On Wings of Light over Canyons of Blight

On Wings of Light over Canyons of Blight

Beam me up, Scotty!

I’ve got to get off this doomed planet dominated by Archie Bunkers, Gomer Pyles, Karen Dingbats, and their Toxic Bratspawn!

Power up the Phasers and load in the Photon Torpedoes when I get there!

We’ve got to blow all this wasted cytoplasm and ectoplasm back into the Gravitational Recycler of the Galaxy!

What I’ve learned from 9/11 ‘truthers’, anti-vaxxers and climate change deniers is that there is comfort in stupidity because it offers certainty in a world of doubts!

What can I teach? Nothing! Everybody already knows how they want to be ignorant!

Isn’t it amazing how something as brainless as a virus can outwit multitudes of the most pampered technologically-enriched populations of humanity: an emotional commitment to suicide by anti-thinking!

I am living out the opposite polarity of The Cabinet Of Doctor Caligari!

And so I cry out today… But…, a century earlier:

Nikola Tesla is sitting on his park bench on a crystalline crisp February morning tossing seeds and crumbs to New York City’s flocks of Rock Doves, who know him well for the regularity of his largesse. They wheel about him gracefully and wing down so elegantly to scuttle about his feet, pecking at the bounty of nourishing granules offered to them.

I have no doubt he would long watch them approvingly, delighting in their cooing and motions, while thinking to himself:

How different they are from the race of men: reliable in their behaviors, in expressing their wants honestly and without shame, and never pretending to be unselfish or — despicably — to be betrayers. How admirable they are as pure, unpolluted works of Nature. If only men could be like this instead of the myopically petty self-absorbed self-limiting disappointments they insist on condemning themselves into being.

It is so refreshing and enlivening to just sit in this cathedral of bright chill sunlight, sliced by long fingers of canyon-wall shade, immersed in the expansive subaural hum of Nature’s breath, and just watch the infinite cascade of Life’s eddies surrounding and enveloping me.

How sad that all the midget blind cyclopses of my species will never know they can live — transformed — in a Paradise they could extend forever. But here on this bench, at least, I have the comfort of experiencing that infinitude of joy for myself, alone.

“The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

I sat out under the high sun in front of my tall trees this morning, looking out across my modest wooded creek canyon as the gliding shadows of two hawks — their trailing edges emblazoned by the warm cascading radiance — passed over me in waves. What fools these mortals be that blind themselves to wonders such as these.

ON BEING A SUCCESS:

My great discovery — and rueful awakening — about “being successful” occurred when I was at ‘peak career’, and had gained enough experience and produced enough technical successes to apply for and deserve a promotion into “management.” Then it was all made very clear to me, not just by rejection, but by seeing who got promoted and why. The essential quality sought by higher-ups for moving ‘you’ up — below them — is a proficiency at lying to bring money into the organization and making the boss look good, and a demonstrated bullet-proof reliable loyalty at servicing the career advancement schemes of your boss and the boss class above you.

YOUR advancement comes when a bigger boss poaches you from your smaller boss, and your success is assured by applying the same technique for acquiring your own growing troop of faithful vassals below you. The organizational hierarchy looks like a troop of monkeys in a tree. The leader sits at the top, and the other monkeys are arrayed in the branches below him in descending rank order. The leader looks down to see a sea of smiling faces. The bottom ranked monkey looks up to see a sea of assholes. And the shit always rains down.

What I also learned from this awakening was that the merit and value, or venality and worthlessness, of any organization is entirely expressed by the actual (not public relations crafted) personal merit and (always cloaked) venality of the management leading and controlling the organization. Successful liars being in charge indicate a lying and exploitative organization — by design.

This may all seem obvious when stated as I have here, but it is not lived and felt as obvious by most people in the real ‘working’ and ‘political’ worlds. And this is why the rueful awakening — if it occurs — leads its no longer naïve sleepers startled out of their dreams, to the sinking realization: everything is a lie.

The one consolation (needed after the loss of income, perhaps precipitous) that can be gained after this point is the thought: do I really want to be the kind of person that becomes a careerist success by being a completely servile lying sycophant and back-stabbing betrayer? If your answer is “no,” you have discovered your self-respect as your central treasure and source of freedom, and you will have saved your soul. I can’t say this will fill your belly, but I can say this will let you die at peace with yourself and without shame.

Acknowledging the achievements of others — especially in your own field, and especially if superior to yours — is a mark of superior character, which too few have.

In the vastness of their popular cranial vacuity, Americans are enthralled with a celebrity culture to which they abjectly submit with expressions of envy over their own insignificance, and for the most deluded with pathetic expressions of self-inflationary grandiosity. Thus, American popular culture is an ocean of bullshit acidified with envy.

Sic transit gloria mundi.

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On Plato’s Republic and Just Societies

I see Plato’s book, Republic, as logic-based epistemology applied to political philosophy. Anyway, that would be my claim in my undergraduate Philosophy 101 essay on Plato.

The conceptual range of “logic” and “epistemology” and “politics” in Plato’s Republic is that of a sophisticated and prosperous well-educated aristocrat of late 5th Century and early 4th Century BCE Athenian-Greek society. That conceptual range is free of prehistoric animism, and Asiatic and Celtic mysticism; it is solidly materialistic and absent any “depth psychology” of the type that would be popularized by Sigmund Freud and C. G. Jung (the psychology of the “unconscious”). That conceptual range is also absent any qualms about hierarchical society structured on hereditarily-conferred class-based social status and functional roles, and which includes slavery.

So it is easy to see Plato’s Republic as the stone at the center of the plump fruit that is Western Philosophy with its inner flesh of Christian mythology and irrationality — which appropriated, subsumed, reformulated and blended prior pagan myths and mysticisms to serve the needs of temporal political hierarchy — its middle layer of Renaissance and Enlightenment rationalism, and with its outer flesh and skin covering as later envelopments by early 19th Century Romanticism — emotionalism — and late 19th Century Nietzschean anti-religious intellectualism, Freudian-Jungian depth psychology as a substitute for discredited and discarded Christian metaphysics, and the proletarian-socialist consciousness engendered by industrialization.

As 20th and 21st Century individuals, parts of each of us live in various prior periods of the development of Western Consciousness, depending on the particulars of the arcs of our personal psychological, family, ethnic, cultural, educational, economic and political situations.

The slow inter-bleeding of Eastern and Western Thought, at least since the 19th century, has somewhat diluted both, more fundamentally in the East that has become quite enthusiastically capitalist since the 20th Century, than in the West that has added a minor flavoring of Eastern philosophy into the self-absorbed and self-indulgent aspects of its materialistic consumerist obsessiveness.

In his book, Republic, Plato lays out his political philosophy for the establishment and maintenance of a stable, well-ordered and just society. In his time societies were city-states, like Athens in the time of Socrates, Plato and Diogenes. The essential element of Plato’s scheme is the “guidance” of the city — “governing” is too strongly “micro-management” of a word — by a class of “guardians” who were carefully selected and trained from youth for the task, and who were wholly devoted to it for their lifetimes: basically philosopher-guru-priests.

However, I note that the viability of Plato’s political formulation for the construction and operation of just societies rests primarily on the incorruptible moral character of its central and guiding personnel, the guardians, and secondarily on the reasonably stable decency of behavior of the citizens: that is to say, their morality.

Please note that by “moral” I do not at all mean “religious”; there is no functional correlation between the two (and in my view more likely an anti-correlation).

At least since the end of the Neolithic, the idea developed that a stable, well-ordered society (whether just or unjust, but always to the liking of its rulers) could be established solely by political means, such as in: monarchies, parliamentary democracies, socialist and communists states (most pointedly those sharply Marxist materialist), and dictatorships (whether purely materialistic or theocratic).

By political I mean social arrangements for societal management that are constructions external to the individual person. Note that such political structures can include elements of physical compulsion on individual behavior, and elements of thought-control by indoctrination and propaganda to capture, shape and distort individual thought, and that such political structures will still be external to the individual as a moral being.

So, I do not believe it is possible to ensure the stable continuation of any momentarily just society, whatever its political structure, solely on the basis of the forced maintenance of that political structure, nor solely on the basis of a change of political structure whether that change is reformist or revolutionary. Justice as societal stability requires a taproot into incorruptible moral character by a majority of the citizens. Justice is good politics and good political structure, and is a natural outgrowth of good and intelligent morality, which in turn is individually personified as character.

Given the above, I believe that any social movement aiming to “permanently” evolve, reform or revolutionize a society in need of anything from improvement to drastic change in order to make it universally just, has to base its efforts on developing the moral character of its movement adherents and the mass of citizens it wishes to convince, for lifetime incorruptibility. Here, we have faith that a society with a majority of its citizens being of incorruptible moral character will ensure the continuation of such in succeeding generations, by the operation of its educational systems.

Of course any serious movement for social change will act politically whenever it can to counter existing injustices and respond to humanitarian emergencies. But it must never lose sight of its chronic fundamental task — instilling ethics — regardless of the frequency and variety of crisis flare-ups it reacts to during the daily spectacle.

Yes, this prescription for engineering permanent social change for the better is an idealization that may seem impossible to implement, as witnessed by the history of human civilization, but I think it is nevertheless true and has been the most powerful force that has helped bring about whatever degree of decency any of our human societies possesses today.

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On Just Societies

In his book, “Republic,” Plato lays out his political philosophy for the establishment and maintenance of a stable, well-ordered and just society. In his time societies were city-states, like Athens in the time of Socrates, Plato and Diogenes. The essential element of Plato’s scheme is the “guidance” of the city — “governing” is too strongly “micro-management” of a word — by a class of “guardians” who were carefully selected and trained from youth for the task, and who were wholly devoted to it for their lifetimes: basically philosopher-guru-priests.

However, I note that the viability of Plato’s political formulation for the construction and operation of just societies rests primarily on the incorruptible moral character of its central and guiding personnel, the guardians, and secondarily on the reasonably stable decency of behavior of the citizens: that is to say, their morality.

Please note that by “moral” I do not at all mean “religious”; there is no functional correlation between the two (and in my view more likely an anti-correlation).

At least since the end of the Neolithic, the idea developed that a stable, well-ordered society (whether just or unjust, but always to the liking of its rulers) could be established solely by political means, such as in: monarchies, parliamentary democracies, socialist and communists states (most pointedly those sharply Marxist materialist), and dictatorships (whether purely materialistic or theocratic).

By political I mean social arrangements for societal management that are constructions external to the individual person. Note that such political structures can include elements of physical compulsion on individual behavior, and elements of thought-control by indoctrination and propaganda to capture, shape and distort individual thought, and that such political structures will still be external to the individual as a moral being.

So, I do not believe it is possible to ensure the stable continuation of any momentarily just society, whatever its political structure, solely on the basis of the forced maintenance of that political structure, nor solely on the basis of a change of political structure whether that change is reformist or revolutionary. Justice as societal stability requires a taproot into incorruptible moral character by a majority of the citizens. Justice is good politics and good political structure, and is a natural outgrowth of good and intelligent morality, which in turn is individually personified as character.

Given the above, I believe that any social movement aiming to “permanently” evolve, reform or revolutionize a society in need of anything from improvement to drastic change in order to make it universally just, has to base its efforts on developing the moral character of its movement adherents and the mass of citizens it wishes to convince, for lifetime incorruptibility. Here, we have faith that a society with a majority of its citizens being of incorruptible moral character will ensure the continuation of such in succeeding generations, by the operation of its educational systems.

Of course any serious movement for social change will act politically whenever it can to counter existing injustices and respond to humanitarian emergencies. But it must never lose sight of its chronic fundamental task regardless of the frequency and variety of crisis flare-ups it reacts to during the daily spectacle.

Yes, this prescription for engineering permanent social change for the better is an idealization that may seem impossible to implement, as witnessed by the history of human civilization, but I think it is nevertheless true and has been the most powerful force that has helped bring about whatever degree of decency any of our human societies possesses today.

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For Americans, the 1950s began in 1947, as Gore Vidal bemoaningly told us, and collapsed in 1964 after June 21. The 1960s began on 1 January 1959, in Havana, and disappeared steadily from October 1973, vanishing completely by 1978. The 1970s erupted on 11 September 1973 and died on 4 November 1980, when the Collapse of American Civilization lurched downward into freefall, which it continues plunging to this day as our Neoliberal Dark Age. While it is still deeply submerged, scattered faint glimpses of the Next Age have broken through the pall of our Neoliberal Dark Age with increasing frequency since 17 September 2011. Whether that Post Fossil Capitalism Next Age is strangled in zeitgeist utero by neofascism, or withered in its infancy by global warming, or lives to emerge into the open and break free to flourish, is for the future to tell.

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Climate Change is like an enormous steamroller that is inching slowly but implacably along the open road of our projected expectations, to roll over and flatten our comfortable situations.

Since we are all “cemented in place” in those personal comfort situations, that steamroller is bit by bit squashing us: first ‘here’ then ‘there’; some by sea level rise; some by hurricanes razing all; some by wildfire; some by deepening and eternal heat and drought; some by waves of disease pathogens sprung from out of formerly deep recesses in the wild; some by the increasing withdrawal of food availability; and some by the infighting all this sparks among us and that causes casualties from our war with ourselves.

First we lose our illusions, then we lose our money, and finally we lose our lives.

Those who refuse to face reality and relinquish their illusions will cause the most damage to their fellow human beings, by being rabidly competitive, as they slide down the cascade of suffering longer and ever obsessed to the death with their unrelieved anxieties of avoiding losses and pain. Those who jettison their illusions and face reality will a least gain the comfort of finding the company of similar people.

Even as the steamroller inches forward toward us, for everyone “the future is uncertain, and the end is always near.” One can pin oneself to an obsession with “the end,” and its avoidance; or one can open oneself to an appreciation for the processes of life, and to the sharing of such appreciation.

Climate Change is now our great teacher, and its lessons range from stark terror to transcendence. We have no choice but to live out those lessons, but we do have some choice in which of those coming experiences we can aim our personal selves to.

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For A Better World

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For A Better World

Utopia is an illusion that can be experienced dynamically, not statically; locally, not universally. You can maintain it for yourself for a while by a continuous effort, in the same way that a juggler maintains the ephemeral sequential image of three, four or five balls suspended as a constellation in midair. Your utopia is like that flickering image of uplift defying the gravity of oblivion because it is entirely an expression of your unrelenting artful input of purposeful energy: it is you. The constellations you juggle into flickering existence have as elements the people you relate to and trade influences with. When your juggling and theirs have resonances, your utopias become shared and sympathetic. If such sympathetic resonances have sufficient scope their utopian dynamic may last beyond a human lifetime, being passed on to subsequent generations. But, how large a scope and long a duration can we reasonably expect such personal utopias to have? Probably that of a family’s experience for a generation or less.

So, the challenge for the person who wishes to live in a world of compassion, of enlightenment and of justice, is to make and continue the effort to juggle a bubble of utopia into existence, despite the evident lack of compassion, enlightenment and justice throughout human history, and throughout so much of the world of the present day: to be ethical, generous, moral and tolerant in a world that seems forever dominated by venality, greed, lack of principles, and brutal intolerance. The challenge is to remain a steadfast and good-humored agent of good while being carried away by a torrent of corruption cascading to perdition: it is to be quixotic without shame. How is one to maintain such a purpose and find fulfillment in such a thankless role? Oblivion’s gravity is endlessly capable of sapping your energies to exhaustion, and oblivion’s glitter is endlessly capable of shattering your ambitions by ridicule and by trapping you into temporal failure: a lone monkey shunned by the collaborationist troop.

Why would anyone persist as such a challenger then? It seems clear that such perseverance emanates out of a sense of self-respect and self-worth: the maintenance of personal character measured against an absolute scale of moral conduct, without reliance on social bonds for the support of morale. This is pure defiance and pure celebration, the ultimate in self expression and self abnegation. It is the brave social insanity of a fully aware and fully sane person immersed in the insanity of a cowardly and tribal world, and resisting it. The radiation of such personal power, by lived example, is what can influence and resonate with others and possibly coalesce into the psychological and physical forces that levitate what few utopias exist at any given moment.

“Character is fate,” and utopia is personal character maintained in defiance of the overwhelming forces of assimilation, decay and inertia. To fret about “the end of the world,” which is always increasingly likely to occur as our history advances, is to pin our hopes on the illusory externality of a general coming together of human vision onto a consensus for moral action for the common good. The self-realized quixotic challengers for utopia know this is impossible, and that the continuation of whatever decency of existential experience they have managed to juggle into being are only propelled by self-generated and self-directed efforts independent of societal externalities. For them the end of the world is the collapse of decency consequent to the collapse of self, and the collapse of personal integrity, regardless of the collective course of fractious society. Objectively, our physical and social world could easily end, and soon, catastrophically and painfully. But, subjectively, no one of us is compelled to implode their intellectual and moral selves in collaborationist surrender to the many forces of decay leading to that extinction. We always have the power to seek sharing a nobility of lived experience regardless of what external reality confronts us with. Survival is a matter of chance, nobility is a matter of choice. Be well in that realization.

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Sunshine Girl, and Good People

Nit’s Cafe is a small, wonderful Thai-themed restaurant in Fort Bragg.

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Sunshine Girl

I saw the granddaughter of Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin today —
Beautiful girl —
Lives in Berkeley sometimes
Sometimes in Fort Bragg or Albion
Not sure what she does for a living
Maybe work part-time in Nit’s Cafe
But she’s a good singer
Makes up her own lyrics
Loves animals —
Feeds the hummingbirds
Has a pet skunk —
Not bad at gardening —
Trades with her tomatoes at the Farmers’ Market —
Even knows Spanish!
Said Zapata was an ancestor, it’s likely true
Said Santa Monica is like golf:
A Republican pig playpen
Lights incense to read
Rings a Tibetan bowl-bell when the Moon is full
Does her own math even, I’m impressed
Keeps bees I heard, earns her honey
Hikes the hills to see the hawks
Watches waves from the cliff
A tough cookie with a sweet disposition
Free spirit
Always fun when she’s around
Glad I lived long enough to know her

4 June 2020

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Good People

I do not think it is fair to ridicule people of modest education and sophistication, who are otherwise good-hearted, right-thinking and right-acting. Wisdom is not the same as intelligence, which is not the same as education. Education is the product of opportunity, and thus usually an accident of birth; intelligence is a product of genetics, and thus a blameless accidental attainment; and wisdom is a product of rationality coupled with good character. It is rationality and good character that are essential to the making of a complete person, and to the making of a good society.

4 June 2020

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What Can I Do About Climate Change?

The Problem:

Global warming is Nature’s response to capitalism. The Earth will easily survive global warming. Will humans? Maybe, maybe not. Mammals have an average species “lifespan” from origination to extinction of about 1 million years, although some species persist for as long as 10 million years. The species Homo is between 2 to 3 million years old. While it is physically-technically possible for humanity to act cooperatively (socialism) to revamp its manner of resource and energy extraction from Nature, and its waste disposal into Nature, in order to satisfy human needs (equitably) in balance with Nature, it seems sociologically, politically and psychologically impossible for that to happen (see the “Prisoners’ Paradox,” a.k.a. the “Prisoners’ Dilemma”). I think that humanity will always be reactive, and reactionary (e.g., Trump, etc.), when it comes to climate change, and so our “solutions” will always be “too late.”

For more about how this problem came about, and how serious it is now and will increasingly become in the future, see the reports linked at this we page:
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2017/04/26/climate-change-life-green-energy/

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How To Respond:

Your best response is to distance yourself as much as possible from capitalism, corruption, bigotry, and wastefulness of natural and energy resources.

Try to have a reasonable degree of solidarity with humans everywhere, to support attitudes and efforts of social and economic justice, and to support socialist projects aimed at improving the public good.

Socially, climate change implies a degradation of living standards and habitability, particularly for the vast majority of Earth’s people in the lower economic classes. By the definitions of money and wealth, the wealthier will always have a relative abundance of financial resources to continue buying their comforts and exclusivity of preferential treatment, however the conditions for economic security and habitability degrade. We are seeing this today with the disparities between rich and poor as regards the availability and cost of healthcare, and with the “gentrification” of increasingly desirable real estate locations, with a resulting displacement of modest-income renters both young and old.

As an individual, your best response is to make the most of your life, to achieve your full human potential, to develop as good a moral character as you can manage, and in these ways to be a positive force in all the lives you touch, as well as gaining for yourself the inestimable treasure of a fulfilling life.

It is awareness and attitude that are key. By understanding the reality of the conditions under which life-on-Earth operates in this current era – the Holocene – and having a socialistic attitude not restricted to the egotistical selfishness of obsessive acquisitiveness and careerism, you will live a life that naturally adds value to the collective life of our species and our planet.

No single individual, however favored by birth and circumstances, can single-handedly make a significant contribution to countering Climate Change and improving social conditions. Obviously, some individuals will have much greater opportunities to do so because they happen to occupy roles with greater temporal power and wealth. But the point here is of relative merit: given the range and limits of your personal situation, you try to do what you can – however simple and modest – along the direction you know is correct and just. “You do what you can with what you’ve got.” Beyond the specific physical results of “what you do,” there is the intangible value of inspiring others to make such efforts of their own, by you being a good example.

So, let them laugh if you plug the drain in your bathtub to save your shower and bath water, and then use pails of it to flush your toilet; or use a hose to siphon the “gray” bath water for the plants outside. Given the right awareness and attitude, you can figure out how to balance your level of comfort, the intervals between your showers, the actual olfactory sensitivity of the social circles you operate in (“smell” versus conservation), and your pacing and limits on water use. Similarly with food consumption and the reduction of food waste (ideally collected for either personal or municipal composting), and with an efficiency of fuel consumption for your automotive travel. It is very satisfying to know that you have been efficient, because you gain a sense of achievement for your skills at life-engineering, and because the awareness for being efficient brings you into a conscious harmony with all of life and Nature.

The best that any of us can do is to manage our lives so as not to be a burden to others, and then to add to the health and well-being of those near and dear to us. This will always be true regardless of climate change. The greater the solidarity within humankind, and the more equitable the social conditions, the greater the likelihood that we as a species will be able to respond to climate change in an intelligent and just manner.

As I concluded in the following article:

To my dear friend who asked me “How do you address this?” I say that my personal mantra for facing my ever-expanding awareness of reality is: Enjoy!, and Be Kind.

For an earlier and soothing presentation of recommended personal responses to climate change, see:
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2015/12/11/living-confidently-in-times-of-climate-change/

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In the end, it doesn’t matter what other people do, and it is not your personal responsibility to “save the world.” Authentic fulfillment is the satisfaction of knowing that you were the humanely best version of yourself that you could manage.

Enjoy!, and Be Kind.

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