Freedom, Justice, Kinship

In the early days of dealing with the coronavirus and the exponential rise of Covid-19 cases, there was a palpable sense of unity and solidarity – “we are all in this together.” We saw the rise of mutual aid grassroots groups and many expressions of care and concern for what came to be known as the front line.

Together

Tensions and trauma mounted as the weeks of inaccurately titled “lockdown” turned into months. Conflicts have erupted with concerns raised about liberty and authoritarianism. Old divides from unresolved issues in our society have returned with a vengeance. Another black man is killed by a police officer as other police watched. The lack of equality is exposed once again. Riots erupt, and fingers point in multiple ways to the actual source of violence (see for example this report).

can't breathe

Conspiracy theories abound and distract. Meanwhile, and in plain sight, the haves continue to take advantage of the have-nots in an unparalleled extraction of wealth from every aspect of the economy as possible. The Equality Gap is widening dramatically. The extreme inequality in wealth and power that already exists is in the process of becoming vastly more extreme. As Kenny Ausebel put it,

“Corona capitalism just engineered the biggest heist in history: a hostile takeover amounting to between $4 to $10 trillion, with corporate concierge service from the Fed. For everyone else, it’s busy signals and crashed web sites, endless dysfunctional bureaucratic hoops and life-threatening delays. When it’s finally safe to go out again, we will find a very different world: Giants and dwarves, Lords and serfs.”

Naomi Klein has outlined How Big Tech Plans to Profit from the Pandemic via what she calls “The Screen New Deal.”

And Nafeez Ahmed’s investigative journalism has revealed: “The COVID-19 public health crisis is enriching a murky nexus of technology surveillance firms linked to senior Government officials – at the expense of people’s lives. The financial adventures of a former MI5 spymaster and the medical fantasies of Boris Johnson’s top advisor point toward an unnerving endgame: an artificially intelligent (AI) corporate super-state, with a special focus on NHS genetic research inspired by eugenics.”
The wealthiest and most influential asset holders have been insured by the world’s most powerful central bank without conditions.

Forbes reports that “Twenty five of the wealthiest people on Forbes’ list of the world’s billionaires are worth a whopping $255 billion more than when the U.S. stock market hit a mid-pandemic low on March 23.”

With all that is going on as outlined above, I find wisdom from Edgar Morin. His book Homeland Earth: A Manifesto for the New Millenium , written with Anne Brigitte Kern, applies very well to the situation we find ourselves in today, with the tensions and trauma of dealing with the coronavirus, combined with the deeply embedded inequalities in our culture, the concerns about liberty and authoritarianism, and the extractive nature of neoliberalism and disaster capitalism currently exploiting the crisis we are experiencing. Not to mention the ecological crisis, which is a central theme of the book.

“In 1789, the French Revolution established the democratic norm, supplemented in 1848 by the triune slogan: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. This trinity is complex, as its terms are mutually complementary and antagonistic: left to itself, liberty kills equality and fraternity; compulsory equality kills liberty without achieving fraternity; and fraternity, without which no lived fellowship can possibly exist between citizens, must check liberty and bring down inequalities, even though it cannot be promulgated or established by law and decree.”

– Edgar Morin, Homeland Earth (1999), p. 90

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The French Revolution ushered us into The Age of Enlightenment and Modernity with this triadic concept of “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.” But how well has any society embodied these three principles?

Liberty (at least for white men) was a theme for the American Revolution as well as well as the French Revolution, and continued as a primary theme during the Civil War.  Even so, it remains fragile, and outside of the grasp of many in the world.

After the two world wars and the great depression, Equality became a dominant theme for the civil rights and feminist movements, and a hallmark of Post-Modern pluralism.  And yet, current events demonstrate how we have fallen painfully short of the mark.  As I write, protests and riots are rocking the United States, in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

Fraternity, limited from the beginning, since its Latin root means only ‘brotherhood,’ has still not been successfully demonstrated as a major cultural theme in the modern or post-modern world. Communist regimes have failed to manifest anything beyond a forced unity as they were overcome by totalitarian tendencies.  Post-WWII initiatives such as the U.N. and Bretton Woods institutions have played important moderating roles but have lacked the strength to accomplish much in the way of real change.

Reframing the terminology as Freedom, Justice, and Kinship, our first task is to fully embrace the healthiest expression of the post-modern pluralism. As Gary Hampson has astutely noted, the way out (of postmodernism) is through (postmodernism). We’ve got to fully inhabit and grok this stage if we want to move forward and beyond. Black lives do matter. White male privilege is real. Gender identity and LGBQT issues have something to teach us. This is not to discount dysfunctions and unhealthy expressions we often see at play.

As Edgar Morin suggests, kinship is needed to regulate freedom and to support justice. If we can move past the Post-Modern cultural phase into an Integral or Meta-Modern phase, kinship should become a major cultural theme, which can assist us in a better balance and integration of freedom and justice, and should embody “citizenship in its deepest sense” (Morin).

As the integral framework is intended to “transcend and include,” it can potentially bring forth the best of capitalism (freedom), socialism (justice), and, yes, communism (kinship). And perhaps “transcend and include” could be transformed into “embrace and befriend” as Will Varey suggests – “An approach of ‘transcend and include’ validates the higher by the potential overshadowing of the included lower. In a reflexive reconsideration, perhaps there is virtue in the alternative paradigmatic approach to ‘embrace and befriend’.”  (from Integral Explanatory Coherence: Consilience. Resonance. Coherence).

Can an integral consciousness manifest a type of “communism” that is not a totalizing ideology in nature and able to balance with the best aspects of capitalism and socialism? Riane Eisler suggests that we move beyond terms such as capitalism, socialism, and communism, and embrace a new economic organizational form she calls “Partnerism“.

Jeremy Johnson’s recent essay (Meta, Modern: Understanding the Phenomenology of Consciousness) outlines the vibe and vision for an integral or meta-modern consciousness structure, rooted in the work of Jean Gebser. Johnson explains:

…we no longer inhabit a mere (post) modern sensibility…Our position in the present is oscillatory, characterized by liminality…This structure of feeling, like a pendulum, swings back and forth in anticipation of a new cultural sensibility. But we need not merely bounce between modern and (post) modern; tomorrow is already latent in our cultural phenomenology.

Is kinship so far out of reach as it appears?  Bonnitta Roy has recently provided a startling insight in her recent 2 part essay, Corona: A Tale of Two Systems. Part 1 here and Part 2 here).

Bonnitta points out that civilizations have always had ideologies of connection, and that even prior to civilization there was a felt sense of kinship with others, and even a deep connection with the natural world.  She states:

“Ever since the beginning of civilisation we have built the illusion of unity as somewhere up there, somewhere in our future if we can just get it right. This is because we have turned our backs on the ever-present reality of our prior unity in the depths of our evolutionary becoming. The deeper evolutionary layers of our being are the larger universals. We are precariously tethered by an ideology of the market, but we are innately connected through our participation in and interdependence with the life force of the planet.

… The deeper, ontological reality is that we come from unity and grow toward diversity. There is no need to fashion a story or a system to “seal the deal.” The deed has been already secured through our natural human heritage.”

It is important to understand that it is a unity/diversity polarity – two sides of one coin, rather than conflicting opposites. When we can truly connect with the many elements that provide us with an underlying unity, we can then become more secure in embracing our diversity without conflict.

Diane Hamilton,  Gabriel Wilson, and Kimbely Loh have recently co-authored a book entitled “Compassionate Conversations: How to Speak and Listen from the Heart.”  In a recent conversation about the book between Ken Wilber and Diane Hamilton, they discuss this very topic of Integrating Unity and Diversity  as they address the question, “How can we begin to cross those divides and heal as a community, as a nation, and as a single human family?”

Kinship includes a sense of unity with the natural world as well as our fellow humans.  Here we come to the work of philosopher Donna Haraway: “For Haraway, “kin” means something other than entities bound by ancestry – it signifies new kinds of relations between humans and non-humans alike. She states that “making and recognising kin is perhaps the hardest and most urgent” challenge humans in and of the earth face today, although in the deepest sense, “all earthlings are kin” (Haraway, 2016b).”

Recognizing kin can be a kind of spiritual practice, as demonstrated in this short video on Encounter, featuring Dr. Stephen Harding, followed by some words of wisdom from David Fleming (this is an excerpt from the film on David Fleming, The Sequel: What Will Follow Our Troubled Civilization .

Encountering Another Being II from Empathy Media on Vimeo.

In his recent, masterful, connecting the dots article (White Supremacism and the Earth System, Nafeez Ahmed provides a big picture perspective, pointing out that the “otherization” that is currently happening on such a broad scale is the result of a global systemic crisis. We need to look beyond the obvious symptoms to wider issues behind them, and to be ready to adopt a system change.

Ahmed writes,

“As the prevailing system declines, breaks down, weakens, elicits the unleashing of rage and angst, this very process of weakening creates a clearing of systemic uncertainty….

This is what I call the global phase shift. This is the transition point where small, local actions can have wider, accumulative, system-wide effects. This is the moment where each of our choices has a momentous, history-forging potential.”

Cultural philosopher Jean Gebser envisioned a consciousness mutation after a period of chaotic breakdown.  He referred to this as an integral-arational structure of consciousness (The Ever-Present Origin).

Peter Pogany summarized Gebser’s vision as follows:

“The collision between our civilization and its ecological constraints, along with a likely historic crisis of epic proportions, may be regarded as the struggle of integral-arational consciousness (Gebser’s “fifth structure”) to deprive overblown rationality (the deficient phase of mental consciousness) from its current preeminence.”

Key characteristics of this integral structure of consciousness must include…

Freedom, Justice, and Kinship.

World History as the Synoptic Narrative of Thermodynamic Unfolding

The work of Peter Pogany has been prominently promoted on this blog. I’ve put together a compilation document that summarizes, in his own words, Pogany’s thoughts on the thermodynamic unfolding of recent world history in the sub-epochs he calls Global System 0, Global System 1, Global System 2, and Global System 3. Click here to download the pdf document.

The heart of the document, World History as the Synoptic Narrative of Thermodynamic Unfolding, came originally as part of a 2010 paper called What’s Wrong with the World? Rationality! A critique of economic anthropology in the spirit of Jean Gebser.” It was later published as Appendix B in the book “Havoc: Thy Name is Twenty First Century,” (2015). This paper is based mostly on the last edit printed in “Havoc,” with some additions that come from the original 2010 paper…and various additional quotes at the end.

My table, borrowed from one made by Pogany (see the pdf):

“This paper argues that (a) the emergence of classical capitalism in the 19th century answered the need for global-scale self-organization; (b) this scheme, interrupted by World War I, was replaced after World War II; (c) the implied transformation has been accompanied by a nonarbitrary, causally determined, irreversible socialization of intranational and international economic relations; (d) contemporary civilization is moving toward a new form of self-organization that would recognize limits to demographic-economic expansion. What will it take to go from the current hostile disgust with the dystopia of tightened modes of multilateral governance to people around the world on their knees begging for a planetary guild? It will take nothing less than a mutation in consciousness, as outlined in the oeuvre of Jean Gebser (1905-1973).”
(Thermodynamic Isolation and the New World Order, 2013)

The potential third global system that Pogany projected as a possibility was thus characterized:

“Long-term world equilibrium — GS3

The thermodynamic interpretation of global history predicts a halt to population and economic expansion for purely physical reasons. This general condition requires a new global system: GS3 – two-level economy/strong multilateralism/mostly government money (maximum reserve banking).

Legally binding international agreements on the use of nonrenewable energy and material resources, as well as on harmful emissions, would enlarge the government’s role in economic affairs since administrative methods would be needed to ensure national compliance with globally determined goals. The implied strong multilateralism would split national economies (hence, the world economy) into a free-market and a public authority-dominated sector. While carrying on the best traditions of constructive entrepreneurship, businesses in the first domain would bid for resources and emission rights; joint private-public ownership would prevail in the second one. The state’s substantial holding of private shares would eliminate most, if not all, income taxation.

The monetary system would be based on a global currency issued by the global central bank. The world currency would combine the discipline GS1’s gold standard vouchsafed and the flexibility GS2’s fiat money has provided (without the fractional reserve system, which, as will become obvious during the first half of the 21st century, is wholly incompatible with any consciously pursued economic steady state.) Much along the lines proposed by Keynes at the 1944 Bretton Woods conference, an international clearing house would keep cross-border trade in equilibrium.

Maximum bank reserves would restrict the ability of banks to extend loans. Just as under the prevailing minimum reserve system, some banks in some instances may keep no reserves at all; under the maximum reserve system some banks in some instances might be required to keep 100 percent reserves. While such an arrangement may not eliminate the creation of money through debt, it would certainly change its nature. The consent of depositors would be required to make loans, making financial intermediation once again the modest helper that draws together scattered household savings in order to place them into the hands of bona fide entrepreneurs. “Enterprise,” in the Keynesian sense, would squeeze out “speculation.”

The economic role of grass roots communities would increase significantly.”

Click here for the complete summary paper.

Michel Bauwens and Jose Ramos also have a very good short summary of Peter Pogany here:
https://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Pulsation_of_the_Commons#Pogany:_the_time_for_the_chaotic_transition_has_begun

Also see my full page devoted to all things Peter Pogany:
https://integralpermaculture.wordpress.com/peter-pogany/

A Lesson in History

by Peter Pogany

This story was written in December of 2010 by Peter Pogany. In his last published work (Havoc, 2015), Pogany shares a shorter version of the story, and introduces it this way:

“Chaotic transition is near when the established order becomes prone to disruption through stochastic developments. This characterization corresponds to the ‘butterfly effect’ as initial condition sensitivity has been nicknamed in the study of nonlinear dynamics. How an innocuous and totally unpredictable small event on the molecular/atomic level escalates in significance may be illustrated by the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir apparent to the Hapsburg throne, in Sarajevo, on June 28, 1914.”
Peter Pogany passed away in 2014, but were he alive today he surely would have noted the similar circumstance playing out before our eyes now. How did a coronavirus transfer from bats and pangolins to humans? What started off as a seemingly small event occurring in a seafood and meat market in Wuhan, or a small mistake made in a Chinese bio-research lab, has resulted in bringing the world to its knees. A world already poised on the edge, vulnerable to innumerable innocuous occurrences that could set in motion a chain of events that would instantiate a chaotic transition. A bifurcation that just might bring the existing world system to a transition point. A transition to what remains to be seen. Pogany again: “To put it crudely, something will set the ball rolling, perforce.”  I hope you enjoy the true story that follows, and how Pogany tells the tale. Following the story is an analysis, and then a warning! For more, see my Peter Pogany page

Ferdinand_Schmutzer_-_Franz_Ferdinand_von_Österreich-Este,_um_1914

June 28, 1914. Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir apparent to the Hapsburg throne and his expectant wife Sophie, visit Sarajevo, capital city of Bosnia-Herzegovina, a province of the late Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Seven potential assassins await them, lined up along the expected route of the official motorcade according to the contingency principle — if A fails B will act, and so on.

Tragicomic coincidences almost turn the plot into a ridiculous failure. One of the conspirators throws his bomb. He hears the explosion, dutifully bites into his cyanide capsule and jumps into the nearby Miljacka River. What he did not know was that the bomb bounced off the Archduke’s car and exploded under the next one; that the cyanide was years past its “due date,” and the river that was expected to swallow him — as would befit a martyr and legendary hero for his people — was about three inches deep at that time of the year. The rest of the conspirators did not act. They either thought the deed was done or became paralyzed in the critical moment. But just when the whole thing looked like a youthful blunder, randomness came to the aid of Big History.

One of the conspirators, Gavrilo Princip, who skipped dinner the night before, got hungry and decided to sample the delicious offerings of Moritz Schiller’s delicatessen downtown. In the meantime, the Archduke — defying counsel to get the hell of out town — insisted on going through with the originally scheduled program, even extending it with the PR gesture of visiting the military hospital where the victims of the earlier bomb explosion were treated. General Potiorek, the governor of the province, decided to speed up the convoy by taking the unencumbered, freeway-like “Apel Quay” along the river. He told everybody about the route change except the chauffeur who drove the car in which he sat along with the royal visitors. It ended up alone in the narrow downtown street where Schiller’s establishment was located.

What is this? We have taken the wrong way!” yelled the General. The chauffeur immediately stopped and began to back up as a crowd of onlookers gathered. Gavrilo, now in the front of the restaurant, found himself face to face with his targets. He pulled out his pistol and killed them point blank. As is well known, the ensuing chain of diplomatic events led to the thundering “Guns of August.” The First World War was on, and from our contemporary perspective of universal history, one might say that the global society entered a period of chaos that did not subside until the end of the Second World War.

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 Assassination illustrated in the Italian newspaper Domenica del Corriere, 12 July 1914 by Achille Beltrame

But once we appeal to chaos theory to explain what happened during the first part of the 20th century and why, we must account for the butterfly effect, the nickname of “sensitive dependence on initial conditions.”

Since it is defined metaphorically as “insignificant/significant” (i.e., an innocuous happening unleashes a process that results in a major event), the assassination described obviously cannot be compared to the fluttering of the butterfly’s wings. While no direct and inexorable causality can be shown between the assassination and the ensuing conflagration, the occurrence defies the degree of insignificance stipulated by a general understanding of the butterfly effect in the context of “initial condition sensitivity.”

The problem with the application of this concept to historical narrations is that visible events range too freely between what is truly negligible and quite significant. Therefore, to find the real innocuous, totally unforeseeable occurrence (inviting even the notion of being external to human affairs as these can be recognized by simple observation), we must go deeper into matter than what individuals and their actions represent. We must enter the brain, the neurophysics of forming thoughts, making determinations, and instructing the body to carry them out.

In these terms, one might say that the nearly infinitesimal material conditions that allowed a predetermined plan (already established in the assassin’s neural network) to find an opportunity of implementation, resided in a random coincidence between two electrochemical events: One that signaled hunger for the assassin (especially for the offerings of Herr Schiller) and the forgetfulness of the General to instruct his driver about the change of route.

But a short reflection suffices to recognize that this explanation is also unsatisfactory. An uncountable number (e.g., unknowable from the human standpoint) of conditions had to come together for those two cerebral manifestations in order for the event to occur: the weather, the traffic pattern, the speed of service and portions served in the restaurant, the configuration of the crowd gathering around the royal vehicle, and so on ad infinitum. Thoughts in the General’s head that diverted his attention also corresponded to physical circumstances with an infinite number of attributes and antecedents.

To exit from the labyrinth, the initial conditions must be described in more general terms. The inquiry leads deeper into matter; into the world of molecules, atoms, and subatomic particles that make up the human population and bind it with its surroundings. And we can go even deeper (almost incomprehensibly more so) if we accept the stipulations of “string theory,” the most supported version of the “theory of everything” among physicists. Whether we stop at the subatomic level or opt for strings in imaging initial conditions that prevailed on June 28, 1914, the analysis finds itself face to face with the old dilemma of chance versus necessity.

To show that the outbreak of violence ought to be ascribed to destiny rather than to a random incident, we need to make a detour through the realm of historical systems analysis.

Let us begin with a widely acknowledged observation: The Great War effectively ended the age of classical capitalism.

After a very painful — almost revolutionary — start in the British Isles during the 1830s, the institutions, organizational schemes, and the repertoire of matching individual behavior that characterized “Capitalism 1.0” spread to the rest of the world like wildfire.

Smoke-belching factories, squalid living conditions, disease and deprivation, crude exploitation, child labor, injustices of all conceivable forms on a mega scale, Marx’s Communist Manifesto mid-century notwithstanding, by the 1880s, the system turned into a roaring success. At least in broad statistical terms. Per capita income increased for the world’s growing population. International trade and other forms of cross-border economic relations accelerated with a vigor that reminds us of the late-20th-century burst of globalization.

Scientific-technological development brought new marvels every year. Just a few examples (cited from the work of British historian Neville Williams): 1880 saw Andrew Carnegie’s first large steel furnace; in 1881, Louis Pasteur used vaccine to fight anthrax (a method that is standard practice even today in preventing the from-animal-to-human spread of this vicious disease); and so on, year after year.

No sooner did the Victorian era, which cradled the golden age of laissez faire capitalism, die in 1901, the Edwardian period was born and the triumphant march continued. Cumulative breakthroughs in industry and transportation created fabulous new opportunities for entrepreneurship and employment.

The middle class grew by leaps and bounds; especially in the industrialized countries; but even in far corners of the planet, an increasing number of people began to have access to luxuries by the epoch’s standards. Arts, music, literature, and theater flourished. There was no let-up in epochal achievements, not even on the eve of the disaster. In 1913, Niels Bohr discovered the atomic structure; in the spring of 1914, Canada completed its Grand Pacific Railway. It seemed that humanity was on its way to New Jerusalem. And yet, the machinery that wove the fabric of growing welfare became hopelessly outdated by virtue of being less and less able to accommodate further progress. There were four main reasons:

(1) Dependence on gold limited the supply of money that must expand in order to sustain growing levels of output, hence employment and income; (2) while industrialization reached the level at which national economies were prone to accelerate and decelerate if left on their own, the global order’s policy space did not include instruments (i.e., modern fiscal and monetary policies) to counter this phenomenon; (3) the system skewed distribution too much in favor of capital at the expense of labor, thereby constraining the development of mass consumption/mass production; and (4) it was unfit to accommodate institutions or schemes for international cooperation, required by growing economic and financial interdependence among national economies.

“Initial-condition sensitivity” (i.e., proclivity to the butterfly effect) hid in the incongruity between system parameters and the state of the world. Starting with the circumstances that coalesced in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, any innocuous development (such as coincidental neuro-states in the brains of Potiorek and Princip) was sufficient to tear apart global organization. Why was chaos needed?  Because the system was too entrenched and much too successful to abandon it voluntarily via thoroughgoing, peaceful reforms, and because there was no consensus as to what the next global system ought to be.

To allow history to move to “Capitalism 2.0”, which we have been enjoying since the end of World War II, global self-organization needed help from the “outside.” It got it from there since conditions deep in matter, where the state of the world actually resides, can be considered “other than us,” by virtue of being external to the strictly human-scale realm of political movements, personalities, logically explained and plausibly demonstrated individual and national aspirations, ideas and propositions.

World population was fewer than 2 billion in 1914 — roughly the same as the increase between the late 1980s and now, when planetary occupancy numbers around 7 billion souls. It is clear that the standard of living currently enjoyed by billions would be inconceivable if Capitalism 1.0 had remained in force. It had to go. Therein lurks the necessity of its being blown away by something, anything that could unleash the dark forces of the night, the chaotic dynamics from which a fresh dawn, a new world order would emerge after spectacularly failed false starts and a collective moral-catharsis-engendering deluge of blood and pain.

By 1914, the system was so anachronistic that the slightest stir in the organization of matter (intimated in political economic terms as “Capitalism 1.0”) could snowball into an event significant enough to disrupt it, along the same line of reasoning that the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in Mexico could lead to a thunderstorm in France.

Going deeper into matter in analyzing history and considering the human biomass with the world economy a single entity, which since the 1830s has had a demonstrated need for a comprehensive system in order to function and grow, has two advantages.

The obvious one is that such a materialist theory allows us to go beyond personalities and national policies, arguments that tend to provoke dismissals and counter arguments with no end in sight. Since it is abstract, it can exist along with other, more concrete narrative plots and explanations. Indeed, we are learning that reality is much too fuzzy to be describable only through the exclusive application of either/or, hard-nosed binary logic. The good news is that our minds have revealed their capacity to supersede straight-jacket narrow, rationalistic duality. For example, by now, physicists accept that light is both a stream of particles and a wave. Both are correct and they are allowed to live side by side without a formal synthesis.

The less obvious reason may surprise you: Global system parameters are once again out of joint with the times. Namely, the prevalent world order is predicated on vigorous economic growth and it tends to stall, and perhaps even collapse, without it. Marx was wrong in this respect too. He thought that the greatest weakness of capitalism was its inability to accommodate economic growth beyond a certain point. That may have been correct for its first version but it is eminently wrong for the current one.

Judging by the intensification of environmental problems associated with expanding levels of output; along with the expected rise in the prices of oil and other key resources (e.g., several metals) — once the world economy gets back to its full-swing — it appears that nature is trying to tell us something. It may be this:

“Hello earthlings! Considering your huge and growing numbers, coupled with your insatiable material ambitions, I am switching to a constraining mode. It’s time for you to move on and become consciously resonant with my laws. Have you considered Ecological Capitalism (Capitalism 3.0)? Perhaps. But the need to find a substitute for your current ‘expand or perish economy’ faces quite a struggle for acceptance. And admit it: Most of you don’t know much more about it except that it must be something very different. Since the corrective challenge penetrates the wellsprings of your ordinary aspirations, piecemeal reforms are not an option. Your species faces a new spasmodically zigzagging search via macrohistoric chaos. As of now, and increasingly so in the future, you are destined to live with ever-sharpening ‘sensitivity to initial conditions.’ The enhanced sense of unpredictability along with the growing threat of discontinuity you experience means that global society’s rendezvous with another axial date is not far off.”

Remember June 28, 1914! Be in shape!

We Must Act Now!

Friends,

The Coronavirus/Covid-19 pandemic is serious business. For the sake of community resilience, please take it seriously. If this is to be ovecome, we all need to do our part.

At a MINIMUM, we must ALL follow the guidelines set out by the Whatcom County Health Department, which are regularly updated here.  They currently recommend that “people at higher risk of severe illness should stay home and away from large groups of people as much as possible.” If you are over age 60 or have underlying health conditions, or weakened immune systems, you are considered high risk. 

There are a growing number of people who believe we need to be taking more aggressive steps – that we should ALL be engaging in physical isolation NOW.  I personally have been persuaded this is the wisest approach.  Here I am going to quote in full a recent post by thought leader Daniel Schmachtenberger:

“Public influencers: please strongly encourage physical isolation to your audience now. You will be saving lives and helping mitigate catastrophe.

All of Hollywood, youtube and instagram celebrities, podcast hosts, bloggers, companies with mailing lists, social media platform companies…please take this simple action immediately. Help people who don’t fully understand the situation yet to take this seriously.

The total number of people infected is much much higher than the reported numbers (we aren’t doing the testing to know how many people are infected, but many hospitals are already getting overwhelmed throughout US cities).

The number of people infected doubles in about 4 days with normal social behavior. Do the math on 2-3% death rate ~70% of the population.

With physical isolation, the transmission stops completely. This virus is transmitted via physical human contact (direct and indirect).

Two months of complete physical isolation and the pandemic is over. Otherwise, this could continue with no clear end in sight, and kill more Americans than the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan combined.

I wish we had ubiquitous, early, accurate testing already in place like South Korea so we could do a smart quarantine. But we don’t. So we need a total quarantine.

We don’t have to wait for the government to enforce it with the police and national guard. We can recognize the need and self organize to do what needs done. That is self-governance: of, for, and by the people.

We are too focused on the role of our elected leaders; this country was founded on the idea of self-governance with intentionally very limited representative power.

China has strong top down government and was able to enforce quarantine, build hospitals quickly, disinfect entire cities, put hazmat gear on all the workers. Our government is not prepared to do that. And, while effective, nobody wants to be in a Wuhan style enforced quarantine. If there was ever a good time for Americans to take back their sovereignty and lead themselves, this is it.

“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” – John F. Kennedy”

For more information, please at least skim the following article, which numerous people are calling the single best article they have read on this topic (including Michael Dowd and Alan Seid): Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now.  Michael Dowd commented, “I especially appreciated the reminder that because contagion is delayed in expression and that only “lock-down” examples are showing any ability to quash exponential infection rates and hospital overloads, that a wait-and-see attitude is the least responsible approach.”

Some of you might also be interested in exploring more deeply how we might relate differently to the fear in ourselves and in others — as well as the larger systemic turbulence we’re experiencing. I encourage you to check out the podcast conversation between Terry Patten and spiritual teacher Thomas Hubl: Coronavirus Crisis – Touching, Not Touching, Not Separate.

Finally, a consideration about how the coronavirus is affecting all of us on the financial/economic level.  Economist Steve Keen has an excellent analysis, and some key recommendations for how authorities should be responding: A Modern Jubilee, a Cure to the Financial Ills of the Coronavirus.

Thank you for reading and considering the above.  Stay safe and resilient! Remember to wash your hands for 20 seconds, with vigorous rubbing. Here’s the best video I’ve found on how to do it right; it also demonstrates why a quick hand wash is not sufficient: A Complete Guide to Hand Washing.  Remember that it is the friction that is important. According to a recent discussion between functional medicine practitioner Chris Kresser and infections disease specialist Dr. Ramzi Asfour:

Ramzi Asfour:  There are quite a few studies showing that it’s the friction that’s most important. Whether you’re using alcohol jelly or washing your hands, it’s friction that’s very important. And the reason that, spores are not very well, like, for example, Clostridium difficile, spores are not well-removed by alcohol jelly because people, probably because people don’t use enough friction. They don’t do the rubbing or scrubbing for 20 seconds with alcohol jelly.

Chris Kresser:  Right. And I’ve heard that, I also read a study suggesting that alcohol hand sanitizer wipes were preferable to the jelly for that reason, because it adds more of that friction element.

Steve Keen: A Cure to the financial ills of the Coronavirus

This is what we need – to create realistic economics for the post-crash world. Steve Keen is to be paid attention to. He’s been on this path for a while, and has been influencing other thought leaders, at least the ones paying attention to the predicament of limits to growth.

A Modern Jubilee as a cure to the financial ills of the Coronavirus

 Summary

Extraordinary measures are needed now to stop the health effects of the Coronavirus triggering a financial crisis that could in turn make the Coronavirus worse. All of these actions can be undertaken by Central Banks and financial regulators, once they have been given permission by governments. Two of these measures are already being undertaken by some Central Banks:

  • A per capita payment to all citizens so that renters can pay the rent, mortgagors can service their mortgages, and workers, whether unemployed or not, can buy food and other critical goods. This can be financed as Quantitative Easing was financed, without recourse to the Treasury, or taxation (Hong Kong has already done this);
  • Normal bankruptcy rules for companies and especially banks should be suspended, to allow them to continue operating despite falling into negative equity if revenues fall sharply and share prices plunge; and
  • Central Banks should buy shares directly to support share prices, rather than simply buying bonds under Quantitative Easing, to prevent a stock market collapse undermining both business and banks (Japan’s Central Bank is already doing this, though for other reasons).

Read the argument here:
https://www.patreon.com/posts/modern-jubilee-34537282?fbclid=IwAR1aBouFau-rvIk8yPdg9Me6X2FlZhibhP4FUSU4DquYKstZH_97bymg6Ak

Nourishing a Qualitative Orientation

“We need a philosophy we can smell, a pheromonal philosophy that draws us into the liminal and gives us the tools to navigate it. And it will not be the intellectuals who get us there. It will not be the autistic machinations of Silicon Valley, or the frothy mouthed proclamations of activists. It will be the artists, the shamans, those who go deeply within through embodied practices, the makers and doers and dancers. It will be those who are not talking about entering the liminal, but those who live there and know it like a second skin. ” – Alexander Beiner

Jean Gebser was a 20th century cultural philosopher who deeply valued the arts and what we could learn from them, and pointed the way towards a future integral consciousness that lives into the liminal spaces. His magnum opus, The Ever-Present Origin demonstrates the importance of moving from a Quantitative orientation to the Qualitative. Jeremy Johnson has written an excellent introduction to Gebser’s thought, covering the major themes of The Ever-Present Origin, and making clear its continued, and in fact increasing relevance to the culture of today, and of tomorrow. Check out Seeing Through the World: Jean Gebser and Integral Consciousness, by Jeremy Johnson.

Near the end of his life (1973), Gebser wrote another book, Decline and Participation (to me a fascinating title), which has not yet been translated into English. Johnson offers a short excerpt that has been translated (via Georg Feurstein). In this exceprt, Gebser discusses the qualities of the integral human being (homo integer). 


“Haste is replaced by silence and the capacity for silence;
Goal oriented, purposive thought is replaced by unintentionalness;
The pursuit of power is replaced by the genuine capacity for love;
Quantitative idle motion (Leerlauf) is replaced by the qualitative spiritual process;
Manipulation is replaced by the patient acceptance of the providential powers;
Mechanistic classification and organization is replaced by the “being-in-order” (In-der-Ordnung-sein);
Prejudice is replaced by the renunciation of value judgements, that is to say, the emotional short-circuit (Kurzschluss) is replaced by unsentimental tolerance;
Action is replaced by poise (Haltung);
Homo faber is replaced by homo integer;
The divided human being is replaced by the whole human being;
The emptiness of the limited world is replaced by the open expanse of the open world.”
(Gebser, Decline and Participation)

Now read that again, slowly, with long deep breaths between each statement, as I’m going to do right now…

When I do this, my whole nervous system slows down and relaxes into this quiet, calm, less hurried liminal space.

I was inspired to put this post together this morning after listening last night to a favorite podcast – Naked Conversations, with Helen Lowe and Lisa Fitzhugh.  In the latest episode, “Investing in What Nourishes,” they discuss (among other things) the value of investing energy into quiet inner reflection, and better resourcing ourselves so that we can more creatively be able to offer something more nourishing back into the world, instead of just reflecting back the trauma that we’re all surrounded with.  And cultivating the qualitative over the quantitative. The conversation reminded me of the Gebser quote above, as well as the quote from Alexander Beiner at the top of this post. Do check it out.

Peter Pogany’s Thermodynamic/Economic Analysis of Recent World History

Here I’ll attempt to outline Peter Pogany‘s thermodynamic/economic analysis of recent world history, which entails two and potentially three global systems. There are some parallels, I believe to Jordan Hall’s Blue Church/Red Religion analysis, where the Blue Church represents the current status quo (Pogany’s GS2) that is falling apart, and the Red Religion represents the desire to correct the problems not by progressing forward, but rather by regressing backward to Pogany’s GS1 stage. What is needed, however, is a “Phase Shift” – an evolution of consciousness (Jean Gebser’s integral consciousness) that will support a P2P/Commons approach (Bauwens), with non-rivalrous dynamics (Schmachtenberger), which Pogany calls GS3.

Pogany calls classical capitalism GS1 – Global System 1, stemming from Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations in 1776 to the beginning of WWI in 1914. “Laissez faire/metal money/zero multilateralism” – a free market system with little if any regulation, based on the gold standard, and zero collaboration between different nation-states.

“An ideological conviction took root that blossomed into the following general view: Scientific progress and the magic power of the market are destined to make man (the subject) the master of nature (the object). The free market credo effectively locked the repertoire of socioeconomic behavior into the narrow closet of calculative, money-metric self-interest and turned the past into the prehistory of a rationally assessable, eternally valid, equilibrium-centric order.”

Much like the idea of the earth itself as a self-organizing system (Lovelock and Margulis’ “Gaia hypothesis), Pogany sees the development at this time of world socio-economic systems that come to be self-organizing, hence “GS1”).  What did it take for GS1 to emerge? A chaotic transition, otherwise known as the French revolution.

Much success ensued. The free market was right for its time and improvement compared to what came before. By the early 20th century, however, GS1 came into what would in Gebserian terms be called its “deficient” stage (Jean Gebser, The Ever-Present Origin). Every stage concludes with a deficient stage, and we do not see smooth transitions that evolve to the next stage. For this reason Gebser did not like the term “evolution,” but rather spoke of mutation. Each period of mutation was accomplished by breakdown and crisis before the new system would emerge. GS1 lasted until the outbreak of WWI in 1914 (Pogany, 2009).

And so we see the chaotic transition of 1914 to 1945, between which were experienced two world wars and the great depression.

Emerging from that crisis was what Pogany called GS2 – Global System 2, where Roosevelt’s New Deal and the Keynesian economic model was predominant. Pogany characterizes GS2 as “mixed economy/minimum bank reserve money/weak multilateralism.” Until the fall of the communist governments in the 1980s, socialism remained an unsuccessful alternative to GS2. Both GS1 (unfettered market capitalism) and socialism influenced GS2, as it navigated its way between these two polarities.

GS2 performed very admirably for about 60 years, and an improvement on what came before. Some of the signs of deficiency, however, have been around a long time now, evident at least since Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and the Meadows, et al Limits to Growth books, and the first American oil crisis. Real deficiency came with policies that were put in place with Reagan and Thatcher (a regressive move reaching back to the ideas of GS1).  And the global crisis of mutation/transition began with 9/11 and marked again with the collapsing economies of 2008.

It is often asked, “how do we make this move when a dialectic has been set up that says one is being a marxist or left wing socialist, etc., when one posits these new realities?”

This is the same question Pogany asks: “What will it take to go from the current hostile disgust with the dystopia of tightened modes of multilateral governance to people around the world on their knees begging for a planetary guild? It will take nothing less than a mutation in consciousness, as outlined in the oeuvre of Jean Gebser (1905-1973).” (quoted from his 2013 paper on Thermodynamic Isolation and the New World Order). And that mutation in consciousness, he believes, will only take place after a chaotic transition – likely more chaotic than the great depression and two world wars. “The current world order,” he said, “cannot deliver long-term sustainability on a planetary scale. By design, it is incapable of recognizing humanity’s thermodynamic reality.” The new world order, GS3, will likely be characterized as “two-level economy/maximum bank reserve money/strong multilateralism.” Micro-activities would be subject to globally-determined and nationally allocated macro-constraints; money creation would be curbed and disciplined.” [Perhaps parallel to Rifkin’s 3rd revolution, or Edgar Morin’s dictum that “we must globalize and deglobalize.”]

Thus “The grand and painful path of consciousness emergence” (Gebser’s EPO, p. 542).

For more on Peter Pogany, please see our Peter Pogany page.  And stay tuned for a post that provides more focus on what Global System 3 might entail.

Understanding the patterns and processes of interdependency in complexity

Nora Bateson writes, “If humanity can’t approach the complexity of our world with greater collective effort, we can’t meet the challenges we face now.

This is NOT an abstraction. I maintain that developing an understanding the patterns and processes of interdependency in complexity is the single most practical capacity that we can support in ourselves and each other.”

via Digging into Warm Data, The Warm Data Lab, and Certified Training.

The Cognitive Prison Habits of Economic Growth and Development

This post grew out of a recent facebook discussion. Hat Tip to Bruce Kunkel for the title phrase “Cognitive Prison Habits.”

George Monbiot recently made some important points and asked questions we all should be giving some thought to.
“Green consumerism, material decoupling, sustainable growth: all are illusions, designed to justify an economic model that is driving us to catastrophe.”
“The promise of economic growth is that the poor can live like the rich and the rich can live like the oligarchs. But already we are bursting through the physical limits of the planet that sustains us.”
I would add the aphorism that “When you find yourself in a hole, rule #1 is to stop digging.”

The International Energy Agency has just released their yearly World Energy Outlook report, which tells us that current policies put us in a scenario that would add the equivalent of another China and India to today’s global demand for energy by 2040, and greenhouse gas reduction polices currently in play or being considered are “far from enough to avoid severe impacts of climate change.”

While the title of Monbiot’s post mentions consumerism trashing the planet, consumerism is not the fundamental problem (us) that he is addressing, nor is it unrestrained corporate power (them). More fundamental, giving rise to both of the above polarities, is the almost unquestioned commitment to growth that is built in to most of our systems. In Monbiot’s words:
” The promise of private luxury for everyone cannot be met: neither the physical nor the ecological space exists.
But growth must go on: this is everywhere the political imperative. And we must adjust our tastes accordingly…
A global growth rate of 3% means that the size of the world economy doubles every 24 years. This is why environmental crises are accelerating at such a rate. Yet the plan is to ensure that it doubles and doubles again, and keeps doubling in perpetuity. In seeking to defend the living world from the maelstrom of destruction, we might believe we are fighting corporations and governments and the general foolishness of humankind. But they are all proxies for the real issue: perpetual growth on a planet that is not growing.”

One of the most important presentations that I think should be mandatory basic education for everyone is Albert Bartlett’s “Arithmetic, Population, and Energy.”
Bartlett claims that “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.” He talks about the arithmetic and the impacts of unending steady economic and population growth, including an explanation of the concept of doubling time.

Fortunately there is a transcript as well!

http://www.albartlett.org/presentations/arithmetic_population_energy_transcript_english.html

Consider these questions (hat tip to Penelope Whitworth) – “Where does that commitment [to growth] come from? Is it programmed into our genes, or our consciousness, or inherent to biological life forms? Part of the “genetic code” of the cosmos? Is it a sociocultural thing? Could we have a humanity whose value system isn’t around growth?”

I addressed these isssues in my 2015 ITC paper, Patterns for Navigating the Transition to a World in Energy Descent.   Growth is a natural pattern that exists in all natural systems. However, some tend to fetishize and reify this pattern as a primary imperative. For many it has become something of a “myth of the given” – we don’t even question it. The first step is to recognize and respect this as a natural pattern, but to realize it needs to be balanced and integrated for optimal health with all other natural patterns (see my brief intro to PatternDynamics: Following the Way Nature Organizes Itself to Deal with Complexity.

In natural systems, growth tends to expand exponentially in the early phase when resources are abundant; then comes a phase of climax, where things can settle down into a more cooperative mode, somewhat approximating (comparatively, and for a period of time) a steady state. The best example is to look at a barren landscape, where fast growing weeds compete with one another for dominance. After a long period of time, this landscape could, under the right set of conditions, eventually evolve into a mature old-growth forest ecosystem, which is a perfect example of interconnected mutual support and reciprocity. This in contrast to the competitive growth pattern exhibited by the “adolescent” patch of weeds.

The question becomes, are humans smarter than yeast, which grows rapidly until all available resources are consumed, followed by a collapse? Can we successfully transition to a climax stage which mirrors the steady-state of an old-growth forest, or are we now near our final climax, to be followed by an unrecoverable collapse?

Even those who question unfettered growth are enmeshed in the system that tends to keep driving it forward.
Integral Economist Peter Pogany saw this commitment to growth as part of the “source code” of the self-organizing world system that emerged in recent history. As systems tend to reinforce and sustain themselves and their dominant patterns, it can be very difficult to try to manipulate and change the system’s direction (see Donella Meadows’ “Thinking in Systems: A Primer”). In Pogany’s view, it will take a (brutal) chaotic transition (which has already begun) to get the system to change course to a new, Gebserian, integral world system that is not wedded to the Growth pattern as a prime directive. Pogany saw this chaotic transition “as a necessity to precipitate a crisis of consciousness that would eventually lead to the wide-spread “integral a-rational” consciousness structure, as based on the thinking of cultural philosopher Jean Gebser” (see my articles Chaos, Havoc, and the American Abyss, and Consciousness and the New World Order.

In my 2015 paper for the Integral Theory Conference (cited above, but also posted here), I quoted from Edgar Morin and Peter Pogany to describe what  Bruce Kunkel has called the “cognitive prison habits” that keep us locked in to pursuing endless growth and development at all costs. To requote the quotes quoted in that paper:

Edgar Morin referred to “development” as:

“The master word, adopted by the United Nations, upon which all the popular ideologies of the second half of this century converged…development is a reductionistic conception which holds that economic growth is the necessary and sufficient condition for all social, psychological, and moral developments. This techno-economic conception ignores the human problems of identity, community, solidarity, and culture… In any case, we must reject the underdeveloped concept of development that made techno-industrial growth the panacea of all anthroposocial development and renounce the mythological idea of an irresistible progress extending to infinity” (Morin, Homeland Earth: A Manifesto for the New Millenium, 1999, pp. 59-63).

Addressing this “myth of the given,” Peter Pogany pokes fun at his own profession (of economists):

“Historically, geocapital [matter ready to be used to feed cultural evolution] has registered a net increase; additions and expansions more than offset exhaustions and reductions. This long-lasting successful experience led to the culturally ingrained confidence in the possibility of its eternal continuation. Economic growth theory keeps “deriving” the same conclusion over and over again: Optimally maintained economic expansion can continue forever. Translated from evolutionary scales to our own, this is analogous to “Since I wake up every morning I must be immortal” (Rethinking the World, 2006, p. 118).”

I suggest we join Morin and Pogany in renouncing  the irrational exuberance that expects irresistible progress and economic growth extending to infinity. To break out of this cognitive prison habit may be very challenging indeed. However, at some point there will be no choice.  It’s time to stop digging that hole that we think is taking us up the mountain.