bends his nose down into a dinner plate hopefully, which he never stops trying despite always getting dumped for it. Brat.

Honey and Pepper get on quite well, and often groom each other (cat tongues are rasps, designed by nature to scrape flesh off bones). These wholesome scenes usually devolve into dominance games, with one or the other, most often Honey, straddling the other while biting the back of the neck or the throat. Cats are all fang and claw, even when they say “I love you” it’s a choke-hold short of murder. These dominance rituals can further devolve into furious balls-of-fur chase scenes punctuated by hiss standoffs with ears back, fur up and deep throaty yowls. This is usually the time to open the door to let one or both dash out and regain composure.

Since Pepper is the beta, he feels it necessary to establish his claim on the things he loves: a cozy carpeted corner, the laundry bag, the bathroom rugs, piles of clean laundry, our bed pillows, even our laps. Claims are marked by urinating with an additional discharge of pungent brown fluid from anal glands. I did not appreciate this behavior and thought to bisect Pepper with an axe, however my wife and daughter disagreed with this proposal. One learns to soak and sop up marked things quickly to minimize deep absorption that leads to lingering odors (and they do linger); also, bicarbonate of soda is a safe deodorizer to sprinkle directly onto the target zones. Naptha balls or flakes are much more effective, but release toxic vapor (a liquid form is used for “dry cleaning”). We learned of a pheromone-laced vaporizer that plugs into any household outlet; it is quite similar to other plug-in scent dispensers made for household use. The pheromone is a cat-calming chemical that “makes them feel good” and prompts them to groom themselves (a calming ritual for cats) and exhibit a more relaxed demeanor (and less fighting). So we got them a few dispensers to fill the main room of the house with vaporized feel-good drug (it doesn’t work on humans). Not cheap, but it beats getting your pillow pissed on.

A few years ago, one cat tussle resulted in a deeply bitten paw for Pepper. This became infected and swelled (big!), so we had to take him to the veterinarian. Pepper had not been to the vet since he was a kitten at the Feral Cat Foundation. He had put up such a furious resistance to being placed in the big cardboard “cat carrier” box when we tried taking him in for some shots, that I had given up, being badly bloodied with multiple claw scars (these hurt and itched for a while). One of my fingers remained painful and not completely usable for months. Again, the axe was deferred. So, it was only Honey who received further inoculations for the disease hazards of outdoor life. This time however, after about four days of infection, poor Pepper was so quiet and huddled and feverish and frail from not eating that he was easily “box-able”. My health insurance does not cover non-humanoid dependents (I noticed my 1040 tax form didn’t offer a deduction for them, either), and veterinary medical costs are non-trivial, so I began wondering if cat replacement was not a cheaper option to veterinary medical intervention. Pepper came home after a whole series of shots (deferred previously), with a drain tube in his newly bandaged paw, and a vial of antibiotic pills.

I had to pill the cat. The idea was to wrap some fish-laced paste around the pill (canned anchovies or sardines might work, and probably cost as much per unit of mass as these “pill pockets”), and then gingerly shove it down the cat’s throat with a finger, immediately stroking his throat to induce swallowing; the cat himself having previously been wrapped into a “cat burrito” with a towel, so as to control his motion and confine his claws. I got two pills in him the first two days, the treatment required daily doses for a week or two. By the third day home, he was recovered enough to resist swallowing anything he did not want to swallow (pill number two had almost been spit back out), or being bundled up into a cat burrito. Numerous pills shot back out, and my finger was too uncomfortably situated in relation to Pepper’s agitated dentation to proceed further. So I declared him cured, which he wholeheartedly agreed with, and proceeded to go outside against medical advice. Within another day or two he’d licked the bandage off and the drain tube out of his paw. Pepper liked eating the pill pockets out of a bowl, without pills in them, but only for a few days before they started to become rancid. The rest went into the garbage with the antibiotics.

I realized that it was impossible to explain to Pepper that the tube, bandage, pills and restrictions on his galavanting were for his own good — as we saw it. His view of his own good was quite different from ours; he wanted his freedom, and control of his life. After all, he would never know the difference between living for 3 years or 13 years, and he had no capacity to even conceive of such a choice. He was only concerned to live his present moment — and the continuous succession of such present moments traces out that period of time we call “always” — without restraints and without restrictions. It was his life, after all, and why should I presume to force him to live it other than he wished to? He obviously valued his independence quite highly, and more so than our efforts to restrict his life to extend it. So, we stopped patronizing him, and let him manage his own affairs. This would also be better for my fingers and everybody’s stress level. The vial of antibiotics was dumped. His paw healed perfectly and he went on to enjoy his excellent woodland cat life for quite some time.

Honey had grown somewhat larger than Pepper, and is a beautiful, athletic, quick, observant and exquisitely fit cat. Both have very fast reaction times, as we have observed dangling a mouse-sized soft lure on the end of a length of yarn tied to a rod. It is a mistake to use your hands to play with them by moving or snatching a lure away, they will always be quicker and you will always bleed. Both cats learned our work schedule, because they had to make a choice each morning on going out for the day or staying in, as we went off to work and school. They had to make their prognostications about the likely weather and decide between enduring a long boring day inside but with easy access to food bowls and water, or being outside with either balmy, dry and exciting hunting conditions, or a cold and rainy day without food and water. When we drove up to our parking spot after school and work, we would often find them waiting for us, like faithful dogs, ready to race to the house and dash in as the door opened, to dive into their food bowls. Honey is most vigilant for our return, and so he is our dog-cat. We’ve tried playing fetch with him, but he doesn’t return the lure, still he likes the game. Since he is such a vocal dog-cat, meowing and yowling for his many wants, and because of his yellow-orange coloring, I call him Old Yowler, recalling the canine hero of the Disney film Old Yeller, about a boy’s yellow dog whose barking helps save the day.

Honey uses his meowing and yowling to train us, these are his signals to induce us to do things for him: put fresh water in the water bowl, fill the food bowls as soon as the plastic bottoms become visible, open doors (for entry or exit), to drop something soft and fishy or meaty onto a bowl in the kitchen for a treat (an exceptionally bad habit, don’t start it), to wake up so he can go out at 5:30 AM, to wake up so he can come in a 1:00 AM, to get petted. If he can conceive of wanting it, he can yowl for it. When in bed we can try to pretend we are asleep and don’t hear him, but he has ways of creating a disturbance. He’ll jump up to a ledge or item of outdoor furniture near a bedroom window and paw it, dragging claws against the glass, or clawing and climbing on the screen (of which we now have fewer). He will also jump up and down repeatedly from such ledges near our sleeping selves, ensuring his full weight lands with a resounding thud, so one has the impression of a slow velvety jackhammer or pile driver working away in the not sufficiently far distance. Since these techniques have worked many times to gain him late night entry, he has cemented them into his memory. When he wishes to leave during our sleep, he paws the bedroom doors till one gives way and opens, or till a sleeper awakes and lets him out. If he was allowed into one particular bedroom to sleep on the covers, he likes to signal his readiness for a morning outing as the first bird starts to sing, by jumping up to a cabinet next to the bed, then pouncing down to the unwary sleeper below. Once he has access to your prone body, he sticks his wet nose in your face or paws your hair and cheeks. What a punk. His entire attitude is one of majestic entitlement; our little lion.

Pepper also squawks for what he wants, but is more reserved vocally. Both cats love to sharpen their claws by scraping down along exterior corners, and rough surfaces. One such favorite spot was my prized, large stereo speakers; the fronts are mats of cardboard covered with rough cloth, and the cabinets have a walnut finish. Scratching my speakers is an “ax-able” offense. We had water guns and spray bottles to deter speaker and screen clawing. Eventually the screen clawing subsided, because the favorite screens were wrecked (so I must rely on my spiders for some degree of indoor mosquito abatement), and because we trained each other to be more observant about each other’s signals: communication with alien life forms.

It happened I was making dinner late one balmy afternoon, and Pepper decided he’d saunter out. To signal his desire, he just displayed a favorite preparatory behavior, the sharpening of his claws before proceeding to the door. However, instead of using the cardboard clawing structure (another waste of money at the pet store) or a prominent jutting corner of the walls, which we’d relinquished to their clawing, Pepper just went over to the speaker and sunk in his fully outstretched front claws. I immediately threw the empty plastic salad spinner I had, which sailed from the kitchen, whisked by Pepper’s ear, and rebounded off the wall next to the speaker. He leaped straight up in a fright then shot away to hide behind a couch. I walked over and opened the door, pointed and said “out!” and he dashed out.

The next day, while making dinner, I heard a tinkle I couldn’t place, then noticed Pepper sitting right up against the door. I took it as a signal and immediately opened it for him. I thought “boy, that was quick training,” but later came to realize I, too, was being trained. It soon became clear that the tinkle was Pepper stretching up to claw the metal doorknob before sitting up against the door. To save my speaker, I was quick to open the door for Pepper whenever he presented himself before it. Within a few days, Honey mimicked this behavior, and my speakers are now infrequently assaulted (they are still brat cats). Honey has less patience than Pepper, so he almost immediately accompanied his door presentation with meowing and a bit of a walk around. Pepper just walks up to the door and waits for quick service, and Honey walks up to me and yowls; both cats and I know that I have been trained to be prompt, so most of their door-opening signals are directed at me. My sitting at a computer and writing is not seen as reason to deny prompt service, even if others are in the room. Similarly, late at night, the cats meow at a nearby window, and they know I can hear them, so more interruptions. (I just got a claw across the glass from outside, Honey wants in).

A few summers ago, Pepper developed some illness, which we couldn’t determine, but which seemed to leave him very fatigued. He stayed in his one little resting spot on the top of the back of a padded reclining chair (Honey just bugged me to go out. He’s coming in and out hoping to get “special food” of tuna or salmon, I’ll explain why in a bit). Pepper just seemed to get weaker and thinner, and even began to shiver a bit; he stayed put. Previously, he seemed to get over his little colds or other low energy spells after a day of two of sleep and relaxation indoors. This time it seemed he was getting much weaker and the spell was much longer. We kept Honey away from him because Pepper seemed less able to defend himself, and I began to consider a visit to the vet. I just had to wait till he was half-dead enough to box for the trip. Even in this state, he trotted off to his food and water bowls and visited the litter box when he needed. Honey had long ago adopted a purely outdoor policy for his toilet needs.

One day I came home to see Pepper hobbling with his right paw folded back, limp. I guessed it might be broken, perhaps he had gotten so frail it had broken on landing from a jump. He let me examine it and seemed very sad and pitiful, so I decided he was half-dead enough for a trip to the vet. I put a clean towel he knew into the cat carrier box, and then set him in without incident, he was nervous, but too worn out to actively protest, he immediately settled onto the comfort towel, and off we went.

The veterinarian office has two doctors, one male and one female, and a predominantly female staff of animal technicians and office staff. Many of these people take their dogs (and bird) to work, and some sat with their mistresses in the reception area. Our cats’ doctor is the woman (both are good vets). She pointed out that Pepper’s nose-pad was nearly white (a grayish white), as were his paw pads. This indicated loss of blood or a low red blood cell count. His paw had no sensation, demonstrated by pinching it with sufficient force that the old Pepper would have scratched your eyeballs out before putting up with it. They took a blood sample and had lab work done that day, which revealed that Pepper’s blood cell count was 6 on a scale where a normal feline level would be 30 to 40. The lab noted they had never measured such anemic feline blood. The limp paw was the result of a clot cutting off circulation. Subsequent blood tests eliminated a number of feline diseases that can result in low red blood counts; some kind of cancer was guessed at but testing shed no light on this conjecture. A transfusion was arranged for, with the donor being one of the doctor’s robust cats.

Pepper stayed at the clinic for two nights, first getting his transfusion and then building up strength and having periodic blood tests. The major fear was that the underlying disease (some type of feline leukemia?) might just eat up the newly transfused blood. So, “30 plus” weight blood went in, and after a few days Pepper’s count stabilized to about 10 or 12. Despite many blood tests and his examination, they could not diagnose the illness. We got several prescriptions for potential causes, as preventatives while analysis continued of his blood samples. The treatment avenues presented were: a biopsy to collect a bone marrow sample for analysis, and if diseased then consider a bone marrow transplant, or a painless termination; or wait and see. Pepper was in much better spirits after three days at the clinic, he was obviously feeling livelier with his richer blood, even if still at about a third of normal red cell count. He had always had an enlarged heart and very fast heart rate, and now we knew it was because he had to circulate far fewer oxygen carrying cells (blood is liquid rust) to convey the oxygen exchange his body mass required. The good sign was that his blood count, while in the low double digits, did not continue to drop. The clinic staff had lavished affection on him, and he had been treated to meals of tuna, which it was noted “he loves.” He came home less skittish about other people, and with a relatively mellower (but not actually mellow) disposition. Transfusion, plus lab work, plus overnight stays, plus drugs all came to a total of over $1000. So, we owned “The Thousand Dollar Cat” with the mystery disease, which we didn’t know if it had passed, or was cured, or in remission, or just getting started. The drugs proved useless, Pepper rejected the pills, which were very big, and the liquids whether shot into his mouth or mixed into food. We didn’t belabor this point.

Pepper was a nice affectionate little neurotic cat, but I began to think that cat replacement might be a more affordable expense to more treatment. I know cat lovers will say each cat has a unique personality, so the expense of saving any one cat is worth it. But, you can buy an awful lot of cat personality for a thousand bucks. I wonder if corporate executives for health insurance businesses and government policy-makers for healthcare think about human personalities in the same way? In any case, we decided to trust to luck, and asked Pepper’s vet what people did in the old days for conditions like Pepper’s. Wouldn’t you know: aspirin. The recommendation was to grind (use a mortar and pestle) an 81 milligram aspirin (the dose used for daily blood thinning to counteract hypertension in humans), and give one quarter of this powder to Pepper, mixed into a guaranteed swallow like tuna or salmon, every three or four days. Pepper took to this regimen, and looked forward to his soft “special food” fish treats. To hide the grit of the aspirin powder, a good amount of salmon or tuna was used, to the cat’s delight.

Naturally, Honey quickly learned that special food was available. He was always conscientious to give Pepper the mouth and butt smell check whenever Pepper came home, so as to divine what had gone in and come out. It became too difficult to divert Honey into going outside when Pepper was getting his aspiring-laced fish meals, so a parallel feeding became necessary. Anything Pepper failed to lap up Honey would devour. Since these delicious meals were only offered every three days, Honey has become a complete neurotic, an addict waiting his fix. He wanted to be sure he was in when the special meals happened, but he was uncertain when that was, and he also wanted to go out to play, so he can oscillate between in and out many times during the day if allowed (I’ve taken to not letting him in sometimes), and he yowls for the special food every time he comes in. I point to his bowl of “crunchies,” and he looks at me and yowls. Then he nibbles a few, wants out, and we continue to cycle.

Pepper steadily grew stronger and more active over the following weeks, and after about two months used his paw as before. However, he never completely recovered his original vitality. The veterinary clinic asked us to let them study Pepper at their expense, to learn what was going on. We declined the offer because it entailed boxing the cat for weekly trips to the clinic for the taking of blood samples and brief exams. I’d like to know, but we already had an understanding with Pepper about the whole question of mortality versus freedom. The vet was entirely amazed that any cat could live with a middling single digit red blood cell count, it was thought to be impossible. So, Pepper became our Miracle Cat.

About a year of happy cat routine followed. Then, over the course of several weeks, Pepper became increasingly forgetful and absent-minded even though he had regained the full use of his limbs, and had returned to daily outdoor activities. On a few occasions he has been away for one of two nights, and I wondered if he might not wander off and forget how to get back, or have a stroke or heart attack out in the woods and never return. He would huddle by his plastic cup of water in the bathroom-haven with the litter box, all day or all night, as if guarding his water from Honey or whoever. He had the blank look and slow mental processing of an aphasiac, or of geriatric or post-stroke dementia. He didn’t act oddly, just very little, as if confused about what to do next.

Honey, being a normal amoral feline alpha male would exert dominance over Pepper, and now, despite the feel-good drug, Pepper’s foggy little brain had found it necessary to mark his claims to favored spots. The vet recommend placing multiple litter boxes, and keeping them very fresh, so Pepper would find them inviting at all times. Maybe this helped, it’s hard to tell. Pepper would mark the piles of clean laundry, so we had to fold and/or sequester it immediately. One day with Honey out, Pepper spent the morning sleeping on the couch on top of a nice big towel, while I made good progress on a big article (for my fabulous Internet publishing career). After a productive and quiet period of hours spent in this manner, I heard running water and was horrified to see Pepper calmly urinating right over his resting spot. I rushed over to bunch the towel around the center of the spill, and when finally discharged I scooped up the towel with cat and tossed him outdoors (not roughly, he landed easily on his feet), closing the door after. He took a moment or two to get his bearings, then sauntered off down the hill, maybe under the house. I started a wash. We haven’t seen Pepper since. Maybe he decided this was Honey’s house and he was out of it. Maybe he burst an aneurysm. Maybe he didn’t even remember from one minute to the next. Having known older people with advancing dementia, I think this latter was the case.

So, that is the story of Old Yowler and The Demented Miracle Cat.

I can’t say if there is any significance to this story. It is about the big crises of little lives. Perhaps we are drawn to such animal stories because we sense our own stories are generally similar. What are for us major events are insignificant to the rest of humanity, and yet we ourselves are not insignificant because consciousness is a most remarkable phenomenon and always a unique experience. It is three years now since Pepper left, and I still find his grey-striped hairs on my jackets.

Memory is a practical and unsentimental things for cats, within a month Honey carried on happily without looking for his brother, and by then we had removed the kitty litter boxes and the second feeding station.

Honey is a jealous lover with a guilt-free Oedipus complex. A few weeks ago my daughter was away for the weekend, and my wife and I enjoyed each other’s company at home without any distractions or interruptions. Honey had gone out, and we did not bestir ourselves to open the door to let him in. Honey has had long practice in determining from outside the house where the people are in its interior. Eventually, Honey was yowling and pawing at the window nearest us, and gazing in with consternation to see that he was missing out on a pile-up in bed. From his first day in our home, Honey had learned that the body-piling he and Pepper had done as kittens in their birth den was also the practice here, which they could do together with the humans in those very ample and comfortable beds. On this occasion Honey’s pleas and protests were to no avail.

Later that day, we decided to dine out, and before dressing I opened the door to let Honey in. He entered yowling and seeking reassurance, which he got as usual: pets, freshened bowl of crunchies, and fresh water in his bowl (he also stalks our showers to jump in as soon as we emerge, and lap up fresh water). While dressing, I noticed that Honey was in one of his frisky moods, chasing imaginary mice in the house. My wife often plays with him, sometimes with the lure on the string tied to a rod, and sometimes hide-and-seek, which he loves and involves cycles of her chasing him and then he ambushing her feet. When frisky, Honey will usually wind himself up to such an excited state that I have to open the door so he can shoot out and “get that mouse!” as my wife will urge him. On this occasion he seemed to settle down to pacing about before finding a resting spot.

Ever vigilant for his true-love mama, he yowled at my wife as she positioned herself in front of a large mirror to dress, then suddenly pounced at her feet as if to start up their game anew. In another instant, Honey had circled her leg, rearing up on his hind legs against her calf, wrapping his front paws with claws outstretched around the calf and into her shin, and sinking his fangs into her calf. Just as quickly, he bounded off in a frisky frenzy. He had drawn blood, but neither the bite nor clawing were deep, they were the clasp of passionate cat love, not the death grip of the rat-killer that severs the spine at the base of the neck. Honey was jealous, and he wanted his true-love mama to pay attention to him! Since that day, Honey has spent numerous languorous hours sleeping in my wife’s lap while she read her book in her reclining chair.

Honey lives in magnificent little lion self assurance, hunting daily with great success (mice, rats, moles, birds), and yowling nightly to his true-love mommy for tuna, or leftover salmon, snapper or chicken. He feels happy and safe. Brat.

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Originally published at:

Honey And Pepper, A Cat Tale
4 June 2012
http://www.swans.com/library/art18/mgarci48.html

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Asian Philosophies, Oppenheimer, & the New Age

Asian Philosophies And The “New Age”

The New Age is the name given to an amorphous mood elevation movement that mushroomed into Western pubic consciousness during the 1960s, and congealed in the 1970s as a wide array of commercial activities involving bodywork services, psychological counseling, and the marketing of literature, seminars and paraphernalia intended to vivify individual meditation.

The themes blended into the New Age movement include: metaphysics and the mysticism in major religious traditions, Western esotericism, self-help and motivational psychology, holistic health, herbal and hallucinogenic pharmacologies, consciousness research, parapsychology, environmentalism and Gaia philosophy, non-mathematical popularizations of quantum physics, and archeoastronomy. Wikipedia provides a nice summary of the New Age. (1)

Clearly, the label New Age can be stretched over a multitude of activities, with some that are admirably sacred, probing and intellectual, while numerous others are just banal hedonism, farcical psychobabble, and commonplace hucksterism. Thus, the phrase New Age lacks specificity, and both praise and criticism of the New Age in general lacks meaning. Only discussions and critiques of specific activities under the New Age label can be substantive.

This essay will describe a few of the streams of thought that contributed refreshing insights to the large pool of ideas over which New Age consciousness floats.

Esotericism has been a part of the intellectual histories of both Europe and the United States from their earliest times. During the early 20th century, popular esotericism in the United States was stimulated by the Theosophy of Helena Blavatsky, the anthroposophy of Rudolf Steiner, and the dervish-yoga combination of Caucasian and Indian ideas by George Gurdjieff, as described by the Russian writer Peter D. Ouspensky. Additionally, the public lectures on Vedanta (the ancient Hindu religious philosophy) given to Western audiences by traveling Indian swamis and teachers broadened public awareness of Eastern metaphysical thought.

However, during the fifteen years of the Great Depression and World War II, Americans were more focused on the immediate concerns of their economic and physical survival, so the study of esoteric and exotic philosophies was left to amateurs in secure personal circumstances, and university scholars. With the return of prosperity in 1942 as a result of the full-employment war economy, and then the victorious conclusion of the war in 1945, the American public was more financially secure to give attention to personal metaphysical thought, and more psychologically in need of philosophical insights to counteract the mental traumas and disappointments carried by war survivors.

I take the postwar release of American public consciousness from the immediacy of concerns of survival to be the beginning of modern popular interest in finding a sustaining and motivating personal metaphysics beyond the irrational trust (faith) in traditional Judeo-Christian formulas. Books, based on good scholarship, published to satisfy this interest can be seen as the secular scriptures of the intelligent portion of the New Age movement. A small number are described here.

Bhagavad Gita

In 1944, the Vedanta Society of Southern California published an English language version of the Bhagavad Gita, the renowned veda (Sanskrit sacred scripture) written between the 5th and 2nd centuries BCE. Swami Prabhavananda translated the Bhagavad Gita from Sanskrit, and Christopher Isherwood coauthored the rendering into English. Aldous Huxley wrote the introduction to the book. The Bhagavad Gita is a masterpiece of both Hindu philosophy and world literature. Its central lesson is of the life-affirming value of fully committed selfless action combined with a devotion to the appreciation of the ultimate reality (God or its equivalent in your philosophy), and an all-consuming effort to experience that ultimate reality. The Prabhavananda-Isherwood edition of the Bhagavad Gita was well received and remains a popular source of insights from ancient Hindu religious literature. Among the serious American students of the Bhagavad Gita was J. Robert Oppenheimer, “the father of the atomic bomb,” who learned Sanskrit in 1933 so as to read the Bhagavad Gita in its original form. (2) (The Bhagavad Gita is described in greater depth in the article cited, which follows after this one.)

I Ching

The I Ching is a Chinese book of divination, from the end of the 2nd millennium BCE (most likely), whose interpretation was expanded philosophically during the Warring States Period (475-221 BCE) to describe the dynamic balance of opposites and the inevitability of change in the phenomenal realm. Perhaps the most compelling translation of the I Ching into English appeared in print in 1950. This particular version began as a translation from the ancient Chinese into German by Richard Wilhelm guided by the Chinese scholar Lao Nai-hsüan, and was made during the years of World War I. In about 1927, Wilhelm’s friend the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung asked one of his American students, Cary F. Baynes (the former wife of Jaime de Angulo) who worked as a translator of Jung’s books into English, to translate the Wilhelm edition of the I Ching from German to English. This effort was slowed by the death of Richard Wilhelm in 1930, the death of Cary’s husband Helton Godwin Baynes in 1943, and dislocations resulting from the social turbulence of the 1930s and 1940s. The English translation was completed in 1949, and the book included an extensive forward by C. G. Jung explaining how to use the I Ching for divining the right course of action on a question of serious personal interest to the seeker.

The philosophy of the I Ching is of the organic unity and intrinsic appropriateness of the unforced unresisted phenomenal realm, or Nature, called the Tao; and the dynamic balance of opposites of every type, the ying and yang, whose ceaseless interplay give an illusion of duality, yet which dance is really just an alternation of images of the underlying eternal monism, the Tao. (3)

The purpose of the I Ching is to guide the seeker toward a proper psychological balance for the circumstances of the moment. Such balance is essential when making the significant decisions of a lifetime. The propriety of that balance is defined by a moral code that can be characterized as Confucian combined with Taoist flexibility. The I Ching was already ancient by the time of Confucius (K’ung Fu-tzu, 551-479 BCE) and the coalescing of formalized Taoism (traditionally 6th century BCE, more likely 5th-4th century BCE), which movement identified its founding text as the Tao Te Ching, a masterful collection of poetic logically ambiguous yet conceptually clear aphorisms ascribed to legendary author Lao Tzu. Modern scholarship is uncertain about the historical authenticity of Lao Tzu, and some scholars believe the Tao Te Ching is a collective work by now unknown authors. Regardless, the Tao Te Ching is one of the finest gems of world literature, philosophy and psychology. The Confucian school of thought is one of building up systems of social organization from simple elements and rules. Taoists see society as immersed in the organic whole of a phenomenal existence of infinite fractal complexity (4), hence impossible to systematize by reductionism. So, the interpretative commentaries that became attached to the I Ching during the Warring States Period were primarily written by Confucians, which infused the I Ching that has come down to us with sensible and honorable Confucian morality.

For the man or woman of today’s modern Westernized culture, more interested in utility that in airy metaphysical prattle, the I Ching can be used for practical divination by means of intuitive fuzzy logic (5): a way to reshuffle the imagination to see present circumstances from a fresh perspective, and then to visualize how these circumstances could change into a specifically different situation as a result of adopting a particular attitude or performing a recommended action. Rather than proceeding with an operational description of the I Ching as a decision-making tool, I recommend you obtain a copy of the Wilhelm-Baynes volume, read Jung’s instructional essay (“Forward”), and try it for yourself (seriously, not frivolously). The answer is in the question, and both — an illusory duality — come out of you.

Philosophies Of India

Heinrich Zimmer was an Indologist and historian of South Asian art who was purged from German academia by the Nazis in 1938. Zimmer, who along with Richard Wilhelm was one of C. G. Jung’s few male friends, emigrated to England and then the United States where he secured an appointment as a visiting lecturer of philosophy at Columbia University (in New York City) in 1940. Zimmer met Joseph Campbell, a scholar of mythology and a young professor at Sarah Lawrence College who attended one of Zimmer’s lectures early in World War II, and the two became good friends. After Zimmer died from pneumonia in 1943 at age 53, Campbell was given the task of editing Zimmer’s papers for posthumous publication. (6) Campbell worked at this for 12 years, converting Zimmer’s manuscripts and lecture notes into four books published between 1946 and 1955, the third of which was Philosophies Of India, which appeared in 1951. (7)

In his New York Times Book Review article on Philosophies Of India, Alan Watts wrote that “It is both the most complete and most compelling account of this extraordinarily rich and complex philosophical tradition yet written.” This book is an entire universe; it is deep, detailed and inexhaustible. Zimmer first describes the differences between Eastern and Western thought and the foundations of Indian philosophy; then the philosophies of temporal matters: success (politics, war, treachery), pleasure and duty; and finally more than two-thirds of the book is occupied with descriptions of the philosophies of eternity: Jainism, Sankhya (or Samkhya), Yoga, Brahmanism (which includes the Bhagavad Gita), Buddhism and Tantra. This is a great book: coherent, panoramic, deeply informed, richly detailed and absorbing.

The Way Of Zen

In his New York Times Book Review article on my favorite Alan Watts book, The Way Of Zen, published in 1957, Joseph Campbell wrote “No one has given us such a concise, freshly written introduction to the whole history of this Far Eastern development of Buddhist thought as Alan Watts, in the present, highly readable work.” This book is such a lucid account of both the history of Zen Buddhism and its manner of direct conscious experience of reality without abstract concepts or language as intermediaries. (8)

Alan Watts was an amazing autodidact who began teaching himself Chinese as a child by comparing the corresponding English and Chinese passages in a bilingual Bible. He became a popular writer and lecturer, the “guru of the hippies” until his death in 1973. All his books and recorded lectures on Eastern philosophy and particularly on Zen and Taoism are enlightening and refreshing. Watts brought out the core of insights from beneath the layerings of cultural ornamentation that most Westerners see when facing Vedanta, Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism and Zen, and he presented these liberating ideas in a way that made them relevant to our modern lives and psychological problems. Watts was not a professional academic teacher but instead a very talented seeker who allowed us to see out to farther horizons than most of us could ever have done on our own.

The common impulse in all the Indian philosophies of eternity since the Vedic period (1700-1100 BCE) was to identify a unifying principle underlying all existence. The Hindu philosophies of Yoga and Vedanta grew out of the earlier Vedic religion, identifying Brahman as the fundamental undifferentiated essential underlying and immanent in all phenomenal existence. The aim of both Yoga and Vedanta was to break the hold on consciousness by the illusory multiplicity of the universe suggested by the ceaseless interplay of apparent forms; and to merge consciousness into unity with Brahman, thus experiencing eternity (nirvana). Buddhism is a revolt against both the extremes of asceticism and pleasure as paths to achieving unity with Brahman, it is the Middle Way. The liberation of consciousness from the illusion of duality is called Moksha, and achieving that is enlightenment.

The founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama, was born in what is today Lumbini, Nepal (though other Indian sites also claim that honor) and he is estimated to have lived from 563 BCE to 483 BCE (though some scholars estimate a similar lifespan occurring about 80 years later). (9) The Middle Way of liberation taught by the Buddha (“the enlightened one”) sparked the growth of a movement that continues today. Buddhist teachings remained an oral tradition until the 1st century BCE, when the Pali Canon (the earliest of Buddhist scriptures) was written.

Between the 1st century BCE and the 2nd century CE, a more sophisticated concept of Buddhist practice had developed, called the Mahayana. The traditional practice, which was based on the Pali Canon, said little about the practical psychological difficulties of achieving nirvana.

Thus the great concern of the Mahayana is the provision of “skillfull means” (upaya) for making nirvana accessible to every type of mentality…The Mahayana distinguishes itself from the Buddhism of the Pali Canon by terming the latter the Little (hina) Vehicle (yana) of liberation and itself the Great (maha) Vehicle — great because it comprises such a wealth of upaya, or methods for the realization of nirvana.

By the 1st century CE, the practice of Buddhism had spread throughout the Indian subcontinent and along the Silk Route from northeast China to present-day Iran. (10) The awareness of Buddhist ideas had been carried along the trade routes west as far as the Greco-Roman Mediterranean. The Mahayana Buddhist way of achieving enlightenment by a proper concentration of the mind (samadhi) through meditation (dhyana) was adopted by Taoists in China, who devised a form of Mahayana Buddhism that used Taoist concepts to interpret existence and reality, and was better suited to Chinese culture. The idea that enlightenment could be achieved instantly, or suddenly, was developed in Chinese Mahayana Buddhism by the time of Tao-sheng (360-434), who stated the idea explicitly. This “sudden school” of Buddhist meditation believed samadhi could be naturally triggered after the mind had been prepared by meditation (later know as the Soto School), or caused by a teacher’s spontaneously skillful improvisation by word or deed taking advantage of the circumstances of the moment to jolt a seeking student into enlightenment (later known as the Rinzai School).

This “sudden school” formally emerged as Chán Buddhism in the 6th century CE and grew to become the dominant form of Chinese Buddhism during the Tang (618-907) and Song (960-1297) dynasties. The Chinese word Chán is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyana, and is better known by its Japanese equivalent Zen. While Buddhism had been introduced into Japan during the 8th century CE, the separate schools of Zen Buddhism were only established in the 12th century CE, when Eisai introduced Rinzai Zen to Japan in 1191, and Dogen introduced Soto Zen in 1227. (11)

For us, the real fun and value of Zen is as a way to expand our awareness, to not miss out on really living. The value of reviewing Zen Buddhist history as summarized here is to realize that we can be just as free as the Buddhists of times past to modify the externalities of the vehicle carrying the life-affirming Buddhist insights, to suit our culture and psychology, so long as we not obscure, corrupt or lose those insights and the compassionate heart of the teaching. Lives conducted along these principles would help nudge humanity toward the better possibilities for a New Age.

Zen And Japanese Culture

Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki was Japan’s foremost authority on Zen Buddhism, authoring over one hundred books on the subject before he died at age 95, in Tokyo in 1966. Suzuki trained in the Zen monastery at Kamakura, and then began his literary career as an English teacher and translator (between Japanese, Chinese, Sanskrit and English). He worked in the United States as an editor and translator from 1897 to 1908, and in 1911 married Beatrice Erskine Lane, a Theosophist, with whom he founded the English language journal The Eastern Buddhist published in Kyoto. He spent most of the 1950s teaching, writing and speaking in the United States.

Susuki’s book, Zen And Japanese Culture published in 1959, is a modern classic. It is a revision and expansion of a collection of essays that had been published in Japan in 1938. The form of the book gives each chapter its own completeness, each is a unique meditation or tour through its subject such as Haiku, the tea ceremony (cha-no-yu) or swordsmanship (kendo), without the need for preparation by an earlier chapter, nor the burden of introducing a subsequent one. For this reason, one can open Zen And Japanese Culture at any page and become instantly absorbed, and later repeat that arbitrary beginning, to read the book in random order over any stretch of time.

The great psychological advantage of the Zen attitude to understanding — let us not be so bold as to say “being enlightened” — is equanimity. With this evenness of temperament, one experiences life as a self-motivated participant in this vast Tao of infinite fractal complexity unified by the “interdependence of all things.” (12) For too many people whose minds are glued to the temporal ying-yang of their ambitions and anxieties orbiting desires attached to externalities, Life — seen as an immense external separateness — can be an indifferent and arbitrary victimizer jerking them around. The benefit of the Zen attitude is being able to pass through the routines of daily life, as well as the occasional emergencies, while remaining cool, calm and collected. Also, for those who understand what they are doing, training in a martial art is simply a method of physical exercise for getting one’s Zen.

Zen And Japanese Culture imparts tranquility to its appreciative readers through writing of calm graceful clarity telling many delightful stories reflecting the influence of Zen Buddhism on aspects of pre-industrial Japanese culture: the philosophy of the samurai and their swordsmanship, mindfulness and its celebration with the drinking of tea, sudden ineffable awareness and Haiku, the appreciation of nature in its self-so essence (ziran or tzu jan), its innately right existence (13), and expressing this with effortless action (wu wei) (14) in the unforced fluidity of the calligraphy depicting it poetically and graphically.

A monk asked Daishu Ekai (Ta-chu Hui-hai), one of the T’ang masters, when Zen was in its heyday:

 
“What is great nirvāṇa?”

 
The master answered, “Not to commit oneself to the karma of birth-and-death is great nirvāṇa.”

 
“What then is the karma of birth-and-death?”

 
“To desire great nirvāṇa is the karma of birth-and-death.”

 

Memories, Dreams, Reflections

Erinnerungen Träume Gedanken is the title of Carl Gustav Jung’s autobiography, which was published the year he died, 1961, appearing in English as Memories, Dreams, Reflections. C. G. Jung was the famous doctor of psychic maladies (psychiatrist) and researcher into the human psyche (psychologist) who founded analytical psychology, and introduced the concepts of the collective unconscious, the archetypes, individuation, the introverted and extroverted personality types, the complex and synchronicity.

Jung’s father was a Christian minister, and Carl was always interested in understanding the psychology of religious experience, or “how to know God.” To plumb the depths of the human psyche, he attempted to analyze the dreams and remembered ramblings of minds half asleep and half awake in the dead of night (hypnagogic images), both of his patients and himself, and to classify this eclectic library of dreams into a smaller number of generalized thematic types, which in turn could be unified by a general psychodynamic theory.

Jung explored the occult and esoteric movements of Europe’s past (alchemy, astrology, gnosticism) to find useful archetypal concepts of human imaginings with which to categorize specific dreams (clinical data) into generalized types. He saw these earlier movements overtly as efforts by more primitive cultures to devise unified theories of material transformation, the mechanics of the universe, and the structure of humanity’s relationship to the divine, but he also saw these overt aspects as analogies with esoteric meaning, basing this interpretation on esoteric texts from those early times.

Jung interpreted esoteric alchemical, astrological and gnostic treatises as attempts to devise unified theories of the psyche. Basically, Jung assumed that the templates of ideas that erupted unconsciously out of the human minds of his day were identical to the unconscious conceptual templates of our ancestors. So, by a logical process of convergence, earlier streams of scholarship into the foundations of being and consciousness should have arrived at consensus on the archetypes of the unconscious, and these images would then be ubiquitous throughout each culture’s art and literature.

In digging down into the philosophical, psychological, metaphysical and folkloric literature of Christian Europe, Jung eventually (in 1916) burrowed into an underlying rhizome of Vedic imagery — the mandala. Geometric designs of circular symmetry are innate to all cultures because the circle with a focal center is an image innate in the human brain, being the entire focus of the infant seeking its mother’s breast. The rose windows of Gothic cathedrals are beautiful examples of circular symmetric designs used as symbols of the completeness of Christian theology, with Christ, God the Father or the Virgin Mary in the center light and surrounded by Biblical notables and works of creation each in its angular segment. However, when Jung sought to understand the meaning of the windows into his own soul, which he was drawing, it was the concept of the mandala of the Vedas and the Buddhists that he used.

Between 1912 and 1927, Jung was in a period of uncertainty and anxiety about his professional career, he had broken with Sigmund Freud’s school of psychoanalysis and was now on his own. During this period of mental turbulence, he recorded many dreams and fantasies into his famously secret, handwritten and illuminated Red Book. After 1916, he had fallen into the habit of drawing mandalas often to interpret them as momentary representations of his personality’s state of wholeness and vibrancy. By 1920 he had connected the mandala to Vedic and Buddhist ideas, and was experimenting with the I Ching. In the early 1920s, Jung met Richard Wilhelm, who completed his German translation of the I Ching in 1923.

In 1927, Wilhelm gave Jung a translation of a 12th century Taoist text on the practice of meditation as an inner alchemy, The Secret Of The Golden Flower. The golden flower in this text is a mandala representing the image held by the mind when perfectly concentrated on Brahman. Jung saw this Taoist book as validating his psychological interpretation of mandala symbols, and wrote a commentary to accompany Wilhelm’s translation (and that German publication of 1929 was translated into English by Cary F. Baynes, and published in 1931).

In Jung’s synthesis, the mandala of The Secret Of The Golden Flower linked two concepts, one Taoist and the other psychological. The Taoist concept was that of the highest inner alchemical refinement of consciousness achieved by Taoist meditation, the oneness with Tao, the Hindu nirvana. The linked psychological concept was of the central archetype of personality, the self, the totality of the psyche, which includes both the conscious and the more extensive unconscious of the individual. The ego is merely the center of the conscious part of personality.

Jung describes his realization of the archetype of the self, which was precipitated by his reading of The Secret Of The Golden Flower, as the pivotal experience of his professional life, and the end of his anxieties about it.

It was only after I had reached the central point in my thinking and in my researches, namely, the concept of the self, that I once more found my way back to the world.

The years when I was pursuing my inner images were the most important in my life — in them everything essential was decided. It all began then; the later details are only supplements and clarifications of the material that burst forth from the unconscious, and at first swamped me. It was the prima materia for a lifetime’s work.

It has taken me virtually forty-five years to distill within the vessel of my scientific work the things I experienced and wrote down at that time.

Jung saw the successful development of personality, what he called individuation, as the awakening in a person of the awareness of the nature of their psyche, that is to say recognition of the self and its four associated archetypes: the shadow, the anima, the animus and the persona. Achieving this perfected psychological awareness would also bring personal consciousness into the experience of the divine. Jung’s deepest motivation was that of the ancient Vedanta scholars: to know God. For Jung, psychological individuation is a modern Western approach to the eternal, so it coincides with the Hindu-Buddhist method of meditating to concentrate the mind and bring it into unity with Brahman.

My Stroke Of Insight

Jill Bolte Taylor is a neuroanatomist who experienced a massive stoke at age 37 in the left hemisphere of her brain in 1996, and survived to write about it. Her book, My Stroke Of Insight was published in 2006. (15)

Taylor recounts her moment by moment loss of faculties during the course of her stroke: mobility, speech, reading, writing, and memory; and she recounts her increasingly desperate efforts to contact the outside world to get help. Taylor was the victim of a congenital defect she was unaware of, a malformed blood vessel in her brain’s left hemisphere had burst and a pocket of blood was being inflated to the size of a golf ball by her pumping heart, and pressing against the area of her brain where her speech, sensory, physical orientation and motor centers converged.

Taylor’s recovery rested on three essentials: excellent medical care (though she did have anxieties in the middle of her stroke about being taken to the “wrong” hospital because of the restrictions of her health insurance!), a devoted mother who had the ability and resources to nurse and re-educate Jill at home during her years of recovery, and Jill’s own resolve to return to full functionality and tell the world what she had learned from the experience.

During her stroke, Taylor experienced nirvana. The wondrous functioning of the human brain was such that her center of consciousness shifted from the logical hierarchical analytical left hemisphere of her usual clinical work to the sensory-affective integrative right hemisphere that always lives in the moment mediating our instantaneous contact with external reality though our senses and emotions. Taylor characterizes each brain half by comparison to computer architecture, the left being a serial processor and the right being a parallel processor. The two halves exchange information through a bundle of connecting fibers called the corpus callosum.

In shutting down the functioning of her left hemisphere, Taylor’s hemorrhage had unglued her consciousness from the myriad gritty piecemeal rectilinear and scheduled minutia of modern Western living, what we unthinkingly take to be “reality,” and had centered her consciousness in the right hemisphere’s endless moment of sensory integration with the enveloping reality of organic existence: Brahman, the Tao.

Taylor had to struggle against her ecstatic attraction to this state of bliss to maintain some contact with her left hemisphere so as to perform the many little tasks of now exceeding difficulty necessary to make a telephone call for help. After the immediate crisis, Taylor sought to maintain an ongoing connection to right-side consciousness for the rest of her life: “Frankly, I didn’t want to give up Nirvana.” Her book is a celebration of cosmic consciousness, which she describes entirely from biophysical brain science concepts, and which experience she endorses with touching sincerity and compassion because she knows how transformative and uplifting it can for the individual, and thus for the betterment of society.

To encourage the reader, Jill describes the many gentle and healthy ways she uses to induce right-brain centered consciousness, or even just simple tranquility. Her stroke of insight is that deep peace is possible for everyone, it lives in our own “right” minds, and accessing it is a portal to joyous living.

Finally

Is there a core truth common to all these schools of thought, which can be captured in a single phrase? What would you say to someone who asked for a simple answer?

The Buddha’s parting words were: “Work out your salvation with diligence.” Jesus Christ told his disciples: “The kingdom of heaven is within you.” Joseph Campbell (author of the 1949 classic The Hero With A Thousand Faces) is remembered for his advice: “Follow your bliss.” Each of these is good, but none can convey all the meanings we intend to those who have not already heard them.

I can think of two imperfect options, a ying and yang version if your will.

The first is to just smile and “keep calm and carry on” enjoying life.

The second is: “WAKE UP!”

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Notes

1. New Age, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Age

2. Manuel García, Jr., “The Esoteric J. Robert Oppenheimer,” follows below.

3. I Ching, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Ching

4. Fractals, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fractal

5. Fuzzy Logic, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuzzy_logic

6. Heinrich Zimmer, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heinrich_Zimmer

7. Joseph Campbell, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Campbell

8. Manuel García, Jr., “My Favorite Classics,” http://www.swans.com/library/art18/mgarci51.html

9. Gautama Buddha, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gautama_Buddha

10. History Of Buddhism, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Buddhism

11. Chán Buddhism, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_Ch%C3%A1n

12. Pratītyasamutpāda, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prat%C4%ABtyasamutp%C4%81da

13. Ziran, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ziran

14. Wu wei, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wu_wei

15. Jill Bolte Taylor, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jill_Bolte_Taylor

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The Esoteric J. Robert Oppenheimer

“We dream of travels throughout the universe: is not the universe within us? We do not know the depths of our spirit. The mysterious path leads within. In us, or nowhere, lies eternity with its worlds, the past and the future.” Novalis (Georg Philipp Friedrich Freiherr von Hardenberg, 1772-1801)

Julius Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967) was the brilliant American theoretical physicist who guided the Manhattan Project during World War II (1942-1945) when it industrialized the technology of nuclear fission power and produced the first atomic bombs, including the only two ever used in warfare.

Immediately after the war, Oppenheimer advocated publicly for international control of nuclear arms, and against the urge for an arms race. This stance brought him into conflict with the political factions and economic interests that Dwight D. Eisenhower would call the “military-industrial complex” fifteen years later, and who were intent to revamp the economic engine that had pulled the United States out of the Great Depression and through World War II, into the war-machine industrialized economy Gore Vidal would call “the national security state.” This politics was Oppenheimer’s undoing as a national policy advisor, but the arguments used against him were phrased as doubts about his loyalty to the nation, and imputed deficiencies of character and judgement, not as political analysis and policy differences. Little has changed.

Every now and then when a new sensationalist book is published with a rehashing of the intrigues detailed in once-secret files of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) wiretaps, domestic spying and subterfuge, the question of “the real story” behind J. Robert Oppenheimer’s true loyalties and fate resurfaces. Having worked in the Livermore nuclear weapons lab (1978-2007), some have assumed I know more about that presumably untold story. However, I am too young to have gained any direct or even indirect knowledge about Oppenheimer or any of the bomb physicists of his generation. Beyond riding in a elevator with Edward Teller once (which he did not like, he wanted a private ride) I only know about these people by what I have read or seen on television, like everyone else. The wikipedia article on J. Robert Oppenheimer summarizes what I have read, heard and seen about Oppie. (1)

In 1933, Oppenheimer learned Sanskrit to read the Bhagavad Gita in its original language. The Bhagavad Gita is an ancient Hindu scripture (written between the 5th to 2nd centuries BCE), which is a masterpiece of philosophical integration as it combines the monism of the Upanishads, the dualism of Samkhya and the theism of Yoga.

The philosophy contained in the collected texts of the Upanishads (most written between about 1200 and 600 BCE) is called Vedanta, which asserts the existence of one absolute reality called Brahman, and urges seekers of truth to bypass ritual in favor of meditation governed by loving morality, as this will assuredly lead to blissful enlightenment. The 19th-century German Sanskritist Theodore Goldstücker found the philosophy of Spinoza to be a European equivalent of Vedanta, and Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) himself to be “a man whose very life is a picture of that moral purity and intellectual indifference to the transitory charms of this world, which is the constant longing of the true Vedanta philosopher.” (2)

Samkhya philosophy (which coalesced between the 5th and 2nd centuries BCE) asserts that reality is a duality of consciousness (Purusa) and material phenomenology (Prakriti), and that no God or other external influence exists. For the existentially trapped, a glue of desire bonds their Purusa to Prakriti, for example being a wage slave in the rat race to keep up with the Jones. Liberation (Moksha) is the ending of this bondage, when materialism no longer imprisons your consciousness and there is no distinction between your individual and the universal Purusa.

Yoga means union, and is a school of Hindu philosophy based on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (written in the 2nd century BCE, codifying yogic traditions that originated between the mid 3rd millennium BCE and about 400 BCE). The aim is to use meditation to gain enlightenment and tranquility by merging with God, the ultimate and fundamental reality.

The Bhagavad Gita unfolds as a philosophical conversation between Prince Arjuna and his guide and charioteer Krishna, on the eve of battle in a fratricidal war. Arjuna seeks guidance from Krishna, who is an avatar of the preserver-god Vishnu. Krishna instructs Arjuna to proceed vigorously with fully committed selfless action (Karma Yoga), a compete devotional surrender to God (Bhakti Yoga) and finally to experience Brahman directly, which knowledge will carry him past his own desires and materiality (Jnana Yoga).

The Dharma, or law fitted to his nature, which Arjuna must follow is this linking of the paths of selfless action, devotion to and knowledge of the ultimate reality. These linked paths are yogas because Arjuna must unite with and embody selfless action and devotion to the sacred ultimate, and the experience of merging consciousness with It.

The Bhagavad Gita has resonated with the stirrings in many souls, besides that of J. Robert Oppenheimer, for over two millennia because each of its readers is always Arjuna forever on the eve of the battle for the salvation of his or her soul.

Oppenheimer followed the path of selfless action in guiding the Manhattan Project because he was motivated to prevent the globalization of fascism, and he was motivated to use his physics knowledge and personal charm to develop technology that under international control could checkmate the aggressive impulses of dictators, and prevent the recurrence of massively destructive and profoundly tragic wars like World War II. In reference to Heinar Kipphardt’s 1964 play In The Matter Of J. Robert Oppenheimer, which he disagreed with, Oppenheimer stated:

“I had never said that I had regretted participating in a responsible way in the making of the bomb. I said that perhaps he [Heinar Kipphardt] had forgotten Guernica, Coventry, Hamburg, Dresden, Dachau, Warsaw, and Tokyo; but I had not, and that if he found it so difficult to understand, he should write a play about something else.”

Guernica, Coventry, Hamburg, Dresden and Tokyo are cities which suffered merciless aerial bombardment; Dachau was the site of a Nazi concentration camp; and Warsaw was the scene of the Jewish Ghetto Uprising of 1943 (a resistance to the population transfer to Treblinka), and the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, when the Nazis defeated the Polish Resistance Home Army and destroyed the city during 63 days of fighting while the Red Army waited encamped 5 minutes flying time east of the Vistula River (which runs through Warsaw).

Since I, too, have an interest in Eastern philosophy (Buddhism), I can identify with Oppie as both a “hard” science guy and a person of poetic sensibility and mystical inclination, always at odds with simplistic thinking and narrow vision.

I would suggest that Oppie’s mystical-poetic side was akin to the sensibilities of the esotericists Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925, metaphysics out of late German Romanticism, “anthroposophy”) and Peter D. Ouspensky (1878-1947, psychology out of Gurdjieff esotericism). I assume that sensibilities of this sort would have seeped into Oppie’s subconscious by cultural osmosis, as he was a New York Jew born of cultured and prosperous German immigrant parents early in the 20th century (1904), and his own personality was naturally refined and thus easily receptive to esoteric thought. The way he worked out bringing these subconscious metaphysical currents into the foreground of his conscious mind was to invoke the conceptual structures and language of Hindu philosophy, and specifically that of its philosophical and literary jewel the Bhagavad Gita.

The popular awareness of Hindu and Buddhist philosophy in the United States during the 1920s and 1930s was likely to be a result of exposure to esotericism based on borrowed Asian ideas, such as with the theosophy of Helena Blavatsky (1831-1891), and the dervish-yoga collage of George Gurdjieff (1866-1949); and more accurately through the traveling or immigrant Vedanta teachers like the swamis Vivekananda (1863-1902), Prabhavananda (1893-1976) and Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952), and the writer and speaker Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986).

Oppenheimer flourished in the highest strata of American and European academia, and could easily interact with Sanskrit, Indology and Sinology scholars. So, it was an unusual commitment for him to learn Sanskrit to independently read and interpret the Vedas (the Sanskrit scriptures) instead of just relying on the lectures and scholarly translations by his fellow academics. But, he was thus better informed.

A highly regarded and popular translation into English of the Bhagavad Gita by Swami Prabhavananda appeared in 1944, it was coauthored with Christopher Isherwood, and its introduction was written by Aldous Huxley. In describing the yoga of knowledge, Krishna tells Arjuna:

“Die, and you win heaven. Conquer, and you enjoy the earth. Stand up now, son of Kunti, and resolve to fight. Realize that pleasure and pain, gain and loss, victory and defeat are all one and the same: then go into battle. Do this and you cannot commit any sin.”

A book retelling an ancient teaching of selfless action during the conduct of war, published near the end of World War II; I wonder if Oppenheimer read it?

Consider the following projections of how Oppenheimer might have internalized Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Jnana Yoga.

Karma Yoga

Commit to swinging the sword and letting the blood flow. This is your unique time and place in the universe, your dharma, and to gain the enlightening insight that can be taken as the purpose of life it is necessary to learn from the consequences of your acts, your karma. So, lay down the best karma you can trail in the wake of your actions by being unattached to personal gain from them. Fulfill your duties and act out your existentially appointed role in a selfless manner, for the noble though temporal purpose of defeating fascism, and for the higher and eternal purpose you are now aware of. You cannot moan that “the world is a mess” because for all men and women at all times and places the world is and has always been a mess. It is forever imperfect and filled with suffering and injustice. You are of this world, this realm of phenomenal existence, and cannot remake it. What you can do is to change yourself from a being trapped by lack of awareness of the ultimate reality, and your own true nature as part of that ultimate reality. Do not run from the unavoidability of karmic diffusion that material existence entails, but instead merge with your karma selflessly, and realize you are the ultimate unrecognized. Then you will begin to see that ultimate, and transcend karmic diffusion.

Bhakti Yoga

Devote yourself to the appreciation of the ultimate reality by delving into the workings of phenomenal manifestations. Unfolding these for the understanding of others raises the amount of such appreciation among men and women, and inspires others to follow along similar paths of discovery, bringing more souls toward self-realization. This is so different from chicken-scratching in the dirt of reality to peck out some hidden nugget, some secret recipe, to be used in petty schemes of self aggrandizement and in temporal power plays. Devotion to the ultimate reality is that “moral purity” which elevates you to “intellectual indifference to the transitory charms of this world.” This is completely beyond conventional social morality, which is entirely a matter of seeking acceptance, currying favor and maintaining social standing. All that is about keeping Purusa glued to Prakriti. Devotion to the ultimate and indifference to the temporal are liberating, they are Moksha.

Jnana Yoga

Oppenheimer used his considerable intellectual talent to pursue this goal of “knowing,” which paradoxically is unattainable by the conscious effort of abstract thinking alone. Jnana Yoga is like Zen, the direct experience of the ultimate, or “cosmic consciousness” as Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) called it. This is knowledge by direct experience, not the mere thinking in abstractions, which is so much of theoretical physics. The understanding of quantum mechanics and general relativity is not the same as the experience of cosmic consciousness. Still, such abstract thinking on philosophical concepts can prepare you to recognize when the plunge into cosmic consciousness envelops you. One usually seeks the experience by some form of meditation, or is jolted into it by the force of circumstances. Rather than trying to tease out a verbalization of the experience of the ultimate, from distortions of Vedanta in European languages, Oppenheimer learned Sanskrit to burrow down into the primary references in their original language. Is this not Bhakti Yoga, a devotion to the appreciation of the the ultimate? Is this not Karma Yoga, a selfless merging with the task to be done for the greater purpose of complete enlightenment, the merging with “the one,” Brahman?

“The true philosophical Act is annihilation of self; this is the real beginning of all Philosophy.” Novalis (1772-1801)

I can only assume that Oppenheimer experienced his true self at some point, and perhaps several times during his eventful life. Certainly, we will all merge with eternity eventually when we die, though sadly so many will pass through still unrealized.

Oppie was a man of much keener vision than the average Joe, so from the perspectives of mundane viewpoints comfortably settled within conventional thinking and behavior he was always seen to be on the edge intellectually, psychologically, morally and politically. To those of straightforward robotic thinking at the service of monomaniacal ambition within the bureaucracies of the US military-industrial-political complex, Oppenheimer would be instinctively perceived as a threat. It was inevitable that people like Lewis L. Strauss, Edward Teller and Leslie Groves would oppose Oppenheimer in 1954, during his security clearance hearing. In 1945 they had loved him because he enabled their ambitions and because he was acknowledged as “absolutely essential” to the gargantuan Manhattan Project.

It just so happens that people with any psychological similarity to Oppenheimer tend to be Democrats (or far more leftist), and people like Oppie’s psychological opposites tend to be Republicans. So, at the time there was also a partisan divide on the matter of Oppie’s security clearance, which struggle was entirely about allowing the arms control perspective to be given a place in the councils of government or suppressed, and was framed as an argument over the degree of policy-forming power that Oppenheimer was to be given or denied. Today as then, the battles over what types of ideas and thinking are to hold sway in the making of government policy are couched as arguments over the personal merits or deficiencies of selected high-profile individuals. Oppie “lost” his security clearance (one day before it was to expire anyway) because he was a high-profile symbol of the type of prewar East Coast urban leftist Jewish intellectual New Dealer who was now being excessed, since the war was won, in favor of a new generation of guardians of concentrated wealth, in the tradition of Robert A. Taft (1889-1953), the establishment white Christian grand bourgeois managers of post-war corporatism.

Was Oppenheimer subversive? Did he betray the trust put in him? Oppenheimer’s marital life was complicated, being interspersed with extra-marital affairs. But then, so are the lives of billions of other husbands of all political persuasions. His marital fidelity or infidelity was really of matter of concern best left to his wife Kitty Harrison, who remained with him till he died in 1967. However, on the matter of national security the record is clear, Oppenheimer never passed any classified information to the Soviet Union (based on the Vassiliev notebooks of KGB archival material), and even removed Los Alamos scientists whom he suspected of excessive Soviet sympathies from the Manhattan Project. He did not break trust in his technical-academic nor public-technocrat lives. (3)

Oppenheimer was a “subversive” only in the sense of being opposed to, and opposed by, the postwar military-industrial corporatists. These included J. Edgar Hoover who would use the federal policing agency he lorded over to undermine Oppenheimer’s postwar political standing, rather than protecting him from intrigue as the FBI had been required to do during the war, when Oppenheimer was “absolutely essential.”

Notes

1. J. Robert Oppenheimer, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._Robert_Oppenheimer

2. Vedanta, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vedanta

3. Alexander Vassiliev, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Vassiliev

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Asian Philosophies and the “New Age” originally appeared at:

Asian Philosophies and the “New Age”
5 November 2012
http://www.swans.com/library/art18/mgarci56.html

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The Esoteric J. Robert Oppenheimer originally appeared at:

The Esoteric J. Robert Oppenheimer
22 October 2012
http://www.swans.com/library/art18/mgarci55.html

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American Decline (continues)

When we say the American Empire is in decline, what do we mean? Is it the decline of:

1) The U.S. economy (and consequently U.S. political power) in relation to and in competition with the other national economies, the regional groupings of economies (like the E.U.), and the aggregate world economy?, or the decline of

2) The industrial mode of economic organization of society?, or the decline of

3) The capitalist model now controlling the U.S. economy in its industrial mode (as opposed to, say, a socialist model whether of democratic form or of command form as in China)?, or the decline of

4) The competence of the economic managing elite, and the influence of white males as the demographic group devising and directing public policy, controlling the national economy and ensuring their demographic group is most favored in the distribution of national prosperity?, or the decline of

5) The standard of living, physical health and security, mental state and personal development of the majority of the members of the public?

We can abstract these five aspects of a national economy, respectively, as its:

1) power,

2) organization (as an industrial mechanism or as a social relations network),

3) purpose (capitalist or socialist),

4) leadership (ability and demographics), and

5) living conditions (the typical experience of daily life).

Clearly, any person’s view of the state of the economy will depend on which of these five aspects they most identify with; and any media account of the state of the economy will be crafted to resonant with the biases of the intended audience.

Economic Power

People in the corporate and political leadership classes will gauge the health of the economy on the basis of its power in relation to the international competition. The remora class of analysts, commentators, consultants and promoters, who base their livelihoods on the sale of information and “suggestions” to the executive classes, will also fabricate their interpretations of current events on the basis of the economy’s power.

Economic Organization

Critics of the industrial mode of economics will focus on the mismatch between the performance of our current economic machinery and the human and societal needs of the public, which is required to support this economy. Ivan Illich (1926-2002) wrote three books in the 1970s (Deschooling Society, Tools For Conviviality, and Medical Nemesis) arguing quite effectively that many of the institutions of the modern industrial state impede their own supposed purposes; he focused on education and medicine in particular.

For example, the educational “funnels” sought today so as to insert more knowledge more quickly into student minds are so burdensome (too much homework, “one-size-fits-all” regimentation, politically circumscribed curricula) that they work against the natural impulse to intellectual exploration by children and young adults, and rob them of the time to follow their natural inclinations toward discovering and learning at their own pace. Children are conditioned, programmed and trained to be passive receptacles rather than being nurtured to become self-directed learners and creators.

Another example of industrial mode counterproductively is the high-volume production of automobiles, which enables suburban sprawl. The unavoidable result is the clogging of increasing longer commute routes between suburban homes and city jobs. The losses to individuals in hours-per-day of living-time spent commuting, and the societal costs in air pollution and the national security liability of oil dependency, are all well known.

A “convivial” (Illich’s term) solution would be to group residential and work areas close together within smaller well-planned cities and towns linked by networks of intra-urban and inter-urban public transportation systems (trolley, bus, train). Such convivial towns and neighborhoods (structured around the natural scale of human interactions) would harken back to earlier times when every city block was not far from a park, and had a bakery, produce store, meat and fish store, druggist and newsstand along it or “just around the corner.”

The industrial mode requires that people serve the efficiency goals of a delivery system so it operates at its lowest cost per item moved. For example, the “big box” stores one must drive to, because they are beyond walking distance from home, and because no one can carry all the bulky items and large quantities one is required to purchase in order to get the array of supplies needed for home-life. How much easier stepping off a bus or trolley a block or two from home after work, and within half an hour buying one easily-carried grocery bag filled with all the supplies and fresh food needed for the next few days.

Another Illich concept is that of the “radical monopoly.” This occurs when a technical system or method appears to be most effective at meeting some common need, and as a consequence of its popularity makes alternatives so economically disfavored that the use of the dominant technology becomes effectively mandatory. This might be acceptable in the case where a more convenient technology replaces a less convenient one, such as personal computers replacing typewriters; but it might be detrimental when the radical monopoly consumes large amounts of energy and pollutes (which we could recast as “requires a wasteful consumption of environmental potential”). The automobile transportation required by suburbia is one such radical monopoly.

Another radical monopoly is western medicine in the form of a pharmacologically and technologically intense industrial mode of centralized medical practice. A convivial alternative would be to have doctors (and their clinics) distributed throughout the well-planned towns mentioned earlier, so that one lived on every block, and every resident would have their “personal physician” living within walking distance. Hospitals would still exist, but patients would most likely enter them as a planned visit arranged by their local doctor, rather than as the only option in an emergency. This latter health care system is used in Cuba.

People address the problems of their daily lives by applying a wide array of tools: hand tools, kitchen and food storage appliances, transport vehicles and transportation systems, electronic devices and electrical power networks, houses and housing systems, drugs and medical devices and health care systems, and many other technical entities from simple pocket knives to trans-national social, monetary, judicial and government systems. Illich called all such entities “tools.”

His central point was that “A convivial society should be designed to allow all its members the most autonomous action by means of tools least controlled by others.” Illich chose the term “convivial” to designate the opposite of “industrial productivity,” his concept of a society of autonomous and creative interaction between people, and between people and their environment, “where individual freedom was realized in personal interdependence.”

Tools that allow for many possible uses, as determined by the creativity of the user, and are not restricted to a narrow purpose by their designer, are convivial. Simple hand tools, like a hammer, are convivial tools. More complex examples are the telephone, in that the telephone company cannot restrict the nature of your conversations; and AC electrical power, in that the power company has no control over what you plug into an electrical outlet. In contrast, machines made for industrial productivity can only be used in a few ways, which is the intent of the designer so as to control and “own” the benefit of the tool’s use. The specialized machinery in any factory assembly line, big box stores, and “personal” computers with proprietary and purposely exclusive operating systems are examples of non-convivial tools. Non-convivial tools require humans to become their servants, who operate them in set ways to achieve unique purposes of benefit to the tool designer.

It is easy to see that centralized systems of supply (e.g., food) and service (e.g., medical) are industrial and non-convivial, they require people to “line up” and operate them in a set fashion (e.g., through inflexible bureaucracy, and customer service telephone holds), so the system providers can minimize their costs and maximize their returns. Conversely, decentralized systems of supply and service delivery — as we envisioned earlier in our hypothetical well-planned towns — would not operate at the lowest cost physically possible per item moved, but they would enable a much richer and freer living experience to the wide variety of people who were using and paying for these systems. This is conviviality.

Economic Purpose

An economy is a man-made procedural structure integrating the operation of the financial and commercial interactions engaged in by the members of its society. Every economy, however primitive and disorganized, or sophisticated and highly organized, is an artificial and intentional construction. It is built to a purpose by people, it is not an organism arising out of nature. So, no economy is based on natural and unbreakable laws. Every economy is a game, and is rigged. Just exactly how any particular economy is rigged is the purpose of politics.

Generally, economies are recognized to serve two purposes: capitalist and socialist. The capitalist purpose is the accumulation of private profit at general expense, and the socialist purpose is the support of varieties of social and humanitarian needs at general expense.

Most national economies today have some mixture of capitalist and socialist purposes, though usually the capitalism dominates. For both, the industrial mode is more popular. Capitalist big box stores aim to maximize the profits to the owners, while socialist big box stores aim to minimize the cost to the state for distributing the goods they dispense. Similarly for capitalist and socialist service dispensaries in the industrial mode (e.g., health care).

Both capitalist and socialist economic purposes can be organized in either the industrial or convivial mode. The socialist purpose industrial mode was forcefully promoted by Stalin. As Illich wrote:

“In 1931 Stalin translated ‘control over the means of production’ to mean the increase of productivity by new methods used to control the producer [the subject population]… Since then a socialist policy has been considered one which serves the industrially organized productivity of a socialist country. Stalin’s reinterpretation of Marxism has since then served as a form of blackmail against socialists and the left.”

Fifty-three percent of the U.S. federal budget is spent on pure Stalinism, known simply as the Pentagon, a non-convivial radical monopoly used for political intimidation.

Social Security is another example of a socialist purpose within an otherwise capitalist U.S. economy, that purpose being the dignified management of the transition from taxpaying productive life for old people to their taxpayer-supported maintenance and death. Another socialist purpose proposed for the capitalist-dominated U.S. economy, but so far rejected, is that of universal health care. Publicly funded education through college and child-care are similarly as-yet rejected socialist purposes (note that socialized child-care is a way to ease the strain of industrial mode employment of women; the convivial alternative is socializing the costs of mothers caring for their own children).

Realize that all of these socialist purposes can be addressed in either an industrial or a convivial way. Too often the choice between an industrial organization or a convivial one is ascribed to either a capitalist or socialist motivation (whether as a recommendation or criticism).

This author’s preference is for convivial socialism, probably because he lives in a capitalist-dominant industrial economy.

Economic Leadership

The leadership classes of the United States are disproportionately populated by white males, and also include attendant females and accepted minority individuals (tokens) who service the class-race ascendancy imperatives. The whys and wherefores of this are well known. The essential public responsibility of an economic leadership class is to be competent (and, it should go without saying, to be honest).

Economic Living Conditions

The conditions of daily life in the U.S. are noted and reported on by the journalists of ethnic minority and working class life. At this time there is an economic depression for the working class because of the collapse of the housing market and financial bubble of 2007 [The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, which implemented the $700 billion emergency bank bailout Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), was signed into law on October 3, 2008], and because of the permanent loss of U.S. jobs outsourced to China and other minimum labor-cost economies.

The U.S. population has a capitalist utility as a market — a mass from which to extract cash and dump goods into — but this population is largely unnecessary as regards productivity (Pentagon industries excepted). Much cheaper foreign labor can produce the goods needed to absorb the retail cash from the U.S. market. How the U.S. population is supposed to get this retail cash in the first place does not seem to be a matter of concern for U.S. capitalism’s economic planners.

Food, energy consumption and entertainment, often in combined forms such as “fast food,” flashy oversized automobiles, giant plasma-screen home-theater systems and hand-held video-viewing telecommunications devices (telescreens aplenty), are popular retail goods. Like the soma and feelies of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, they serve the political purpose of pacifying the U.S. population so it conforms itself to the service of the capitalist industrial mode economy that profits from them. In rural communities in California’s Central Valley, Mexican-American children of farm-worker parents play with iPods in homes with dirt floors.

Decline And Expectation

The experience of economic decline is a matter of expectation. Investors in stocks, bonds, real estate and currencies might fear a decline of the U.S. economy when the productivity of foreign economies surges relative to that of the U.S. Changes of this type are the result of: continuing progress in less-developed nations, changes in labor and resource availability, the unexpected twists and turns of international politics, and the occasional influence of geophysical forces (e.g., natural disasters and climate effects).

Investors might also fear a “downturn” of their expectations if there is a serious possibility that sectors of the economy might be reorganized in a convivial fashion (meeting people’s needs instead of just extracting cash from them), or worst yet become nationalized.

However, if a working class family is now covered by an industrial mode national health care plan, it could easily experience better economic conditions even if the cost of the plan actually reduced the national gross domestic product, and the economy’s power relative to the international competition. That family would feel even richer if their health care were available through a convivial system of neighborhood-based physicians and clinics, even if the Wall Street Journal were to assure them that they were now living in an even weaker national economy. In reality, no wealth would be lost. Quite simply, the profit potential of investor fantasy in an industrialized mode capitalist economy would have been used to provide the people-centered national health care benefit. A potential wave of private profit, and chips for financial speculation, having been smoothed out into a rising tide of socialized benefit.

This is an evolving planet, and some can view changes in demographics as an economic decline. This is race-based thinking, something like tribalism; it is primitive, ignorant and very popular.

The fertility rate of whites is lower than that of nonwhites in the U.S., and the fertility rates of northern latitude and industrialized countries are lower than those of less-developed and tropical latitude countries. This is the glacially advancing demographic steamroller that flattened the apartheid regime of South Africa, will eventually inundate the Israeli colonial project in Palestine, and is darkening the complexion of North American and European life.

For some of the most insular and least cosmopolitan populations of white North Americans, the visible changes in the complexion of the leadership classes — still predominately white but now routinely mixed in with non-white personalities — is too jarring a reminder of their own social and economic stagnation, and they express their resentment over their own unacknowledged backwardness by a rejection of any society with nonwhite members of equal status. This in turn is voiced most honestly as simple racism (against Latinos, blacks and muslims in the U.S., and muslims and blacks in Europe), or disingenuously nuanced as anti-government sentiment, by which they mean opposition to the socialized purposes of the national economy because such socialized activity is by definition racially integrated. These are the Tea Party people.

These resentful whites, angry at the imagined loss of their assumed race-based socio-economic privileges rail about the illegal immigrants (a.k.a. Mexicans) “taking” jobs and “getting free government benefits” which they have to pay for through their taxes (this is usually just the overblown hyperbole of simple misers resenting taxation). Yet, they never seem perturbed that 53 cents of every tax dollar they hand the government goes straight to the Pentagon and funds the most wasteful and destructive subsidy on Earth, at a societal cost far beyond that actually created by undocumented immigrants.

But, these resentments grow out of fears born out of ignorance, and logical argument can do little to break through to the emotional engine driving this mindset. These people see loud, uncouth and very rich nonwhite people on their televisions; they see as their president a black man whose sophistication and intellectual attainments they will never match; in their towns and shopping malls they see Mexicans, walking in large family groups and chattering in an undecipherable lingo, and obviously spending money, where did they get it?

It all comes back to hammer the painful point home: “things aren’t as I expected, I’m not special, and they’re making me pay to have it this way.” This mindset sees national social and economic decay in the darkened complexion of the national demographic, and harrumphs about “taking the country back.” Tea Party politicians will try to actualize their faction’s guiding delusion by disabling as much of the socializing purpose of the national economy as will return the country to a more racially segregated and white-favored past, without the loss of subsidies popular with white people, like Medicare and the military. In this work of social regression they will be the useful idiots of the capitalist ownership class, for whom industrialization is profit, conviviality is taxation, and socialism is expropriation.

Decline? Yes Or No For Five Factors

1) Decline of economic power? Yes.

China and India combined hold 36% of the world population (2.49B of 6.89B). The 2010 GDP third quarter growth rate for India was 8.9% and for China 9.6%. These rates are representative of their respective economies during the last three years (though all economies experienced some dip near the 2008 U.S. banking collapse). The growth of U.S. GDP during the 2010 third quarter was 2.6%, and the average U.S. growth rate over the last 15 quarters was 0.49%. The U.S. population of 311.9M is 4.5% of the world total.

If we take the GDP (in 2009 $) of India, China, the U.S. and the World ($1.31T, $4.99T, $14.12T, $58.14T) and divide each by their respective population (1.155B, 1.331B, 0.312B, 6.893B) we arrive at a productivity per capita (GDP/#) of, respectively: $1134, $3749, $45,270, $8438. Note that we are assuming that every single person in the country (and World) is a “worker” who contributes to the GDP; hardly exact but usefully indicative.

We can compare the performance of two different economies by forming ratios from pairs of GDP/#, to arrive at:

— the number (at top of the resulting fraction) of U.S. workers that produce the same absolute output ($ amount) as

— the number (at bottom of the resulting fraction) of workers from India, China, the U.S. and the World, respectively,

— as: 1/40, 1/12, 1/1, 2/11.

So, the output of one averaged U.S. worker equals that of 40 averaged Indian workers (as defined here), or 12 averaged Chinese workers; and 2 averaged U.S. workers produce as much as 11 averaged World workers.

Performing the same exercise but this time comparing India, China, the U.S. and the World to the averaged World worker, we find, respectively (World/country): 2/15, 4/9, 11/2, 1/1. So, 2 averaged World workers produce as much as 15 averaged Indian workers, 4 World to 9 Chinese, 11 World to 2 U.S. (and 1/1 for World to World).

If we assume that the third quarter 2010 growth rates remain constant, then (by simple exponential extrapolation) the Chinese economy will match the total output of the U.S. economy in 15.8 years, at $21.2T (unchanging $).

By a similar extrapolation, India’s economy will match that of the U.S. in 39.9 years, at $39.4T. The estimated averaged Chinese “worker” productivity in 15.8 years will be one quarter that of the averaged U.S. worker then, and a similar calculation for Indian productivity at GDP parity yields 23% that of the U.S. in 39.9 years. (These calculations used national populations projected for 15.8 years and/or 39.9 years in the future; the projections were calculated using constant population growth rates of 1.3%, 0.5%, 0.9%, respectively, for India, China and the U.S.)

The sheer size of China’s population compared to that of the U.S. means that it must inevitably outpace the U.S. economy, as long as China’s productivity increases over time (and there is no revolutionary improvement in U.S. productivity). India follows the same trend but at less than half the pace.

2) Decline of economic organization? Neutral (yes and no).

The U.S. economy is as highly organized as it ever was, in its overwhelmingly dominant industrial mode. There has been no overall decline of organization, nor modal shift to conviviality (the no part).

However, there are significantly fewer industrial sectors today than existed three decades ago. The range of possible industrial production has diminished because of the permanent loss of major portions of the manufacturing base (the yes part).

In brief, civilian manufacturing industries have largely been “outsourced” to replace American labor with lower-cost foreign labor (primarily Chinese). Those portions of the domestic productivity base that have not been abandoned are strictly, even obsessively, organized along the industrial mode.

The haste, one might say panic, with which U.S. capitalist planners tossed domestic manufacturing labor overboard and walked away from domestic manufacturing physical plant suggests there has been little useful thought about the future economic impact of a swelling population of the permanently unemployed, and expanses of decaying industrial ruins (http://jalopnik.com/5110995/the-ruins-of-detroit-industry-five-former-factories).

The outsourcing gimmick has kept “the economy” (as experienced by U.S. capitalism’s management, ownership and investor classes) robust and competitive (factor #1). However, the detritus of mega-capitalist “open loop” schemes of wealth generation, in this case entire industries and their skilled domestic labor populations, is just too large a burden to dump onto the public for reabsorption and regeneration, without cost to the schemers. There will have to be “taxes” on future “earnings” to help pay for the reintegration of the jettisoned industrial capacity into a new type of all-are-included domestic economy.

The political conflict at hand is between capitalist exploiters and speculators, who wish to escape paying for the waste and societal damage of their schemes, and the working class taxpaying public (most of the people), which deserves receiving sizable payment for damages caused to the commonwealth, because the people of that public will do all the work of reprocessing abandoned industrial ruins and unemployed industrial workers into a new regrouped national community, with cleaned-up reusable sites, and revitalized neighbors, colleagues and co-workers.

3) Decline of capitalism and shift to socialism? No.

It would be wonderful, but circumstances have yet to decay to the point where they batter most Americans severely enough so they question their childhood indoctrination to capitalism (think Berlin or Tokyo, 1945).

Health care is the single issue that draws most interest to socialism in the U.S. today. The pressure for socialized medical care arises out of the stresses of the industrial mode of employment and service delivery.

I suspect that most Americans (U.S.) would lose interest in socialized medicine if they had access to a convivial capitalist health care system they could afford. An individual might state it this way: “If I have to be just one of the herd in some industrial medical system, then I’d rather it were government-run and taxpayer funded. At least then I wouldn’t have the added anxiety about paying for the indignity, nor even about being able to get it when I needed it. However, if I could get quick and easy access close to home anytime, and a professional to deal with the hospital for me when that was needed, I’d be happy to pay dues comparable to a swim club.”

4) Decline of economic leadership? Yes.

There has been an absolute decline in the competence of economic leadership, certainly since the days of John Maynard Keynes and John Kenneth Galbraith, and especially since the onset of the Reagan Administration (and Thatcherism in England), with its rabid Chicago School ideology (e.g., Milton Friedman’s “free market”).

The logical terminus of Reaganomics was the bank crash of 2008, though today’s economic managers remain witless before it, their minds still possessed by the free market cult. How can anyone think that the economic managers, ministers, experts and regulators, who collectively gave us the economic crisis of 2007 to the present, are competent? Unfortunately, neither these incompetents nor their Reaganomic mindset — which has eviscerated the American economy as a living experience, as opposed to an investment climate — have been swept off the scene so an authentic recovery and effective reforms can be started. Present U.S. fiscal policy is the equivalent of trying to blow air back into a burst balloon. Somewhere, Santayana’s ghost is laughing.

As described earlier, from a Tea Party perspective there has been a decline of the leadership elite by virtue of demographic titration. This is really a public health problem regarding epidemic mental illness.

5) Decline of the standard of living? Yes.

This is the great theft in the U.S. during the late 20th and early 21st centuries. A specific instance is the abandonment of the American skilled industrial laborer, but the overall scheme affects every working person: the socialization of vast speculative losses and the costs of capital flight from civic responsibilities.

As long as the political problem of reintegrating the U.S. economy, so it includes all workers in an equitable sharing of economic gains, remains unsolved, even unaddressed, then the standard of living will continue to decay, and with it prospects of long term profitability even for members of the elite economic classes.

“Big capital” uses its money to forestall any political engagement on this fundamental issue, and too much of the public accepts being distracted and pacified by high-tech trinkets, toys and endless entertainment streams, to focus on the work needed for their own education in reality, and the commitment needed to organize politically in the public interest.

When a quorum of the public wakes up (Yoo Hoo! Stop watching and believing TV!) and comes together to take action, the capital interests will be forced to negotiate for their survival, and that will make it possible to actually reform the economic machinery of the country, to re-rig the game in the public’s favor.

Conclusions

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, respectively: yes, neutral, no, yes, yes.

The economy-as-lived by Americans has declined steadily for three decades, and sharply after 2007. This economy is in a depression now, with no indication of imminent improvement. Further decline is inevitable unless an extensive recovery scheme is implemented (think non-militarized Keynes plus significant financial reforms plus large and permanent cuts in military spending).

The economy-for-investors, which hosts financial speculation, is growing slowly. However, it is a non-convivial shell game that excludes a large population of unemployed and underemployed people, except as members of a public dump used to absorb cast-off banking corporation liabilities and environmental damage. This is politically unsustainable in the long term. An economy that produces livelihoods for everyone is needed.

The long term solution to both problems is a reorganization and reorientation (a.k.a., ‘re-purposing’) of the U.S. economy, by dissolving and recombining the economy-as-lived and the economy-for-investors into a re-integrated whole. Of necessity, the result would have significantly more socialism and some more conviviality. A public that could accomplish this reform would understand that “lost” potential profits (which could have been had from the old economy-for-investors) would only have gone into risky and destabilizing gambling activities, and “lost” potential subsidies (like the excessive Pentagon favoritism in the old economy-as-lived) would only have gone into wasteful military adventurism and consumption. The new economy would produce living wealth.

How do we achieve this? Politics. Impossible? Remember, the barriers are all in our minds, collectively.

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Originally published on 21 January 2011:

American Decline
21 January 2011
http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/01/21/american-decline-2/

The re-posting here was prompted by the following.

“Deaths of despair” are surging in white America
23 March 2017
https://youtu.be/56k4TCJvVZQ

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Dvorák – From Johannes Brahms to Duke Ellington

Dvorák’s 9th symphony (From The New World) is wonderful. It sounds so “American,” yet is composed entirely of Bohemian folk themes, though Dvorák listened many times to Harry Burleigh (an African-American) singing Negro Spirituals just for him at the National Conservatory of Music in New York (Burleigh was a student), which Dvorák directed during 1893-1895. Dvorák blended the themes of his homeland into the sound and spirit of the musical America that Burleigh exemplified. As quoted in the New York Herald in 1893, Dvorák said:

“I am now satisfied that the future music of this country must be founded upon what are called negro melodies. These are the folk songs of America, and your composers must turn to them. … In the negro melodies of America I discover all that is needed for a great and noble school of music. They are pathetic, tender, passionate, melancholy, solemn, religious, bold, merry, gay, or what you will. It is music that suits itself to any mood or any purpose.”

Another of Dvorák’s African-American students at the conservatory was William Marion Cook, a violinist and composer. Cook, along with Fats Waller and Sidney Bechet mentored Duke Ellington in 1915-1916, encouraging the teenage Ellington to take his musical knowledge and talent into public performances (gigs in New York and on the road), and launch a musical career.

Dvorák himself had been discovered, mentored and financially aided by Johannes Brahms, and they remained close friends for the rest of their lives (for Brahms till 1897, for Dvorák till 1904).

(See wikipedia articles for Harry Burleigh, Will Marion Cook, and Duke Ellington).

So, from Brahms to Ellington, by way of Dvorák, Burleigh and Cook.

Dvorák’s New World Inquiry
How a Czech composer helped America find its authentic voice (2004)
http://www.austinchronicle.com/arts/2004-11-12/237252/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Burleigh

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Will_Marion_Cook

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_Ellington

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