By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers for Popular Resistance. The 2016 presidential election has shown how the duopoly, the two parties that represent big business interests and the wealthiest, are c…
It is the end of September, 2016. Here in the United States, the presidential elections loom before us in about six weeks. As I am sure you are aware, the ostensible choices for the next president (POTUS) are leaving the majority of us quite disgusted, to say the least. Never before have the American people had such absurdly unpopular humans running from the two main political parties. Never before have so many had the quandary of feeling they are not being represented by their political leaders. In short, this election is a fiasco.
But: We, The People, in fact DO have choices that many simply do not, or cannot yet see. The old and extremely tired argument that we MUST vote the lesser of two evils is simply one of the biggest lies ever fed to Americans by the power-elite. It is simply not true that we must vote for one or the other party, or else we throw our vote away. If only people would wake up to realize this, our votes would have infinitely more power than they do. There is no law stating that an American must vote for either the Republicans or the Democrats. It is not mandated by the laws. In other words, we have the ability to change our system by voting for a third, fourth or fifth party.
Look, most of us realize by now that the American system is grossly corrupted, that there is no actual democracy (if there ever was) and that the power-elite are running this world. The United States is a major, though not the only, decider of what goes on in our world. Folks, when you look around you, what do you see? Obviously we are in a tremendous crisis moment here on Earth. However, within crisis is opportunity, as Taoism reminds us. And right now, this election, is one of those opportunities to actually change our trajectory from disaster towards a world that is healthy.
When I look around and listen to what others are saying and feeling, I observe great cynicism, denial, resignation, anger and fear. All of these are the tools of the power-elite, to keep us ‘in our place’. What is that place? One word sums it up: Powerlessness. The solution? Take our power back.
When Bernie Sanders ran his presidential campaign, millions of people in America, and also the world, heard him. Millions of people got behind him, because he was speaking Truth to power.
Speaking Truth to power. Isn’t this what we really need to do? Where is your power, where does it live? We are a country made up of 320 million humans, and we are astoundingly diverse. And, we are simultaneously similar. I firmly believe that the vast majority of us desire to be free to live our lives and raise our kids in peaceful and healthy ways. We desperately want to save our planet from further destruction. And yet, we give our power away to idiots and blackhearts every single day. Why? Because we are living from a place of deeply rooted fear. Fear blocks us at every turn, and paralyzes us from standing up and speaking out for what we deeply believe in. As long as we do not raise our voices and our fists to the elite power structure (read: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and all of their supporters and money-backers) NOTHING WILL CHANGE.
Tragically, Bernie Sanders stepped down from his fight for the presidency. The real reasons for his decision are still unknown, but I can imagine he had good ones. But, Jill Stein is still in this race as the Green party candidate. If you haven’t yet heard her platform, please look her up and hear what she is standing up for: it is for the human beings, the animals, the land, for the Earth and for peace. These values are at the very heart of what the whole mess we call Life is about. If you don’t think so, then I implore you to look inside your heart and find out what is inside it. Where do you stand? Why are you taking up space on this planet, if you are not here to help the Earth, the animals, the land, and the people?
The times of ‘it’s all about me’ are done. This is a new time and the time is now to stand up for what you truly believe in, to awaken to the realization that we are the ones we came here for. Our first nation tribes are fighting for the Earth, for the Water, Land, Animals and People in North Dakota. They are putting their bodies on the line, they are opening their mouths, they are shouting, dancing, singing, standing up and praying: Save our Earth. It’s really so simple. Save our Earth, save ourselves.
Will you vote with your fear voice in November? Or will you finally allow your heart’s voice to sing out loud and clear across this country, across this world? Our future is being created now. What do you choose?
There is an amazing gathering of many spiritual warriors taking place right now. They are protecting the sacred land and the sacred waters of Earth. Together we can reclaim our planet and say NO MORE to those who wish to continue to desecrate her. I hope you will join this important movement in whatever ways you can.
Ocean-going canoes, made of giant cedar logs, paddled by a dozen or more members of costal Northwest tribes, are converging just south of Bismarck, North Dakota. They’ll be joined by river canoes from Montana tribes, lake canoes from Minnesota, and a cedar saltwater canoe from Juno, Alaska.
The tribal canoe families are joining members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who have pledged to protect the waters that make life possible in this arid region. These waters, they believe, are threatened by the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline, which would transport oil from the Bakken oil fields across the Missouri River, just upstream from the tribe’s reservation, and on across dozens of streams and rivers to Illinois.
The gathering at Standing Rock is already historic, whether or not the pipeline is stopped. A ruling on that question is expected on Sept. 9. Tribes that had been enemies for decades or longer…
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Today is a pivotal day in my political life, an Aha! Moment kind of day. Today I have gone to the mountain, and seen the proverbial Light. I gained inspiration today, and also some sorely needed encouragement from a community of like-minded others. Today I went to a Jill Stein- Green Party rally.
Now some of you may be groaning, and ready to delete this post from your trigger-happy finger. Please don’t. The last post I put up on facebook of a political nature (yes it mentioned Hillary Clinton in not the most glowing terms) landed a long and rather heated debate on my wall for a couple of days. That’s okay, at least people were reading and thinking and offering their opinions. Politics is one of the most emotionally charged subjects that we humans can address. I’d vastly prefer strong opinions, even anger, than apathy and denial.
Back to today’s rally. As some of you already know, I have been an ardent Bernie Sanders’ supporter this year. After the democratic convention and Bernie’s concession speech to Hillary, I (along with millions of other Berners) became despondent about the whole mess. I couldn’t go near the subject for the past month. And when I did speak with a trusted friend about the matter of what to do come November, his advice was to put aside the presidential nominee and rather focus on the issues at stake. The dems obviously have a better track record concerning matters of social justice, the environment, and then there’s the little matter of the future Supreme court appointees. As I listened to his patient explanations, that made perfect sense, my heart and gut simply refused to listen. As logical as his argument was for voting ‘the lesser of two evils’, I went home feeling uneasy and anxious. No matter how plausible, I simply could not fathom myself actually ticking the box next to that woman’s name. Everything she stands for screams Status Quo. She is the Powers-that-Be’s gal, their latest puppet, and a vote for her is a vote for Business-As-Usual. Honestly, who really wants more of that?
A friend told me about the Green Party rally to support Jill Stein happening today at a favorite café and meeting place for all things alternative here in Denver. I decided I’d go out of curiosity, since I really didn’t know much about her or her platform. As I sat and watched the event unfold, it became more and more interesting. Arn Menconi, a candidate for US Senate from Colorado, spoke and did his best to rile up the crowd. He’s a very progressive candidate who is needing many thousands of signatures to get on the ballet this November. Then there was a funk band who did a great job of raising the collective energy in anticipation of Jill Stein. Finally she arrived, to thunderous applause. Stein spoke for about 45 minutes, and by about halfway through, I was won over. My cynicism, which began with the thought, ‘this woman doesn’t have a chance in hell of winning this or any election,’ was overtaken more and more with head nodding, agreement, then clapping and WoohHoohing. Jill Stein is no slouch, folks.
She told it like it is to the crowd, in plain and eloquent language. There was no hedging nor skirting issues. The Green Party’s platform is calling for a “Green New Deal” as a 2016 version of FDR’s famous New Deal during the Great Depression of the 1930s. She called for the creation of 20 million new jobs in the clean energy sector, a $15 minimum wage nationally, an end to fracking and a moratorium on new fossil fuel infrastructure. They want to cut the military budget in half, thereby using all those trillions of dollars on social programs and green energy. Their goal is 100% renewable energy by 2030 (admittedly a lofty, if important goal). She spoke at length about racial injustice, and the need to create a Truth and Reconciliation commission that would engage in dialogs around racism and slavery that have existed for the past three hundred years, creating pathways for healing of those very deep wounds. She also spoke passionately about immigration, reminding us all of the fact that, other than the first nation tribes, all of us are immigrants in the United States. Their platform includes a roadmap for gaining Medicare for All at a national level, using a single payer system. She mentioned wanting to create a system for reparation to those who have (and continue to be) oppressed in this country. She came back to the goal of ending the United States’ role as warmongers in the name of peace repeatedly. She spoke about our Common Humanity on a world-wide level. She talked of forming a new Foreign Policy based on international law, human rights and diplomacy. She spoke of creating a Peace Offensive, and mandating a weapons embargo.
In short, Jill Stein’s speech embodied all the ethics, moral values and ideals of social and political justice, along with the creation of new ways of being a country for the greater good of everyone, not just those who are in power and want to remain so. She is a feisty, highly intelligent and non-corrupt human being who happens to be a white woman, and she is running for presidential office this November. She and her running mate, Ajamu Baraka, are working hard to gain enough support to be able to be included in the presidential debates next month. If enough people supported them, they could be a part of the conversation, so sorely in need of intelligent and compassionate voices for us all.
Jill Stein put it plainly today: the idea of ‘voting for the lesser of two evils’ is simply propaganda that is promoted by the Power Elite through their arm of disinformation, The Media. She urged us to not buy into it any longer. It simply isn’t true that you must vote for one of the two corporate party candidates. You can, and indeed absolutely should, vote your conscience. Vote for what you most believe in, dear Readers. Are your beliefs based in fear, or in strength, in your own human power? Stein urges us to take our power back, to choose to go from feeling powerless, to claiming the truth of our powerfulness. And this year proves that fact: Millions of people turned out to vote for Bernie Sanders, enough to have voted him into the White House. Why he chose to concede to Clinton, and in fact support her efforts to become president, is frankly beyond me. But nevertheless, now Jill Stein is standing up to continue this fight for the future of not only the United States, but actually the Earth. What happens in America has huge implications for the rest of the globe. Do we really want to acquiesce to Business-As-Usual, the warmongers, fossil fuel execs and banking corporations that have done a fine job of utterly devasting large swaths of our land, water, wildlife, people and societies? Think about it. If you give up and do nothing, then you simply give your power away. And if you choose the ‘lesser of two evils’ well you are still choosing evil, aren’t you?
I am telling you, it is NOT a pipe dream to change how things are, how they have been. We are powerless as long as we believe that we are, that They are too strong and We are too weak and our voices don’t matter. Our voices DO matter, every single one. If every disenfranchised person living in the United States woke up and decided to be powerless no more, to raise their collective voices for themselves, their families, their communities, their land, their waterways and foodways: in other words, if we collectively stood up and spoke our truth to power, well it’s pretty obvious what would happen.
Martin Luther King Jr., one of the bravest and strongest humans to walk this Earth in recent history, gave one of the most powerful speeches in the history of the United States in 1963, on behalf of Blacks in their struggle for Civil Rights. I feel that his words apply today, not only to people of color, but for all of us who are oppressed and have lives of hardship and injustice here in America in 2016. Therefore I am changing his speech to reflect all the people who feel this sense of urgency. He said:
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of The People’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. 2016 is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that The People of the United States needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until all The People are granted their citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
Dear Readers, I implore all of you who are feeling even the tiniest bit uneasy with your political choices for the upcoming presidential election, to consider looking further into the Green Party’s platform and what Jill Stein is standing up for. Especially those of you who wanted Bernie Sanders for president. Look them up online at www.Jill2016.com or just google her, Ajumu Baraka, or the US Green Party. Find out more and really learn about the choices and issues at stake. Take the time to do some research on your own and ignore the naysayers. As the old Zen saying goes, ‘The people who say it cannot be done should not get in the way of the people who are doing it.’
Hello again dear Readers! Facebook let me know that it has been 189 days since my last post, which is incorrect, but still, it feels like a good time for a post.
Joni Mitchell once wrote a popular song with the words, “everything comes and goes, like old lovers and styles of clothes.” I am feeling the truth of her words often these days, when it seems that so much of life flows along the stream of days and nights with barely a backward glance. Time has taken on a whole new dimension: certain moments feel large and profound, and many other times I can barely believe that ‘whatever it was’ happened only a short 24 hours ago. Although linear time is still a construct we collectively agree to, it feels like it is certainly going out of fashion quickly.
Summer is fading fast, as it always seems to do in late August. Some of us are sad to see it go, while others (myself included) are happy at the thought of sweater weather and cool mornings, temperate days, and the beauty of autumn. September brings new projects, school days, and a good supply of vegetable and fruit harvests to us. This summer has been the hottest ever recorded, according to global climate scientists. It has brought catastrophe and deathly heat to parts of our planet. I am extremely fortunate to live in a part of the United States that has been free from these scenarios, yet I feel deeply for those affected by floods, drought, fires and extreme temperatures.
I am in the middle of an extraordinary and important book for our times, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible, by Charles Eisenstein. He wrote it in 2013. Eisenstein is not only a brilliant scholar, but a real humanitarian and important thinker for our present times. His words throughout this book resonate with deep chords in my soul, as he strives to explain the unique space we are collectively in at this point in history. He writes that we are essentially walking the land of the in-between: no longer is the old story of separation and power over our overriding philosophy on Earth (although there is still plenty of evidence of the old, crumbling story of civilization everywhere one looks), while the new Story of Interbeing is still being formed. He writes,
The more we share with each other this kind of knowledge, the stronger we are in it, the less alone. It needn’t depend on the denial of science, because science is undergoing parallel paradigm shifts. It needn’t endure the denial of livelihood, because from a trust in gift we find unexpected sources of sustenance. It needn’t withstand rejection by everyone around us, because more and more people are living from the new story, each in his or her own way, inducing a feeling of camaraderie. Nor is it a turning away from the world that is still mired in Separation, because from the New Story we access new and powerful ways to effect change. (Eisenstein, 16.)
Reading Eisenstein’s book is an act of hope and of affirmation. He is wide awake to the world, where we have come from, and where we aspire to go. He is under no illusions about the difficulty of this journey. He is wonderfully honest. He acknowledges our cynicism, despair, and denial within the process. He also is a champion for vulnerability, naiveté, and courageousness. He advocates for both spirituality and activism as complementing each other. According to Eisenstein, “If everything has consciousness, then what we had believed possible, practical and realistic is far too limiting. We are on the cusp of an epochal breakthrough, coming into touch with the mind of nature. What can we achieve when we are in harmony with it?”
Dear Readers, this year has been transformative for many of us, myself included. We have worked very hard to let go of much of our old, third dimensional thinking and baggage. We have been clearing out what no longer serves us on all levels: physical, emotional, mental, soul and spirit. Many of us are coming into better alignment with the natural world, the unseen realms of nature spirits, beings from other worlds, the angelic and devic. We are growing and evolving exponentially right now, and feeling the various effects of that growth. I teeter between feeling fabulous one hour, to needing major sleep and contemplative time alone. No matter what your patterns or symptoms, the fact is that we Humans are changing, and it is not only necessary, but so very good, healthy and promising for the future.
It is easy to look at the world and become alarmed, frightened, angry, self-righteous, indignant, and generally anxious. We see before us a world that is crumbling, the dying paradigm of polarity and separation tearing apart as we watch. It is easy to get drawn into the fray, and give energy to that dying world. And yet. Even as all that is happening, there is, as Eisenstein so eloquently reminds us, a new world that is coming into being. It is not fully here yet, and yes there will surely be much more disintegration and crumbling of the old system before the new is firmly anchored. We are living through tumultuous times. These are times that call for all of the courage, grounding, sanity and resilience we can muster. If you haven’t already, make friends with your neighbors. Join a group and do some volunteering in your city or town. Grow a garden, or help in a community space. Give away everything you no longer use or need, and simplify your life. Most of all, consider the value of service. The next time someone pushes your buttons and you want to rip his or her head off, ask instead, How may I serve you? Anger, frustration, judgement and bitterness are the old story. It is time to stop adding anymore of that old energy into the world, and instead to add your positive energy, enthusiasm, sanity and wisdom. How may you serve the new world that is wanting to grow?
I wish everyone who may read my blog a blessed and productive, happy and peaceful autumn. I see the light and the love within each of you, and I am honored by it.
(from Amazon.com review of The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible: “God damn this is good! This version of the big story by Charles Eisenstein is one of the best I have ever heard. Charles, you are speaking for millions of us and we so know what you are saying to be true. We will absolutely tell the whole fucking world about it.”
—Brad Blanton, author of Radical Honesty)
Today is yet another sad day, in a string of many such days. A black man was shot in cold blood by a white police officer, for doing nothing at all. His girlfriend sat next to him, helpless to do anything except silently obey the officer’s demands, as she listened and watched her man dying senselessly. This is insanity.
Yes, the man was black. Yes, racism is very alive and seems to be thriving here in the United States. Blacks, especially young black men, are being specially targeted by the police all across the country. They do not need any reason to pull out their guns and fire, and are mostly allowed, and even encouraged, it seems, to murder these men freely and at will. But what is really happening here, now, in 2016?
Racism is an old, old story on Earth. Races of people have been warring and killing one another for as long as history has been recorded. It is true that our most recent collective memory shows that white-skinned people, particularly men, have been the biggest perpetrators of dominance, violence and controlling people of color in the world. This is continuing unabated in many countries today. The real question is, What can we collectively do about it, so that all people may live on Earth in peace?
There is little argument that the United States has become a police state. Our government pretends that we still have freedom and is a ‘democracy’ but anyone who has eyes to see and ears to hear knows this is a lie. Major cities across the US have devoted a hefty portion of their fiscal budgets to maintaining well-trained and armed police departments. But make no mistake: they are no longer there for the protection of their citizens, but rather as the henchmen of government leaders, to keep the status quo. They are ubiquitous and dangerous. At the first sign of perceived trouble, an officer is trained to pull out his gun and fire. If one’s skin happens to be dark, the trigger is pulled even faster, as countless shootings have evidenced. If one is homeless or appears unstable in any way, they are fair game for harassment and violence, rather than compassion and help.
When we consider history as our guidepost, we find many examples of societies that became totalitarian and eventually fell. Even in the recent past of the 20th century, we can look to Europe for these examples: Spain’s fascist regime, spanning over 70 years of iron-fisted rule, the USSR’s domination of the whole of eastern Europe for seven decades, and of course, Nazi Germany’s insidious rise to power during the 1930s through the end of World War II. In all these scenarios, the government’s leaders were able to take power because they fed the unrest of the people, increased it through propaganda, then once they had enough of the citizenry behind them, took power with an iron fist. What happened to topple all these regimes involved the people standing up to that power in numbers and strength great enough to fight, and eventually unseat the regime. And yes, a lot of violence and killing was involved.
We stand at a crossroads at this moment in history, here in the United States. Our government has become completely corrupted, it is rotten to its core. The architects of the US Constitution are, I am quite sure, turning over in their graves to know what has happened to their enlightened vision for this country 240 years ago. I am not here to argue about small details of historical events, but rather to remind all of us once more, that freedom from all tyranny, whether of race, religion, creed, or any particular belief system, is and has always been, won by the virtue of enough People coming together with a common vision and desire for the Common Good of All. In this time we are living through now, people of color are being targeted by those in positions of power, from the municipal level to the highest levels of authority in Washington D.C. It isn’t fair, it isn’t equitable, and it is certainly not humane. Yet it keeps happening, with regularity. We, The People, must stand up and speak to this power of domination in no uncertain terms, and say, NO MORE.WE WANT PEACE. All of the great leaders of Humanity have done exactly this, in every corner of the world. It is the only way to change it.
So yes, white people must stand with Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, Middle Easterns, Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Atheists and those who have no set belief system: All must go beyond their self-appointed labels and find common ground. What do we ALL have in common? A lot, for we are all humans, living on a finite, wonderful and terribly abused planet that is our COMMON home. We are NOT separate: not from each other, not from the animals, land, ocean, every living being and not from Gaia Terra herself. If each and all of us could, would be willing, finally, to truly understand this at a core level of soul, that by hurting any other living thing we only hurt ourselves, this world would change in an instant.
Bob Marley once wrote, “you think you’re in heaven but you’re living in hell.” We live in a hell of our own making when we choose to remain blind to the truth of our very existence: We Are ONE: There is in Reality, no separation. Look at a tree: is the branch separated from the trunk? The leaves something other than members of the tree itself? The roots, are they not intricately connected to the whole? And the birds, insects, spiders and all the microscopic life that lives in and on the tree? It is a whole being, a whole system with different parts, but they are all connected. This is how life works, it is who and what we are, why we are here, and what we are learning: All is One, in this grand experiment we call Life.
People, it is time to move beyond this terrible illusion of separation that we have been living under for all these millennium. The time is NOW. How many more people have to get shot, raped, hurt and destroyed senselessly before we finally can see the truth? Violence is never the answer, even if it may feel like a vindication in the moment. As long as people continue to hurt and destroy each other, the cycle will continue. Lay down all arms, and instead use your own arms to love another, to love yourself. Love is the answer, because it is the truth. Love, Light and Truth are all synonyms, they mean the same thing, they are all the same power. Let’s take our real power and use it for the Good of All.
There is a waning crescent moon outside my window tonight, reminding me that there is still a sliver of light within even the darkest night. Tonight is the eve of the rather ubiquitous Valentine’s day, a holiday that, more than any other which falls within the calendar year, serves to remind one of the folly and pain of love for those who are not currently in a hot relationship or happy with their partner.
Working inside my local and very mainstream American grocery store today, everywhere was decorated with products emblazoned with pink and red, while roses, chocolate covered strawberries, hearts, flowers, and every other kind of kitch imaginable to sell shoppers this holiday of love is on offer. Ugh. The whole thing made me want to run screaming away (as I do so often while working, but especially so today.) Another marketing extravaganza for the great American consumer society to lap up. And lap they do. In the cheese shop section of the store where I work, many slices of creamy, sexy (?) brie cheese were bought by couples, as well as many other delicacies for their lovemaking weekend of bliss. Now, before you, dear Readers, think I am just an old sourpuss for not thinking it is sweet or fun, please know that I understand all too well just how sensual and wonderous food and wine can be, especially in concert with other kinds of sex and romance on just such an occasion. Back to my original point, which is the pain and folly of romantic love for some of us humans walking around the planet this weekend.
For the handful of you who read this blog, a few may remember that when I started writing, I was living with my Danish love in the country of Denmark, a bit lonely for my homeland and friends, but in love nevertheless. That was back in 2012, which feels like ancient history by now. Fast forward four years, and here I am on Valentine’s day eve, with no lover to dip strawberries into whipped cream and drink champagne with, among other delights that I won’t go into but instead will leave up to your imagination. It has been a long time since I have written honestly about my personal life on this blog, since I decided that it seems more important to write about what is happening in the larger picture of Earth and humanity than my own small life and problems. But. Tonight I am indulging myself in a bit of emotional processing for my own sanity, and you are invited to either read along, or delete this blog post. Your choice, as always.
This evening at work, I heard a couple of co-workers’ stories in short form. One, a woman about my age and a New Yorker through and through, described her life as a series of interesting jobs, a failed marriage, leading to her life completely coming apart, a brief stay with her father in southern Florida, meeting a nice man, working with, then moving in with him, and one day about a year ago, getting on a plane with him and coming here to Denver, where they remain to this day. There was a lot in between the lines of her story that I intuited, which involved pain and suffering. Then I heard another story, by a man who started the same week as I, who told me that ten years ago he was on track to finish his degree for becoming a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant), when suddenly out of nowhere, the financial aid woman told him he’d borrowed his limit of money for school, and cut him off. He had only 4 courses to go to finish his degree. Zap, just like that, there he was with a big debt, no degree and no CNA career ahead.
I am guessing that, were I to interview others who work at that big, highly corporate grocery store, I would find many more variations of the same theme: people who have gambled with their lives and mostly lost. It is a kind of land of broken dreams that I now find myself in, and I admit that I fit right in with the other lost and broken dreamers. I too have gambled with my life and lost, many times. In fact, I could make the case that I have mostly lost everything that mattered to me at one time or other. Sometimes I get very down about this fact, and feel like a real loser in this game we call Western Contemporary Society. I see others who look like they are winners, and I feel badly in comparison. Now, some of you, dear Readers, may want to tell me to just change my attitude and raise my self esteem and everything will be just fine. Well, maybe. On the other hand, when I look around and hear fellow travelers’ stories, I have to shake my head. There are many of us who have not ‘won’ in this game we are forced to play. Very often I have only wanted to escape, and somehow find another way to live that doesn’t involve winning and success in order to be happy. I have had glimpses into these other worlds, alternative lifestyles, or ‘off-the-grid” living situations. They seem nearly ideal to me, and I have wanted to be able to stay there for the duration. But never was I able to do that, something or someone always pulled me back into mainstream life again. So here I am, summoning my will strongly each day I have to go into that job, putting a smile on and asking folks if they want to sample some cheese. I am a cheese pusher now.
Tonight before I left work, I caught the last five minutes of the Republican debate in South Carolina. I heard three of the candidate hopefuls give their last pitch to the good old conservatives of that state, to try to convince them to vote for him in the primary election. Each one of those men said very similar things, and the gist of it was as follows: “I will be the man to help get our great country back to being great again, to having its values restored of one man and one woman marriage, of having God be our authority and not the government, to getting rid of Obamacare, to abolishing the IRS (granted this is not a bad idea), to keeping our enemies afraid of us, and most of all, to once again being the most successful country in the world.” After each candidate spoke, there was a burst of applause as the audience obviously agreed and liked each man’s words. What I realized from hearing these speeches tonight, is that we are still very divided in the United States between the folks who want to keep things as they remember them being for much of their lives, and don’t like the idea of anything changing (this is obviously a very large topic), and the folks who are at the completely other end of the spectrum, like me, who are very much wanting things to change radically for the betterment of humankind, starting with better laws, much greater equality between classes, races and economic divides, more honest and progressive people making decisions for the rest of us, and of course, a lot greater protection for our environment and all the beings living here. For folks like me, the concept of “winning against our enemies” does not exist, it is about quite other issues entirely.
How can we humans possibly resolve the gaping split that divides us? How can we meet and agree upon the most pressing issues of our times, when half the population simply wants to pretend that we can keep doing business as usual, and even return to pre-catastrophic times here on planet Earth, just denying and not even being willing to see the state that the planet, the country, and many many many of the people are actually in? Just right now, on this rather depressing evening before Love Fest 2016, it is feeling slightly impossible. Then again, I recall my dear friend’s admonition to me: “We’ll do the possible today, and the Impossible tomorrow.” Tonight I can only say, We’ll see.
(Warning: this post will be a rant, so if you are feeling light and happy and wish to stay that way, don’t bother reading this one. Thanks for your understanding, Leigh)
In the space of the past twelve hours, my emotional soulstate has run the gamut from peaceful, strong and grounded, to disappointed, bored, anxious, resentful, sad, angry, doubtful, curious, frustrated, and even nauseated, and now simply grounded and resigned. Quite a boatload for one day in the life. Are you feeling alright?
If I had a magic wand or superpowers to change this world, I would not hesitate. Everybody would be in for quite a surprise after my rework of this third dimensional world was complete. The first thing I would do, I think, is to obliterate television and all the industry that feeds it while being fed by it. What a disgusting monster it is. It works to portray the absolute basest and worst of human nature while also drawing people into its poison trap. But no, that is only a small sidebar of what I need to rant on tonight, dear Readers.
Paramahansa Yogananda, the great Indian guru who came to the United States during the early 20th century to help raise human consciousness, once said (I am paraphrasing), “This world is like a terrible horror movie. All the people sitting in the audience don’t know that it is only a movie, and so as they watch it they are believing it is real. But the best thing to do is to get to the beam. Get to the light, for it is only a play. What is Real is the light of God.” His words are absolutely true, and more important than ever.
What is real, and where is the beam in 2016? Nearly everywhere I look I see disillusionment, despair, disappointment, disaster and people trying in various ways to cope. Self medication is popular through the use of tobacco, recreational drugs and alcohol, gluttony, and caffeine. Many use electronic devices to distract. There are hundreds and thousands of ways to check out of this world for a minute or a lifetime. Yet for most of us, sooner or later we once again must come back to the basic nature of our life, and we find what? One of the great mysteries, ourselves.
It takes real audacity to live on this planet now, and to do it well, yes, superpowers. I mean this not metaphorically as much as literally. To stay sane and sober in the middle of it all takes creating some super powerful energy from within to develop ways to cope and smile and be compassionate.
Four weeks into my job as a cheese clerk at my local supermarket and I can barely stomach being there. It’s a Great American supermarket, full of just about every kind of food imaginable that’s available in this country. It’s bright, shiny, colorful and packed with foods and merchandise of every description. And it’s all on offer, every single day and night for one’s shopping convenience. All you need is money, honey.
Each shift that I work provides me with yet another opportunity to see how much food gets thrown out for the flimsiest of reasons. To be fair, my store donates a considerable amount of unsellable food to the food pantries, and so helps people to get a myriad of free groceries when they go for their allotment. But. So much more perfectly good food gets tossed into the garbage compactor or industrial compost bin even as people are sleeping on the streets of this town, cold, hungry and about as low as one can get in their station in life. Why can’t any of this food be given to the homeless?
As I am sure many of you know, Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign is gathering a lot of momentum now. Following the trail on facebook each day, it is obvious that the Occupy Wall Street movement has devoted itself to getting Bernie into the White House this autumn. He is the Everyman’s Hero, a regular guy who is honest, cannot be bought, has been playing the game of Washington politics for a very long time, and he’s rallying the troops big time. He’s calling out Wall Street and the “billionaire class” for their crimes against humanity, he’s taking names and he’s intent upon dealing with the criminals in the way that so many of us would like: throwing them the hell out of their cushy seats of power and sending them to jail with no bond. Bernie is making all kinds of promises about what he will do to right all the wrongs done to Americans by those evil billionaires when elected. And it sounds so good, and I want to believe it could happen so very much.
Then I catch myself. Our American political system is at the point of being so corrupted, so full of arrogance, greed, self-interest, blasphemy and idiocy, that I honestly do not know how it can really be fixed. It really needs a complete and real dismantling and starting over again. Ben Franklin said it: About every 200 years, governments need a revolution and a new plan. That is where we are now.
Today I saw a video made by a couple of scientists who were in the Arctic in November and filmed a gigantic chunk of glacier ice calving, or splitting apart and crashing into the sea. They said the size of the piece that broke off was around the size of lower Manhattan, except the walls of ice were more than twice as high as the skyscrapers. Watching the short clip was utterly awe-inspiring. Before my eyes, the ice that has made up the top of our earth for thousands of years was deconstructing itself. I do not doubt that it won’t be too much longer before all of the Arctic has melted completely. Then our world will look considerably different than it does today.
The buds on some of the big trees in the park near my home are getting fat. It is the last day of January, I am writing from Denver, Colorado. What we used to think was normal, for example, trees budding in late April and blooming beginning of May, is quickly becoming a history lesson for the young. So much of nature is having to adapt to new patterns of growth and decay, or else will probably not make it into the earth’s future. Animals and humans as well. I envision a future where it will be virtually impossible to tell if the creature next to you on the street or in the commuter train is natural or a human constructed android of some kind or other. The science fiction authors are closer to the truth than we can really know.
I admit it freely: this future is not one that I want to live in. Not At All. I know I am an old-fashioned person with peculiar ideas, but living on a world that no longer differentiates between what is natural (meaning not messed with by man) and what has been created in a laboratory somewhere, where no one understands much of anything about the substances they ingest, including what passes for food, and where people are so disconnected from each other and themselves that they can no longer acknowledge another’s presence, is a world that I refuse to be a part of any longer. Sorry, but the game is over for me at that point. And it seems like it is fast approaching, already here.
Send me the map, give me the plan, help me to find the way. The way out of this madness that passes for our world, our common life, and into some nice bubble world where the people are kind, where society doesn’t undermine one’s efforts to simply live in peace, and where things are still Real. Does such a place exist in time and space? I don’t know the answer to that. But I surely want to believe that it does. Over the rainbow, perhaps. On another world. Maybe in another universe even. Tonight, I am ready to have them beam me aboard.
At the start of this new year, 2016, the world is looking messier and more chaotic than ever before.
In nearly every arena, from political to economic to cultural to environmental, people are behaving badly, with cruel and barbaric actions the norm for far too many humans on Earth. How much longer will we collectively tolerate such inhumanity on this planet? Why do we keep allowing it to play out this way? What can we do to turn this boat around, if anything?
As I look around at the industrialized world (both in the larger world via various internet sites and my own small, personal world), a few things feel crystal clear. One, the vast majority of people remain committed first and foremost to their own small world of themselves, their families, friends, pets, and work. This accounts for (I am guessing) about 90% of their thoughts, feelings and actions in the world. The other 9% seems to be divided into leisure activities such as drinking and eating, sex, shopping, and entertainment. For those few humans who have 1% of their thoughts, feelings and time free, the ideas of charity, do-gooding and saving the world belong here. Hence the state of our planet currently.
Perhaps this completely unscientific analysis seems rather harsh or unfair to you, dear Readers. After all, the people who read this blog are those few and rare individuals who probably spend considerably more than the average person’s amount of time and resources on doing good in and for this world. For that, I can only simply say, Thank You. But tonight, after seeing too much news, mainstream television (about 5 minutes is too much for me), and listening to ‘regular folks’ talking during the past week at my new job (as cheesemonger for my local grocery store), this is what I have surmised: few, if any, care about anything other than themselves and their own lives.
This is not the first time I have felt discouraged about the state of humanity, obviously. But at this moment at the beginning of this new year, this knowledge saddens me more than I can express. Even the simplest actions, such as recycling metal cans or glass bottles, fails to register as even mildly possible to do for far, far too many people. Sometimes I feel pretty hopeful about the future of this planet and its humans, even contemplating the idea that one fine day we will wake up as a collective and realize that killing each other and destroying our home, Gaia, is senseless and an utter waste, and we will stop it. Then I remember. People can’t even figure out how to set a can in a recycle bin, how are they possibly going to find out how to live with each other and the planet in a non-harmful way?
My big fascination right now is following all the folks who are grassroots organizing for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. In the past month, thousands of people across the United States have sprung into action to help get him the Democratic nomination. It has been very inspiring for me to see what seems like many people actually rally around this humble man, as he bravely and tirelessly tells us all where it is really at in this country, and why it seriously needs changing. The word he and his followers is using is one that is at the heart of what the United States was founded upon: REVOLUTION. It is a word that some people (the ones who have had an iron grip on this country for far too long) are deathly afraid of, and will probably stop at nothing to prevent from happening. And yet:
Stop it they cannot, for the time has come, things have coalesced to the point in time and space where The People (at least some of them) are standing up and shouting, with Bernie Sanders as their leader: NO MORE BULLSHIT. WE WANT CHANGE IN OUR GOVERNMENT THIS YEAR. EQUALITY. LIBERTY. JUSTICE. INTEGRITY. HONESTY. WE WANT OUR ELECTED GOVERNMENT TO WORK FOR US, HERE AND NOW. WE ARE MAD AS HELL AND WE ARE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE.
Words and rants similar to these were used during the American Revolutionary War. Those were also some dark and painful days in the history of the United States, and hope seemed dim against huge, nearly insurmountable odds. Yet the Americans eventually won that war against the English king and government. Some of the most beautiful words ever written were used as the foundation of the new constitution. And now, 240 years later, it is time to declare them again, just as vehemently: Give Us Liberty or Give Us Death!
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” The United States Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
Here we are again, at the end of yet another tumultuous year on Gaia, our beloved planet Earth. Would you not agree that a whole lot happened for us humans this year? 2015 has been a year of action, and incredible energy by humanity. Many of us have awakened in a whole new way this year, and realized that the only way through the catastrophic mess we currently find ourselves in is by standing up, standing with, raising our voices, our fists, carrying signs and taking ourselves to the streets.
We are speaking out and fighting back against the powers that have kept humanity enslaved like never before in human memory.
To everyone who helped take a stand for Earth, for Nature, and for Humanity, I congratulate and thank you. We fought the Good Fight this year, and we will be continuing with even greater intensity in the year to come.
The following is an excerpt from a beautiful letter written by Kumi Naidoo, the Executive Director of Greenpeace. He is stepping down as director after holding that position for the past six years. He writes,
Greenpeace had me stepping out of my comfort zone many times. And that, of course, is the place where you learn the most about yourself, when you stand at that line between courage and fear, weighing personal risk against what you believe to be right. I’ve spoken to so many of you who have had the same experience. People who spoke out, or stood up, who volunteered or took some small step or giant leap for the sake of a better future. So often those steps and leaps take us beyond what we thought we’d ever do – either because we were inspired, or angered, or feeling a bond of unity with others. If anything Greenpeace has ever done has catalysed one of those moments, we’re doing our job. We’re setting off a chain reaction of contagious courage.
For me, a series of ever escalating life choices eventually led me to a moment I will always cherish from my time at Greenpeace: the boarding of an oil rig in the Arctic, having an icy water cannon trained on me as I struggled to climb a ladder to oppose the absurdity of Arctic oil drilling. Experiences like that change you. And by “like that” I don’t necessarily mean that extreme form of activism: I mean any action that disrupts your sense of self or your idea of who you are and puts it in a larger context of the human journey and the future of our world. It resets your notion of what you’re capable of. And in so doing resets your notion of what humanity is capable of. And in so doing redefines your sense of what’s possible.
I came to Greenpeace wanting to break the dichotomy between the environment and development. I knew, rationally, that there is a link between addressing poverty and human rights and addressing environmental injustice and climate injustice. But my time with Greenpeace drove this awareness deeper into my heart. Once you see it, you can’t stop seeing it. From the woman who can no longer fish the African coasts for her family because European factory trawlers have emptied her seas, to the child in India choking on ash and coal dust in a village pillaged by the coal industry, to the infant breathing in toxic fumes in an electronic waste dump in China while his mother sets fire to a circuit board to scavenge components, to the devastated family living in a cardboard box after their home was destroyed by typhoon Hagupit in the Philippines: the people who pay the highest price for overconsumption and pollution are those who see the least benefit.
Greenpeace strengthened my belief in the power of nonviolent direct action and my conviction that civil disobedience is essential to addressing this core injustice, to bringing about a truly transformational change not only in the way we feed and fuel our world, but in how we think about wealth, growth, and value – how we reinvent the future in the face of what Naomi Klein has described as an incredible opportunity disguised as a crisis.
In the six years I’ve been with Greenpeace, we’ve secured so many victories – from Shell’s decision to abandon Arctic Drilling to Italian energy giant ENEL’s turning its back on fossil fuels. From dozens of major retailers agreeing to Detox their clothing lines to agreements with major deforesters to end peatland destruction in Indonesia. From Facebook’s agreement to friend renewable energy to new Marine Reserves that have increased the size of our protected waters. But these are but small contributions to the vast changes that a far wider movement is driving – from the unprecedented court decision in the Netherlands that the government is negligent of its duty to protect its people if it doesn’t cut CO2 by 25% by 2020 – driven by tiny NGO Urgenda – to Elon Musk’s decision to open source the design of the Tesla electric car and the PowerWall smart battery, to crowdfunding campaigns for oceans plastic cleanup and prototype solar roadways to new models in the sharing economy to The Guardian’s coal divestment campaign. I have found myself on podium after podium speaking from the same agenda of climate urgency as Sharan Burrow, the head of the global trade union movement. I leapt from my chair in celebration after reading the Pope’s recent encyclical on stewardship over the Earth. From every category of human endeavour, from every continent, we’re witnessing an awakening – an unprecedented conspiracy of courage and commitment to change.
My friends, I leave you with a final thought. As you look around you, remember what the history of the human journey teaches us. The greatest struggle we face is not inventing clean technologies or fundamentally changing the way we produce value or measure growth: these are small challenges compared with how we have changed the world and our own civilization over the course of the few centuries that we’ve risen up. I refuse to believe that the pace of change for survival will be slower than the pace of change for profit. In times of war, in times of threat to our families or nations we’ve found unforeseen strength, and we’ve done impossible things.
But there’s an essential ingredient. Without it, the burst of efforts and evidence of change that we see today will remain too little, too late.
That ingredient is hope. It’s the belief that change is possible.
I saw with my own eyes what happened to the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa once people in large numbers came to believe change was possible. I look around today, and I see more and more evidence that we can beat the worst ravages of climate change. It will take fast action. It will take courage like we have never witnessed on a global scale before – from banks, from corporations, from artists, governments, religious and labour leaders, the charity sector, the billionaires, and from every one of us. Every time the world takes a step forward, be it Apple powering all of its data centres on renewable energy, be it Obama saying no to Arctic oil, be it your university’s decision to divest from coal, your neighbor’s decision to grow their own vegetables, your parent’s decision to volunteer for a cause, or your colleague’s decision to eat less meat – whenever anyone makes a contribution to building that better world we know in our hearts it is possible, we have a duty. A duty to share. To tell the world. To make that courage contagious. Make it a norm. Make it an expectation that this is how the world works. Belief requires evidence, and the stories we tell one another evidence our beliefs: some stories propel us forward. Others hold us back. We can believe that change is impossible, or too expensive, or naive, and consign the fate of this earth to death by business as usual. Or we can fight back. We can stand up and say that a better world is not only possible, it’s being built right now, by the individual and collective acts of courage of every one of us.
Dear Readers and Friends, I know there have been many moments during this past year when things looked very bleak, when it seemed that the Dark Forces (Star Wars aside) have had the upper hand in our world, and I am keenly aware as I write these words, on this Christmas eve, of the many millions of suffering humans on Earth right now. The needs of humanity are greater than ever, and the task of working towards ending war, extreme poverty, violence and strife feels overwhelming. And yet. Progress is happening all across our planet, by many thousands of us in a vast and dazzling array of human kindness, compassion, innovation, inspiration, and acts of will for what is True, Good and Beautiful. The Light that we carry can no longer be squelched by those who would keep us forever in darkness. The tide is turning, at this very moment. We are reaching critical mass for a clean, peaceful and hopeful future for humankind. Every time you give a positive thought, word, emotion or deed out, it reverberates into the human collective and gains momentum. Your words matter. Your thoughts matter. Your kindness matters, more than you can even imagine.
One of my great heroes, John Lennon, penned the following song lyrics as something for humanity to aspire towards. They are simple words, with profound meaning underneath. The more we can cast aside our cynicism and pessimism, embracing instead the power of imagining a world without border guards, guns, greed, wars, violence and lies, the sooner “We can stand up and say that a better world is not only possible, it’s being built right now, by the individual and collective acts of courage of every one of us.”
You say you want a revolution, well you know, we all want to change the world.
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one