The following is an email discussion with my younger brother which began with the topic of Global Warming:
Bro: All right, I’ll stipulate that man-made global warming is occurring. The next question is: How long do we have? Should we go by AlGore’s assertion? I think it was 10 or 12 years ago when he said sea levels would rise by 20 feet within the next 10 or 12 years. Whatever it is, just give me the time line.
Second question, based on that time line, what shall we do?
Me: Well, make up your mind, please. In one message you scoff at what you called a “map of the future”, and now you demand a “map of the future.”
Apparently the military is preparing for something within the next 20-30 years:
Recent war games and intelligence studies conclude that over the next 20 to 30 years, vulnerable regions, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and South and Southeast Asia, will face the prospect of food shortages, water crises and catastrophic flooding driven by climate change that could demand an American humanitarian relief or military response. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/09/science/earth/09climate.html?_r=1&th&emc=th
But, I’m not sure I understand your question. Are you asking how long do we have before the human species becomes extinct along with most of the other life forms on the planet if we continue our business as usual, or are you asking how long we have before we reach the tipping point at which nothing can be done to reverse or stop the damage we’ve already done? I don’t know the answer to either question. However, I do think the questions are valid. Furthermore, I don’t think the concern is simply with global warming. We face the prospect of more pandemics (the Swine Flu virus may be just a start), nuclear holocaust, clean water shortages, a breakdown of civil society as the economy continues to collapse, major fuel shortages (especially as China and India come online as their economies develop), and mass migrations of starving populations. Are all these things to be considered seriously, or should we be amused at all the “Chicken Littles” that seem to have been hatched in the last 10-15 years?
As to your question about what we should do, I think a better question is, what should we be become? Hope may lie in advanced technology or new scientific discoveries, but I’m thinking that before we can “fix” the world, we need to figure out what is fundamentally wrong with it. And what is fundamentally wrong with it is us. In order to save the world, it seems to me, we need to evolve.
Bro: So the military is preparing for “it”. Presumably, their preparations are designed to protect at least the United States. It may be warm, but we’ll be safe from the…”it”.
The time line I’m looking for is pretty much as I asked – If we believe AlGore, any day now California will be flooded. I had expected something a bit more gradual, but I’ve not done the research.
If it is more gradual, do we have the time to contemplate what should be done? Or should we scurry about and engage in useless and even harmful efforts (see “corn for fuel”), just because we believe we’ll be doing something that might prevent something we firmly believe (we once firmly believed the world is flat – I still wonder about that one) will happen?
All right, let’s evolve then. Who wants to go first? No volunteers, or not enough volunteers? How about our friends, Kim Jong or Mahmoud? Once they evolve, I’m certain others will follow. Clearly, we need some sort of governmental policy that will force people to evolve.
On top of that, as I understand evolution, there also needs to be some sort of cataclysmic event that will wipe out the former species, so that the improved species that survives will become the majority. So to evolve, it may be necessary for California to be underwater.
But let’s assume that we can evolve without submerging land masses. How do we do it?
As far as me making up my mind about maps, I stipulated that global warming is real and man made. So I’ll accept your map as well.
Me: It? Perhaps if you go back and read the quote you can substitute “it” with the threat that the military is preparing for.
Apparently you’ve watched THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW too many times and you’re not paying attention to what others are saying. The projected collapse of systems is not a sudden cataclysm, but a long slow descent.
We are already evolving. But still… personal development and transformation seems to involve a choice.
Bro: Thanks for that. And you are not answering any questions. Let me try to re-phrase it:
Given that the climate is changing, and
Given that man is responsible for that change, and
Given that we must evolve to meet these challenges and save the planet from destruction
How should we evolve?
Me: Excellent question!! Here’s what a few others are saying about the need for an evolution of human consciousness:
The global economic meltdown of 2008 is only a prelude to severe problems facing the next generation: inflating national paper currencies, massive unfunded social liabilities, energy and water shortages, global warming, continuing religious conflict … the list of serious structural problems facing our children is daunting.
Human cultural evolution from the perspective of Spiral Dynamics: http://www.calresco.org/wp/spiral.htm
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:12
Parameters of a Positive Transformation
The data we have just reviewed tells us that we are approaching a critical condition: Our world has become economically, socially, and ecologically unsustainable. Persisting in the values and practices of the rationalistic, manipulative civilization of the modern world will create deepening rifts between rich and poor, young and old, informed and marginalized, and could make the biosphere inhospitible for most of humanity. To survive in our planetary home, we must create a world better adapted to the conditions we have ourselves created.
Can we create a more adapted world? This question can be more precisely stated. Can the power- and wealth-oriented civilization of the Industrial Age be effectively and sufficiently transformed to ensure the survival and well-being of the entire population? Civilizations are not eternal; they are subject to change, even to fundamental transformation. Past civilizations have transformed thoughout history; could ours transform as well?
The Challenge of the Next Transformation
The road on which we find ourselves is about to divide. In the span of this next few years the evolution of our civilization will take a new direction. Can we make sure that it takes a good direction?
Finding a positive direction for the next transformation of civilization is a challenging but not an insuperable task. We know that a viable new civilization must evolve a culture and consciousness very different from the mindset that characterized most of the twentieth century. Logos-inspired civilization was materialistic and manipulative, driven by the search for wealth and power. The alternative to it is civilization centered on human development, and the development of the communities and the environments in which humans live their lives. –Ervin Laszlo, THE CHAOS POINT; THE WORLD AT THE CROSSROADS
Bro: Terrific! I think platitudes are great, as long as they don’t affect policy.
Me: Platitudes, eh? Let’s see… A platitude is a trite, meaningless, biased, or prosaic statement that is presented as if it were significant and original.
What’s so great about ’em?
Bro: When people don’t have real solutions (even if the problem is imaginary), platitudes give them hope, and something to do. It keeps them occupied while I go about my business.
It’s when those platitudes become policy prescriptions that they become dangerous. When the state tells me that I must evolve, and how I should evolve, that’s when I become concerned, indignant, pissed off, and so on.
On the other hand, as GEICO might say, “evolution is so easy, even a caveman could do it”.
Me: I really do appreciate your wit. Your last sentence cracked me up. At the same time, your reply came across as rude and insulting. Is that how you meant it? Is that the way you experience my messages? I keep trying to avoid a pissing match, but you seem to continue pissing. In fact, I just received a call from someone who has been reading our conversation, and they asked me why you were angry. Are you angry? Are you angry at me? Or, are you just reflecting back some of the anger you feel is coming from me. I don’t think I’m angry… maybe I am. But, I’m not angry at you.
Bro: Yes, I am a little pissed off.
As you know, I always enjoy a good debate. But I think something more important than a good time is at stake here.
The political pendulum swings back and forth. From time to time it is more conservative, and then there is a backlash and it becomes more liberal. And then it reverses again. In general, that’s a good thing. Even though I’m a conservative, limited government guy, I recognize that liberal movements have occasionally brought about good things, and that a strictly conservative country might cause some other problems.
However, liberals and their lapdog media have installed a president, administration and legislators that put us on the brink of socialism. Once we go down that path, it’s damned near impossible to go back. I don’t want our country to be socialist. Conservatives, a lot of “independents”, and a growing number of democrats are recognizing the danger. And it’s dangerous enough that we should be pissed off.
As for our debate, I still don’t know what you want to have happen. That we must “evolve” is vague. And I’m not sure if you want government to lead us down the path to that evolution. But even if you don’t, your arguments seem to go hand in hand with the philosophy of the president and his administration. My concern is that you add to the dangerous voices that want to weaken our national defense, destroy our will to achieve, punish success and reward slackers, create “sustainable systems” that will eventually destroy our environment, and create more of the same problems that you wish to solve.
I don’t see how you can save the world without government coercion. And it’s primarily because of government coercion that we need to save the world. So as you rail against, Bush, corporations, “polluters”, conservative principles, God, etc., I feel compelled to point out the danger of your arguments.
I’m perfectly happy with the idea that we should be good neighbors, and we should love each other. But I don’t want the government telling me how to do that. And it has the opposite effect. The more the government takes from me and gives to others, the less desire (and means) I have to do it on my own. And I was better at it than the government.
I love you like a brother, bro. But as you know, I have difficulties with what I consider to be faulty and dangerous reasoning. And for the good of our relationship, I’m finished pissing.
Me: Thanks for clarifying your position, and I’m glad that it’s not necessarily me that you are pissed off at – just my “liberal” ideas. I recognized from the beginning the pissed off rhetoric coming out of you was sourced in conservative America. Change is very threatening. A large part of our population is made up of “Bible Believers” who were already on the defense against modernism and now they are having to deal with postmodern ideas. They seem clueless as to what it is all about. They find many postmodernists agreeing with them in their arguments against scientism but not agreeing with them that the Bible should be used as a science textbook. They want to argue with the modernists who claim that God is dead, but they become very confused when the postmodernists join the conversation and ask, “To what, when you use the term ‘God’, are you referring?” And then, to make matters worse, they find their country led by a president whose views are shaped by Liberation Theology, which really throws them for a loop. And finally, to top it all off, they find themselves being criticized by the Progressive Christians for their ethics (and they thought they had a monopoly on those), their idolatry (and they thought they had the only “true” religion), and their nationalism (and they thought they were citizens of Zion). No wonder they are pissed. I can also understand why, if you think the debate is simply between the socialists and the capitalists, you are pissed off also.
You said in your last message that you don’t know two things: (1) you don’t know what I want to happen, and (2) you don’t see how the world can be saved without government coercion (or at least how I can save it without government coercion). I was going to try to explain what I meant when I said that the world can only be saved if we evolve – but I didn’t see much hope that a pissed off person would try to understand. Some of the answer to that question was contained in the quotes from others – but if all you read were platitudes….
As for the 2nd thing you don’t know, I don’t know how I could make it clearer to you. I’m an anarchist!!!! I’m more opposed to government involvement than you are. I’ve tried to explain this in hundreds of different ways – but all you can hear are certain shibboleths constructed by the conservatives – and if I don’t say them correctly, then I must be one of those goddamn socialists. Well Bro, I ain’t no socialist.
Bro: Perhaps you can explain what an anarchist is. Here are three definitions:
a person who advocates or believes in anarchy or anarchism.
a person who seeks to overturn by violence all constituted forms and institutions of society and government, with no purpose of establishing any other system of order in the place of that destroyed.
a person who promotes disorder or excites revolt against any established rule, law, or custom.
I assume 1 and 3 more closely match what you believe. Frankly, aside from whether or not to use government to achieve your aims, I don’t see much difference between what you and Obama want.
Me: ‘An-‘ = no, ‘archy’ = rulers. I would be a Libertarian except that I’m not convinced that government is a necessary evil. If you had followed my line of reasoning concerning the modern justification for government based on Hobbes ideas, and why I consider his reasoning to be flawed, you might have been able to uinderstand my position. Before Hobbes, the justification for the existence of government was based on the idea that rulers exist by Divine decree – or another way of putting it is, that kings were given a Divine Right to rule over others. I don’t think that is a good justification for government either. I’ve never met a political leader who, in my estimation, is wise enough, or loving enough that I would want him/her to rule over me. Besides, dominating and controlling another person is not a very nice thing to do. If you were interested in theology (and you’ve told me you aren’t), I could give you some very strong arguments for why I don’t believe even God has, or uses power in the mode of domination and control.
#1 comes the closest but it is a terrible definition and doesn’t define anything. An anarchist is an anarchist? #2 isn’t even close because I believe we should eschew violence in all its forms. #3 is one of the dumbest definitions I’ve seen. Where’d it come from? But, ‘anarchy’ is still simply an inadequate label.
I want peace on earth and goodwill among all people. I want there to be reconciliation between man and God. I want the mind/body split to be healed. I want the damn preachers to shut up, sit down in a friendly circle with the “laity”, and admit they really don’t know what the “truth” is, and learn what dialog is all about. I want us, as human beings, to realize that we are internally related to one another and to everything else in the universe – and consequently to realize that everything has intrinsic value. I want to love my neighbors (and a neighbor, according to the parable of the Good Samaritan doesn’t necessarily share my religion, race, or values) as myself – because my neighbor is included in my self. I want the helpless to be helped, the hungry to be fed, and the sick to be cared for. I want each person to realize that they have something unique to contribute to others and to be able to contribute joyfully. I want people to live lives full of meaning and purpose with hope. I probably could list a whole lot of other wants also – but I want at least those things. Does Obama want those things? If so, we share the same wants. Is that what you meant?
Oh… and one other thing. I want to be able to buy beer on Sunday before noon so that I can have some to take to the beach with me if I want. And I promise I won’t take glass bottles of beer on the beach.
Bro: I don’t know Hobbes, I’m not interested in theology, philosophy, modernism, post-modernism or many other ys, isms, posts, etc. (Well, I do like my Grape-Nuts.) What I am interested in is practicality. And, except for waiting for evolution to take its course, there is no practical way to create the world you want.
Further, I don’t see any real solutions in what you want for the practical problems you believe in. (By the way, I believe in some of those problems, and agree that less government is the solution – I even believe that God does not exert direct control over us.) But we cannot enjoy our lives, our land, our property, our time without some form of government. Even in that fabled world of Star Trek, where nobody needed money for anything, there were still villains that would prevent utopia. In fact, within the staff of the Enterprise itself, there were the few bad eggs.
Me: When I was in high school I could see no practical reason to take Geometry. Later, when I had to square a foundation, lay out a set of stairs, cut plywood to sheet a roof with a valley and hip, I wished I had paid more attention. Theory and practice go hand-in-hand. Are you telling me that you have no interest in trying to understand the patterns of life we see all around us? Why are you so sure that ideas don’t change the world? If you were to read, for instance, some of the classical works concerning political theory of Plato, Alexander the Great, Cicero and Ceasar, you would find that there was a universal assumption that they all shared – a large slave population was required to support civilization. Slavery was the presupposition of political theorists then. Freedom is the presupposition of political theorists now. What changed? Practically all of the problems Plato discussed are still with us. Examining ancient patterns of thought and comparing them with the patterns of today we discover the growth of ideas – like the idea that human beings have essential rights based solely in their humanity. You might call those ideas platitudes.
I don’t understand how you can be so sure of your opinions. Are you absolutely positive we can’t enjoy our lives, our land, our property, our time without some form of government? Isn’t it possible that you are blinded by your presuppositions about the need for government just as the people of earlier civilizations were blinded by their presuppositions that civilization required slavery? Well, I’m not as sure as you are. For right now, I want as little government as possible and I’ll consider recourse to force, whether in the general society or between individuals, to be a failure of civilization. And I won’t immediately dismiss as impractical, the ideas that someone offers if they present an alternative to government.
Bro: And yes, I’m not pissed off at you. Mostly exasperated. The hypocrisies in your writings really get my goat. You eschew labels, yet you’ve got more labels than I can shake a conservative stick at. In one paragraph, starting with “liberal”, I count 10 labels. And apparently, some of the people you put under those labels piss you off. That seems a long way form establishing peace and good will.
Me: I won’t deny that hypocisies might be found in my writing. However, your goat might not get so got if you would pay more attention to what I actually write than what you read into them. I have never written that we should eschew labels. The only time I used the word “eschew” was when I wrote in the last message that I believe we should eschew violence in all its forms. If you were more aware of postmodern thought you would know that we can’t communicate without using labels (or symbols). The problem is not that we use labels, but that we think that labels are definitive – that we often fail to understand just how limited we are in using labels. What pisses me off, is when some of those people who apply labels to themselves (like they are REAL AMERICANS) and labels like “Liberals”, “Socialists”, and “Communists”, to those like me, and then try to use the power of government to force me to be like them – or forbid others to have the same freedom they do.
Bro: Then there was a comment a few e-mails back (I can’t find it now) about humility. Yet you want to save the earth. You are willing to tell me (and the conservatives, the bible believers, corporations, governments, etc.) what’s wrong with my viewpoint. You want to tell me how I should evolve.
Me: I said we should be more humble in our opinions, yes. Especially since we are so incredibly ignorant (and notice I include myself). So, you think humility and wanting to save the earth aren’t mixable? Again, it seems that you might assume too much. Wanting to save the earth and having the capacity and being able to save the earth are not the same thing.
I believe these conversations began when I shared my viewpoint. If my viewpoint differs from yours, do you consider that to mean that I think yours is wrong? I’ve tried to explain many different ways that we need to accept others with different worldviews – because all of our worldviews are partial. I wrote very clearly that I don’t like to use categories of “right” and “wrong”. In fact, if you go back, you will find that you, very early in the conversation, said that, “I did not state that your descriptions of liberal and conservative were not broad enough. I stated that they were inaccurate, or wrong.” Bad habits die hard, so I can’t deny that I never have said someone’s ideas were wrong – but it is the “bible believers” and the conservatives who are convinced that they stand on the side of “truth” and “right”. The rest of us just have to muddle along as best we can. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t able to use critical thinking skills though.
Bro: There’s nothing less humble than the Orwellian idea of monitoring peoples motives. Yet you tell me I must love my neighbor. I don’t, and I won’t. I’m not out to get them either, and if they need a hand, I’d be glad to help. But I find them boring, and don’t wish to spend time with them. I’m guessing that in your view, that makes me a bad person, resistant to evolution.
Me: Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor and told the story of the Good Samaritan. The story was about lending a hand when someone was in need. Now, what do you think is involved in loving our neighbor? I certainly don’t think you are a bad person. I let people like our Uncle decide who the bad people are. He was quite nice in letting me know that I was going to hell because I had joined the Unitarian Universalists.
Bro: You also never come straight out and say what you want. Peace on earth ain’t gonna solve global warming. Reconciliation between God and man won’t get the tomatoes to market. That still requires carbon based fuels. Somewhere in all those stated desires, there must be the unstated part: what’s really going to solve our crises? A humble spirit, it seems, would put your plan out there, rather than incrementally trying to change minds.
Me: Plan? You gotta be kidding me. I don’t even have a plan for what I’m doing tomorrow. I leave planning up to the practical people.
Bro: Now, if you get your neighborhood together and they love each other, that’s great. I don’t see a prescription for world peace in that.
I can buy beer on Sundays now, but I don’t have a beach…
Me: Then my vision is not your vision, is it? My vision is not that of just a few neighbors who are learning how to care for one another – I see a whole world of neighbors doing that. And when that happens, we’ll have world peace. But it has to begin somewhere, right? But, even if world peace never comes, I’m seeing tremendous changes happen right here in my life and in my neighbors lives. And that ain’t bad – for me, anyway!!
Bro: Then, by your own definition, you’re not an anarchist.
Me: You are a great brother and I’m thankful that you are willing to explain to me what my beliefs are. If I’m not an anarchist, what am I? As I’ve already explained, I would be a Libertarian except that, as I understand that position, I would have to agree that government is a necessary evil. Now, the term ‘necessary’ has certain philosophical connotations that you may not be aware of – because you have voluntarily limited your awareness of philosophy – so I won’t try to explain what some of those connotations might be. Nevertheless, as a practical matter, I can’t live in a government-free environment at this time – maybe never in my lifetime. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t think that such an environment might possibly exist and be taken for granted at some future time – especially if we humans don’t wipe ourselves off the planet first.
Bro: An = no. So an anarchist would want no government, not “as little government as possible”. You might be a somearchist.
Me: Some of us anarchist don’t want anyone to rule over us. Unfortunately, until we humans evolve, we can’t get rid of the rulers right now, so we’ll settle temporarily with limiting their power.