2017-06-28

The Empire Express, 28 June 2017


Editorial

Three distinct areas have emerged as today's focus points: clear indication of the climate's rapid deterioration, studies in anthropology and sociology, and the battle to bring down the Megamachine. You might also express it in terms of observation - realization - action; or, past - present - future.
A lot of that has close relationship to food supply which is absolutely no surprise to anyone who pays attention to their basic needs.
The question of how to deal with the dire realities of today's world permeates many publications even when their main topics seem harmless. The threat of a global war, nuclear war even, and the collapse of our culture is hovering over our heads; anarchists, anti-imperialists, environmentalists and primitivists are pondering the role of violence in their struggle to save whatever they are out saving. Does pacifism equal collaboration with the omnicidal System? Is there a moral obligation to use violence against things and/or people? Or is there another way?
I think those belong among the most burning questions of our times, and while I personally tend to favour nonviolent liberation I do suppose that some situations might require the application of force. Can't plan this beforehand, though, because it depends on the specifics of the moment. In any case, let compassion prevail. Don't act from a place of hate.

Ongoing Assault

Recent news

Climate scientists reveal their fears for the future – Kerry Brewster, ABC news, 20170627
An Australian climate scientist studying heat waves says, “I don't like to scare people but the future's not looking very good.“ She and many of her colleagues have second thoughts about having children and they are moving to places like Tasmania where temperatures are lower – as do many of the rich and powerful. If you need reliable indication of an impending climate collapse, here tweets your canary.

Carbon in atmosphere Is rising, even as emissions stabilize – Justin Gillis, New York Times, 20170627
That raises a conundrum: If the amount of the gas that people are putting out has stopped rising, how can the amount that stays in the air be going up faster than ever?”
If you are aware that various tipping points have been reached beyond which self-reinforcing feedback loops kick in you do not need to read this article. Just share it with people who wonder what is going on.

Vulnerable ‘chokepoints’ threaten global food supply, warns report – Damian Carrington, The Guardian, 20170627
Both climate change and political issues may interrupt global trade at any moment now. A number of African countries depend heavily on food imports, but the problem is not theirs alone. The failure of raw materials and fossil fuel supply is sure to fell the economies of developed countries in no time. The whole situation is a threat to all of global industrial civilization and has a potential to bring it down permanently – which is why big harbours, channels, and straits have been identified as trouble areas by the anti-capitalist movement.

Subsea permafrost on East Siberian Arctic Shelf in accelerated decline – interview by Nick Breeze with Dr Natalia Shakhova and Dr Igor Semiletov, Envisionation, 20170624
Latest research results show that the threat of a multi-gigaton outburst of methane from the ESAS is real and would have severe and immediate impact on the world's climate.

The twilight of anthropolatry – John Michael Greer, Ecosophia, 20170621
Check out any other issue where the survival of industrial society is at stake, and you’ll see the same thing. In case after case, it takes very little work to identify the habits and lifestyle choices that are dragging our civilization to ruin, and only a few moments of clear thinking to realize that the way to avert an ugly future has to begin with giving up those habits and lifestyle choices. Yet that last step is unthinkable to most people. It’s not just that they refuse to take it, for whatever reason; it’s that they don’t seem to be able to wrap their brains around the idea at all.”

Then what is it that keeps people from acting according to their best knowledge? After all, civilized humans deem themselves the most intelligent species on Earth by far. We even call ourselves homo sapiens, wise apes. The author thinks that we cannot believe anything will ever be able to come and bite us because of “A paradigm that insists that human beings are above nature—in the full literal sense of the word, supernatural—and therefore can’t possibly need to rethink their own choices for nature’s sake.”
Though the concept is not exactly new JMG puts it in a way that helps with reconsidering humanity's place in the greater scheme of things. We are divine, but no more so than squirrels and apple trees.

Forbes' “Go Bust” prescription for Indian farmers is a death warrant – Colin Todhunter & Binu Mathew, Countercurrents, 20170614
A piece in one of the 'finest' business magazines, on the need to industrialize Indian agriculture, led to this systematic rebuttal of both the analysis and the conclusion of Forbes' neoliberal line of argument. Well written, but I am missing the insight that, very soon, the world is running into a food crisis and no one is going to eat if farming productivity is getting measured in financial rather than nutritional value.

The business model of big agribusiness in the US is based on overproduction and huge taxpayer subsidies which allow it to rake in huge profits. However, it drives a model of agriculture that merely serves to produce bad food, creates food deficit regions globally, destroys health, impoverishes small farms, leads to less diverse diets and less nutritious food, is less productive than small farms, creates water scarcity, destroys soil and fuels/benefits from World Bank/WTO policies that create dependency and debt [...]
While [Forbes author Tim] Worstall argues that unproductive agriculture is a burden on society, it is not agriculture that has been the subsidy-sucking failure he imagines it to be. It has been starved of investment while the corporates secure the handouts. If anything, farmers have been sacrificed for the benefit of the urban middle classes whose food has been kept cheap and whose disposable income and consumer spending provides the illusion of growth.”

Earth is not in the midst of a sixth mass extinction – Peter Brannen, The Atlantic, 20170613
Interesting read. But palaeontologist Doug Erwin's argument does not convince. First of all, mass extinctions may have similarities to failing power grids but they are not that, not pieces of technology. It's simply an analogy like, comparing civilization to a ship, or seeing life as a journey, and it might be just as wrong as the computer/brain analogy. Secondly, previous mass extinction events played out over thousands or even millions of years before the collapse was complete. As we cannot foresee how the extinction of a certain species affects the web of life as a whole, we cannot tell whether key species of today have already vanished or not. We might already be over the edge (or we might not, agreed). Saying that today's ecosystems don't look like they were 90% collapsed is like driving a car at top speed over a cliff saying, a crashed car wouldn't make one hundred miles per hour. From the figures I know the world has lost more than 90% of its vertebrates and insects populations within the last 100 years, and that is a pretty close call for extinction. Add to this the increasing speed at which we eat up living beings and destroy habitats, then look at ocean acidification, abrupt climate change, global pollution, and disastrous technological events, and do not forget to include the general disregard for non-human beings when money enters the game; then tell me again about being alarmist.

Mandsaur agitation: how demonetisation brought MP farmers onto streets – Aman Sethi & Punya Priya Mitra, Hindustan Times, 20170612
Humanity's behaviour towards the world we inhabit is often described as 'soiling our nest'. Most civilized people definitely got mental issues when it comes to natural processes, even when they are being adapted for human use, like in agriculture. The average consumer looks down upon their farmers, and generally feels that food prices are too high. But those who produce the vital goods each and every one of us depends upon work the hardest and longest, earn the least, and take the highest risks. Some of the governments know very well that they cannot stay in power if the farmers become aware of their potential leverage. That's why they are getting shot at while the general public doesn't care. People don't care in Delhi, they don't care in Auroville, they don't care in Berlin or New York or Buenos Aires or Cairo. They don't care in your home town, and likely you don't care either, do you?
Maybe you should. Because when the day of food shortage comes it's the farmers who will eat, if anyone. I say 'If anyone' because it seems more likely that, with all the obstacles and hardships put on the farmers, and with all the destruction brought upon the landbase, no one will eat.

Paris 2 degree rise relates to 1750 – Paul Beckwith, 20170610
The Canadian climate scientist explains where some of the confusion about the actual rise in global average temperature comes from.

It's habitat, habitat, habitat, stupid – Robin Westenra, Seemorerocks, 20170607
An essay discussing our crop plants' dependence on habitat, and the dependence of civilization on crop plants.

Vanessa Beeley on White Helmets, Syria – Sane Progressive, 20170526
It is thanks to a handful of independent investigative journalists that we can see the extent to which the public is being fooled into believing that governments were fighting morally good wars. The war in Syria not only shows that this is true for the West's attack against yet another sovereign nation, but for the whole so-called War on Terror which is really only a deadly sham. In Syria, it is no longer ISIS or al-Qaeda who are being bombed by Western troops. Vanessa Beeley, Eva Bartlett and others did a great job describing how the so-called terrorists are being financed by Saudi, Israeli, US, and UK governments. Especially disgusting is the role of the White Helmets that our media style into angels. But listen to the reporter for yourself.

Now: The Invisible Committee – Non (copyriot.com), 20170520
This world is no longer to be commented on, criticised, denounced. We live surrounded by a fog of commentaries and of commentaries on commentaries, of criticisms and of criticisms of criticisms, of revelations that trigger nothing, except revelations about revelations. And this fog takes away from us any hold on the world. There is nothing to criticise in Donald Trump. The worst that one can say about him, he has already absorbed, incorporated. He embodies it. He wears as a necklace all of the grievances that one could ever imagine holding against him. He is his own caricature, and he is proud.”

This is not an essay about the US president.

The truth is not something towards which we would tend, but a non-evasive relation to what there is. It is not a “problem” except for those who already see life as a problem. It is not something that one professes, but a way of being in the world. It is therefore not something that is possessed, or accumulated. It is given in a situation, from moment to moment.”

It is a call for an anarchist revolution, written by an “Invisible Committee” of authors that has, ten years ago, published “The coming insurrection.” Its analysis of the global predicament goes deep, its scope of interest is wide, and although I am really not a friend of applied violence I have to admit that its place in the grander scheme of things seems properly defined.

Pearls Before Swine

A collection of older articles that - obviously - didn't change the world.

The demoralized mind – John F. Shumaker, Newint, 201604
Unlike most forms of depression, demoralization is a realistic response to the circumstances impinging on the person’s life […]
Research shows that, in contrast to earlier times, most people today are unable to identify any sort of philosophy of life or set of guiding principles. Without an existential compass, the commercialized mind gravitates toward a ‘philosophy of futility’, as Noam Chomsky calls it, in which people feel naked of power and significance beyond their conditioned role as pliant consumers. Lacking substance and depth, and adrift from others and themselves, the thin and fragile consumer self is easily fragmented and dispirited […]
Cultural deprogramming is essential, along with ‘culture proofing’, disobedience training and character development strategies, all aimed at constructing a worldview that better connects the person to self, others and the natural world.”

International migration flows: tracking the trends – Down To Earth, based on UN international migrant stock 2015
In 2015, the world saw the highest levels of forced displacement recorded since World War II. There was a dramatic surge in the number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people across the world.”

Ho'oponopono for beginners.

Thinking on a clean slate: preface to the human story – M. J. John, Human First – Thinking Beyond Industrial Civilization, 20141208
Nothing could be more misleading than the idea that computer technology introduced the age of information. The printing press began that age, and we have not been free of it ever since.
[...] Everything from telegraphy and photography in the 19th century to the silicon chip in the twentieth has amplified the din of information, until matters have reached such proportions today that for the average person, information no longer has any relation to the solution of problems.
[...] For most humans living today, it is hard to imagine life without technology – without second-hand intelligence-dependency. But on the scale of human history, the
Internet and mobile devices are recent inventions, a few decades back, and the modern science and technology a few centuries back. Until just 5,000 years ago, we lived in small groups, hunting and gathering. While that life might seem to be ancient, it is also the life for which our bodies and our brains are adapted. So, we have something to learn from people who still live naturally, as we did for almost 99.9% of human life here on Mother Earth.
[...] In ancient Greece, even slaves had a deep social role as part of a household, unlike even higher class modern workers, who are valued as things, interchangeable as parts in engines of profit. Medieval serfs worked fewer hours than modern people, at a slower pace, and passed less of their money up the hierarchy. We declare our lives better than theirs in terms of our own cultural values. If medieval people could visit us, I think they would be impressed by our advances in alcohol, pornography, and sweet foods, and appalled at our biophobia, our fences, the lifelessness of our physical spaces, the meaninglessness and stress of our existence, our lack of practical skills, and the extent to which we let our lords (leaders of religion, government and market) regulate our every activity. They are sure to consider us as pitiful creatures.
[...] Supposing there were no books, TV, radio, the newspapers, phone and the Internet, we would know very little of what went on or is going on in the world. We would have fewer thoughts, fewer second-hand ideas. Being less cluttered up mentally, we would be better able to concentrate on things near at hand. We would be able to live more intensely. Perhaps we would be closer to REALITY, the real knowledge or the TRUTH. This was, of course, the condition of our ancestors in bygone days, even as it is still the condition of many people untouched by industrial civilization in some of the so-called ‘undeveloped’ countries.”

A veeery long essay taken from the book “Life on meltdown: exposing the root of this genocidal collective stupidity” by M. J. John, and it has, of course much more to tell, beyond critisizing industrial civilization. I chose to quote these passages, especially at such length, because, for the resolving message to come across, it takes for the reader to let go, just one moment, of the idea that humanity is living at the apex of its abilities. There are massive amounts of evidence today that both human intelligence and human sensory and memory functions are actually in decline. Think of it.

An anthropologist's presentation regarding tribes of the Northern Congo basin, explaining the locals' understanding of equality and its rootedness in different kinds of blood. Beyond the social equality – between men and women, old and young people, strangers and family, and all kinds of other dichotomies – there is also equality between human and non-human populations in their forest. I found it interesting to see how the concept of equality differs between civilized and tribal nations. Profound differences in lifestyle result from that.

This book is about fighting back. The dominant culture—civilization—is killing the planet, and it is long past time for those of us who care about life on earth to begin taking the actions necessary to stop this culture from destroying every living being [...] it won’t stop doing so because we ask nicely.”

Cartoon

The train of civilization

“Must go faster!”

Famous Last Words

It can't happen to us.

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