“Post-modernism has cut off the present from all futures. The daily media adds to this by cutting off the past. Which means that critical opinion is often orphaned in the present.”—John Berger, Keeping a Rendezvous, 1991
Climate change is like that: it’s hard to keep it in your head for very long. We engage in this odd form of on-again-off-again ecological amnesia for perfectly rational reasons. We deny because we fear that letting in the full reality of this crisis will change everything. And we are right.
We know that if we continue on our current path of allowing emissions to rise year after year, climate change will change everything about our world. Major cities will very likely drown, ancient cultures will be swallowed by the seas, and there is a very high chance that our children will spend a great deal of their lives fleeing and recovering from vicious storms and extreme droughts. And we don’t have to do anything to bring about this future. All we have to do is nothing.
[…] There are ways of preventing this grim future, or at least making it a lot less dire. But the catch is that these also involve changing everything. For us high consumers, it involves changing how we live, how our economies function, even the stories we tell about our place on earth.
[…] Climate change has never received the crisis treatment from our leaders, despite the fact that it carries the risk of destroying lives on a vastly greater scale than collapsed banks or collapsed buildings. The cuts to our greenhouse gas emissions that scientists tell us are necessary in order to greatly reduce the risk of catastrophe are treated as nothing more than gentle suggestions, actions that can be put off pretty much indefinitely. Clearly, what gets declared a crisis is an expression of power and priorities as much as hard facts. But we need not be spectators in all this: politicians aren’t the only ones with the power to declare a crisis. Mass movements of regular people can declare one too.
[…] Slavery wasn’t a crisis for British and American elites until abolitionism turned it into one. Racial discrimination wasn’t a crisis until the civil rights movement turned it into one. Sex discrimination wasn’t a crisis until feminism turned it into one. Apartheid wasn’t a crisis until the anti-apartheid movement turned it into one. In the very same way,if enough of us stop looking away and decide that climate change is a crisis worthy of Marshall Plan levels of response, then it will become one.”
”—NAOMI KLEIN. This Changes Everything. Introduction.
“As the pioneering psychedelic chemist Alexander Shulgin (1927-2014) has pointed out, the idea that the Earth moved around the Sun was radical heresy at one time. A century later, it was a commonplace truism. The prospect that the inner exploration of consciousness with psychedelics might be recognized as, in itself, a positive and worthy endeavor is another radical heresy that may be seen as self-evident in the future. Rather than collapsing into anarchy, a civilization that supports the adult individual’s right to utilize these chemical catalysts for self-discovery and spiritual communion might advance to a more mature and stable state. Much of the anxiety and negative conditioning around the subject could be dispelled with logical argument based on evidence for the relative safety of psychedelics, especially natural ones, compared to other drugs. The point is not that everyone needs to take psychedelics but that the minority of people who find themselves compelled to make this exploration could be permitted to do so. (…) In a culture that is awash in prescription chemicals, drugs of abuse, and mood-altering SSRIs, it seems increasingly odd to ban a handful of plant substances and related compounds (even LSD is closely related to a chemical found in ergot fungus) that have been used by human beings for untold thousands of years.”—-Daniel Pinchbeck, Introduction to The Psychedelic Experience, by T. Leary, R. Metzner and R. Alpert, Penguin Classics, 2007.
Refusing to be Enemies: Palestinian and Israeli Nonviolent Resistance to the Israeli Occupationis an interview-based study that presents the voices of over 100 practitioners and theorists of nonviolence, the vast majority either Palestinian or Israeli. In their own words, these activists share examples of effective nonviolent campaigns and discuss obstacles encountered in their pursuit of a just…
“Anybody practicing the fine art of composing music, no matter how cynical or greedy or scared, still can’t help serving all humanity. Music makes practically everybody fonder of life than he or she would be without it. Even military bands, although I am a pacifist, always cheer me up. But that is the power of ear candy.”—Kurt Vonnegut. Source: In These Times.
“Many years had elapsed during which nothing of Combray, save what was comprised in the theatre and the drama of my going to bed there, had any existence for me, when one day in winter, on my return home, my mother, seeing that I was cold, offered me some tea, a thing I did not ordinarily take. I declined at first, and then, for no particular reason, changed my mind. She sent for one of those…
“The case for vegetarianism is at its strongest when we see it as a moral protest against our use of animals as mere things, to be exploited for our convenience in whatever way makes them most cheaply available to us. Only the tiniest fraction of the tens of billions of farm animals slaughtered for food each year—the figure for the United States alone is nine billion—were treated during their lives in ways that respected their interests. Questions about the wrongness of killing in itself are not relevant to the moral issue of eating meat or eggs from factory-farmed animals, as most people in developed countries do. Even when animals are roaming freely over large areas, as sheep and cattle do in Australia, operations like hot-iron branding, castration, and dehorning are carried out without any regard for the animals’ capacity to suffer. The same is true of handling and transport prior to slaughter. In the light of these facts, the issue to focus on is not whether there are some circumstances in which it could be right to eat meat, but on what we can do to avoid contributing to this immense amount of animal suffering.
The answer is to boycott all meat and eggs produced by large-scale commercial methods of animal production, and encourage others to do the same. Consideration for the interests of animals alone is enough justification for this response, but the case is further strengthened by the environmental problems that the meat industry causes. Although Mr. Justice Bell found that the allegations directed at McDonald’s regarding its contribution to the destruction of rain forests were not true, the meat industry as a whole can take little comfort from that, because Bell accepted evidence that cattle-ranching, particularly in Brazil, had contributed to the clearing of vast areas of rain forest. The problem for David Morris and Helen Steel was that they did not convince the judge that the meat used by McDonald’s came from these regions. So the meat industry as a whole remains culpable for the loss of rain forest and for all the con sequences of that, from global warming to the deaths of indigenous people fighting to defend their way of life.
Environmentalists are increasingly recognizing that the choice of what we eat is an environmental issue. Animals raised in sheds or on feedlots eat grains or soybeans, and they use most of the food value of these products simply in order to maintain basic functions and develop unpalatable parts of the body like bones and skin. To convert eight or nine kilos of grain protein into a single kilo of animal protein wastes land, energy, and water. On a crowded planet with a growing human population, that is a luxury that we are becoming increasingly unable to afford.
Intensive animal production is a heavy user of fossil fuels and a major source of pollution of both air and water. It releases large quantities of methane and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. We are risking unpredictable changes to the climate of our planet—which means, ultimately, the lives of billions of people, not to mention the extinction of untold thousands of species of plants and animals unable to cope with changing conditions—for the sake of more hamburgers. A diet heavy in animal products, catered to by intensive animal production, is a disaster for animals, the environment, and the health of those who eat it.”
”—Peter Singer’s Ethical considerations for Vegetarianism
“Most people confuse “self-knowledge” with knowledge of their conscious ego personalities. Anyone who has any egoconsciousness at all takes it for granted that he knows himself. But the ego knows only its own contents, not the unconscious and its contents. People measure their self-knowledge by what the average person in their social environment knows of himself, but not by the real psychic facts which are for the most part hidden from them. In this respect the psyche behaves like the body with its physiological and anatomical structure, of which the average person knows very little too. Although he lives in it and with it, most of it is totally unknown to the layman, and special scientific knowledge is needed to acquaint consciousness with what is known of the body…
In this broad belt of unconsciousness, which is immune to conscious criticism and control, we stand defenseless, open to all kinds of influences and psychic infections. As with all dangers, we can guard against the risk of psychic infection only when we know what is attacking us, and how, where and when the attack will come. Since self-knowledge is a matter of getting to know the individual facts, theories help very little in this respect. For the more a theory lays claim to universal validity, the less capable it is of doing justice to the individual facts. Any theory based on experience is necessarily statistical; that is to say, it formulates an ideal average which abolishes all exceptions at either end of the scale and replaces them by an abstract mean.
The statistical method shows the facts in the light of the ideal average but does not give us a picture of their empirical reality. While reflecting an indisputable aspect of reality, it can falsify the actual truth in a most misleading way. This is particularly true of theories which are based on statistics. The distinctive thing about real facts, however, is their individuality. Not to put too fine a point on it, one could say that the real picture consists of nothing but exceptions to the rule, and that, in consequence, absolute reality has predominantly the character of irregularity.
These considerations must be borne in mind whenever there is talk of a theory serving as a guide to self-knowledge. There is and can be no self-knowledge based on theoretical assumptions, for the object of self-knowledge is an individual – a relative exception and an irregular phenomenon. Hence it is not the universal and the regular that characterize the individual, but rather the unique. He is not to be understood as a recurrent unit but as something unique and singular which in the last analysis can neither be known nor compared with anything else.
If I want to understand an individual human being, I must lay aside all scientific knowledge of the average man and discard all theories in order to adopt a completely new and unprejudiced attitude. I can only approach the task of understanding with a free and open mind, whereas knowledge of man, or insight into human character, presupposes all sorts of knowledge about mankind in general.
Now whether it is a question of understanding a fellow human being or of self-knowledge, I must in both cases leave all theoretical assumptions behind me. Since scientific knowledge not only enjoys universal esteem but, in the eyes of modern man, counts as the only intellectual and spiritual authority, understanding the individual obliges me to commit lèse majesté, so to speak, to turn a blind eye to scientific knowledge. This is a sacrifice not lightly made, for the scientific attitude cannot rid itself so easily of its sense of responsibility. And if the psychologist happens to be a doctor who wants not only to classify his patient scientifically but also to understand him as a human being, he is threatened with a conflict of duties between the two diametrically opposed and mutually exclusive attitudes ofknowledge, on the one hand, and understanding, on the other. This conflict cannot be solved by an either-or but only by a kind of two-way thinking: doing one thing while not losing sight of the other.”
God in Pain: Inversions of the Apocalypse
Slavoj Žižek and Boris Gunjević
A brilliant dissection and reconstruction of the three major faith-based systems of belief in the world today, from one of the world’s most articulate intellectuals, Slavoj Zizek, in conversation with Croatian philosopher Boris Gunjevic. In six chapters that describe Christianity, Islam, and Judaism in fresh ways using the…
Noami Klein portrayed by Vogue: “Born in Montreal in 1970, Klein grew up the daughter of left-wing American parents who moved to Canada because of the Vietnam War and continued their progressive politics there: Her mother, Bonnie Sherr Klein, was part of Canada’s first feminist film studio, while her father, Michael Klein, M.D., built innovative public health centers.
On Being: He bestowed the title “Mahatma” on Gandhi. He debated the deepest nature of reality with Einstein. He was championed by Yeats and Pound to become the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. Rabindranath Tagorewas a polymath — a writer and a painter, a philosopher and a musician, and a social innovator — but much of his poetry and prose is virtually…
He bestowed the title “Mahatma” on Gandhi. He debated the deepest nature of reality with Einstein. He was championed by Yeats and Pound to become the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. Rabindranath Tagore was a polymath — a writer and a painter, a philosopher and a musician, and a social innovator — but much of his poetry and prose is virtually untranslatable (or inaccessibly translated) for modern minds. We pull back the “dusty veils” that have hidden his memory from history.