Tribal Nationalism vs Global Unity

Change, discontent and uncertainty are some of the most prominent characteristics of the times. These interconnected terms are routinely used to describe global affairs and are key factors animating the global protest movement as well as the growing tide of nationalism. Both movements arise from the same seed, one is progressive and in harmony with the new, the other is of the past and seeks to obstruct and divide.
These are transitional times, as humanity moves out of one civilization imbued with certain ideals, values and beliefs to a new way of living based on altogether different principles; times of unease and insecurity certainly, but also times of great hope and opportunity.
If humanity is to progress and the natural environment is to survive, fundamental change in the way life is lived is essential; systemic change as well as an accelerated shift in attitudes and values. Many people throughout the world recognize this and are advocating such a shift; those in power – political and corporate – reject such demands and do all they can to maintain the status quo and perpetuate the existing unjust systems. Despite this entrenched resistance, the new cannot be held at bay for much longer: change is coming, the question is when, how and with what impact it will occur, not if.
Widespread uncertainty is in part the result of this sustained intransigence, coupled with the instability within the socio-economic systems, which are in a state of terminal decay; fuelled by the past, they are carcasses – forms without life. The pervading uncertainty is being exploited by the reactionary forces of the world; powerful forces using fear to manipulate people and drum-up what we might call tribal nationalism, as opposed to civic nationalism, in order to assert themselves, and in many countries they appear to be in the ascendency.
 The current explosion of tribal nationalism or right-wing populism is a crude response to worries about immigration and national identity, coupled with genuine social injustices including economic hardship and unemployment. Throughout the world right-wing groups with protectionist economic policies and anti-immigration views continue to gain support and in some cases win power. The loudest sign of this regressive trend wasthe election of Donald Trump as president in 2016. His nationalistic, ‘America First’ message fuels intolerance and division and encourages national or self- interest. It casts a shadow of suspicion over foreigners, particularly those that think, live and pray differently, and it is by nature inward looking and brittle.
Strengthened by Trump’s election, far right and ultra conservative politicians in other countries have flourished.Throughout Europe right-wing and far right parties have been empowered: Prime-Minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary (who has repeatedly called for an end to ‘liberal democracies’ in Europe); President Recep Erdoğan in Turkey who has attacked the media, centralized power and is pursuing a form of Islamic nationalism; the Law and Justice government in Poland; Matteo Salvini, Italy’s deputy prime minister; The Freedom Party in Austria; Jair Bolsonaro the newly elected President of Brazil and Prime-Minister Narendra Modi of India. And in Russia, accordingto a series of studies conducted by the Research Council of Norway, “nationalism has been growing since the dissolution of the Soviet Union (1990-1991), along with attempts by the regime to commandeer it.
 These political parties, and others, have adopted what The Economist statesis “a pessimistic view that foreign affairs are often a zero-sum game in which global interests compete with national ones. It is a big change that makes for a more dangerous world.” The Brexit vote (52% voted leave, 48% remain in the 2016 referendum) in the UK was another example of how right-wing politicians manipulated a disgruntled populous by inflaming nationalistic sentiment and intolerance. The vote to leave was in many ways a protest vote – a negative vote – largely against freedom of movement of people from Europe, i.e. against immigration. Duplicitous advocates of leaving the European Union, mainly from the Conservative and UKIP parties, used slogans like ‘taking back control’ and taking ‘our country back’ to win support for their campaign. Consistent with the response in other countries many who were won over by the nationalists agenda and voted to leave where over 60 years of age; young people (those under 30) who will feel the impact of leaving most, commonly see themselves as ‘citizens of the world’ and overwhelmingly voted to remain part of the EU.
 Civic nationalism
Tribal nationalism plays on notions of identity, encouraging allegiance to a national and in some cases racial ideal; national bonds of belonging and personal identity rooted in the nation state are fostered, and in a world in which many people, particularly older individuals, experience a fragmented sense of self and a national feeling of loss, such ideals appear comforting, offering a sense of belonging. But far from creating security this type of  nationalism (like all forms of conditioned constructs) isolates and excludes, strengthening false notions of superiority and inferiority, creating an atmosphere of distrust, and establishing a climate in which fear can flourish.
Images of self which are rooted in any form of ideology (religious, political, racial, etc.),  imprison and divide, feeding intolerance and division. All of which is in opposition to the movement and tone of the time, which is towards greater levels of cooperation, tolerance and understanding of others. Within the paradigm of Tribal Nationalism ‘the other’, other nations as well as people from other nations, are seen as a threat, as rivals, and are viewed with suspicion, if not outright hostility. When outsiders are described in inflammatory terms , such as ‘murderers’, ‘rapists’ and people who ‘infest’ the pristine nation, fear and anger is facilitated, violence legitimised and a process of dehumanisation of ‘the other’ set in motion. And, as history shows when this takes place unbridled atrocities are perpetuated.
Civic nationalism on the other hand brings the people of a particular nation together around common values to work for the good of the community. It encourages cooperation, tolerance and sharing and can serve as a stepping stone to global responsibility; collective action in which the skills, gifts and abilities of the individual nations of the world are used for the benefit and enrichment of all, and not just for the nation state. Conversely, tribal nationalism is tied to the old ways of competition and suspicion, it is a dangerous ideology which is being cynically employed by right-wing politicians, who see widespread public discontent as an opportunity to manipulate the argument and gain power. It is of the past, is detrimental to human development and has no place in our world.
 As any child will tell you, beyond national constructs, beyond racial and tribal identities, humanity is one, diverse but part of a single unity. We are moving into a time when this essential fact will be the guiding principle of human affairs.
 
 
 
January 2019
 

Britain’s Homeless Crisis

Under the suffocating shadow of economic austerity, homelessness in Britain is increasing, poverty and inequality deepening. Since the Conservative party came to power via a coalition government in 2010, then as a minority government in 2015, homelessness has risen exponentially.
Whilst it is impossible to collect precise statistics on homelessness, these widely available figures, which exclude the ‘hidden homeless’, paint a stark picture of the growing crisis: In 2010 1,768 people were recorded as sleeping rough, whilst 48,000 households were living in temporary accommodation. By December 2017, according to A Public Accounts Committee report, there were almost 9,000 rough sleepers, and, The Guardian states, “nearly 76,000 households were living in emergency temporary accommodation such as bed and breakfasts, of which 60,000 were families with children or pregnant mothers” –  an increase of 58% on the 2010 figures.
Whilst someone rough sleeping in a doorway is a loud and painful declaration of homelessness, a person is also regarded as homeless if they are staying with family or friends or ‘sofa surfing’ (the ‘hidden homeless’), as well those living in temporary accommodation provided by a local authority. Councils have a legal duty to house certain people – such as pregnant women, parents with dependent children and people considered vulnerable (single people rarely qualify). If, after investigating a case, the council concludes they do not have a legal duty to provide housing, nothing permanent is offered and the temporary accommodation is withdrawn. The only option then is to find somewhere in the private sector, which is becoming increasingly difficult in many parts of the country, including rural towns as well as London and other major cities. Rents (and deposits) are high and landlords are more and more demanding, refusing to rent to people on state benefits, often asking for a guarantor and only offering Assured Shorthold Tenancies (AST).
The Thatcher government introduced AST’s as part of the Housing Act of 1988, prior to which fair rents (as opposed to market rents) and protected tenancies existed, providing a high level of security of tenure. The Thatcher legislation changed all that; AST’s (usually six months) provide virtually no security to the tenant and, in line with the maxim of the market, set no limit on the level of the rent. Consequentially most landlords charge as much as they can get, many do not properly maintain the property, and are within their rights to raise rents and take possession of the property whenever they feel like it. The ending of an AST is now one of the most common causes of homelessness.
Austerity and Homelessness
Those in receipt of state benefits or on a low income can claim housing benefit (HB), which is paid by local authorities to help with rent payments. In 2010, shocked by the national HB bill, the coalition government initiated reforms to the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) for tenants in ‘the deregulated private rented sector’ – the key word here is deregulated. Within broader public spending cuts the policy changes set a cap on the level of housing benefit that can be paid. LHA levels are fixed well below market rents, which results in shortfalls in rent payments leading to arrears, subsequent evictions and homelessness; according to the homeless charity Crisis, “all available evidence points to Local Housing Allowance reforms as a major driver of [the] association between loss of private tenancies and homelessness”
Instead of taking measures to regulate the private housing market and deal with the extortionate rents charged by greedy landlords, the policy penalized the tenant and set in motion a system which, coupled with benefit freezes and the dire lack of social housing, has caused homelessness to grow at an alarming rate; Another example of government incompetence or social hardship by design? If the HB freeze remains in place until 2020 as planned by the government, the charity, Shelter says that “more than a million households, including 375,000 with at least one person in work, could be forced out of their homes.”
The cap on HB is one aspect of the government’s austere economic programme. Through the implementation of economic austeritythe Conservative governmentis waging a violent assault on the poorest members of British societyand ripping the heart out of the community. The justification for such brutality is the need to balancethe books, however, the national debt is greater now that is was in 2010, The Office for National Statistics statesthat “UK government gross debt as of December 2017 was £1.7 trillion – equivalent to 87.7% of gross domestic product (GDP),– compared to 60%of GDP in 2010. Austerity is anideological choice not an economic necessity. Financial cuts have been applied in the most severe manner; budgets to local authorities, schools, the NHS (National Health Service), the Police and to the benefit system, among other areas. The consequences are homelessness and widespread economic hardship.
Nationwide food-banks run by the Trussell Trust provided 1.3 million food parcels last year, up 13% on 2016 – before the financial crash in 2008/9 the concept of “food banks” was virtually unknown in Britain. Shelter estimatesthat more than 130,000 homeless children will be living in temporary accommodation over Christmas, almost 10,000 of who will be in hostels or hotels “where in many cases their family will have been put up in a single room, sharing bathrooms and kitchens with other residents. Overall, 50,000 more children in England, Wales and Scotland are homeless compared with five years ago, a rise of 59%.” The government is doing nothing to alleviate the homeless crisis, on the contrary their policies are fuelling it; Labour MP Meg Hillier, who chairs the Public Accounts Committee, says the government’s approach to tackling the problem of homelessness has been an “abject failure”.
The right to a home
Homelessness is one of the most destabilizing and painful experiences anyone can go through. It fuels psychological and physiological insecurity, places a person in situations of physical danger, erodes any positive sense of self and causes physical and mental health illness; Crisis recordsthat 46% of homeless people suffer from a mental health illness compared to 25% of the general public. However, while this figure is itself extremely high, when asked, a staggering 86% of people who are homeless report suffering from one or other mental health illness. Perhaps unsurprisingly, research shows “that as a person’s housing becomes more stable the rate of serious mental illness decreases.”
Rough sleepers and people begging for money are routinely ignored and treated with disdain, police are instructed to move beggars on and so erase images of social hardship from the gentrified streets – it’s bad for the cities image – and hostile architecture makes even rough sleeping difficult. Shelter relatethat the three main reasons for becoming homeless are: “parents, friends or relatives unwilling or unable to continue to accommodate them; relationship breakdown, including domestic violence and loss of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy.” These are causes that anyone could be the victim of, they should not result in homelessness, indeed within a healthy, compassionately organized socio-economic order, homelessness would not exist at all.
Housing, like education and health care, should be safeguarded from the Madness of the Market; limits should be placed on the rents that private landlords can charge, and a nationwide building program of social housing initiated under the stewardship of local councils, not housing associations. At the same time tenancies need to be lengthened, tenants’ rights strengthened, and fair rents re-introduced. 
A house or flat is a home, and a home is a basic human right – enshrined as such within that triumph of humanity, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: it is not and should not be regarded as a financial investment. At the root of the ‘housing crisis’ in Britain and elsewhere is the poison of commodification; whether it be a house or a forest, a school playground, library building or a public park, all are regarded in monetary terms, how much is it ‘worth’ – meaning how much is anyone willing to pay for it. The result is the commercialization of all areas of life including housing, and the promotion of an ugly way of life rooted in material greed and financial profit, no matter the impact on people or the natural environment.
This ideologically rooted approach to life is at the heart of many if not all of our problems, including the most pressing issue of the time, the environmental catastrophe. Government policies consistently add fuel to the fires, politicians lack vision and imagination, but it is the socio-economic ideology that underlies and fashions policy that is the problem; the system and the values it promotes need to be fundamentally changed, and a new order introduced that cultivates social justice, cooperation and tolerance.
December 2018

Fracking Filthy Fuel

Burning fossil fuels is a major cause of greenhouse gas emissions (GGE), and, greenhouse gas emissions (water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O)) are the principle cause of man-made climate change. Given this fact, governments throughout the world should be moving away from fossil fuels and investing in, and designing policies that encourage development of, renewable sources of energy. But the British Conservative government, despite public opinion to the contrary, has all but banned the construction of onshore wind turbines and is encouraging fracking in England. The Tories are the only UK political party to offer support for this regressive form of energy production, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens having all promised fracking bans should they gain political office at the next general election.
 Hydraulic fracking is the process of releasing gas and oil from shale rock: huge quantities of water, proppant (usually sand) and chemicals are injected at high-pressure into hydrocarbon-bearing rocks, rocks that can be up to a mile down and were once thought to be impermeable. This process of fracturing (or cracking) forces the rocks to crack open, and gas held inside is released and allowed to flow to the surface.
Shale gas is a fossil fuel, and when combusted produces GGE, albeit at around 50% less than coal or oil, but GGE nevertheless. The leading fracking company in Britain is the energy firm Cuadrilla. An organization that accordingto its website, aims “to be a model company for exploring and developing shale gas in the UK,” they state that they are “acutely aware of the responsibilities this brings, particularly with regard to safety, environmental protection and working with local communities.” Really?
After protests by the local community and various court cases (Lancashire County Council had refused drilling rights, but the Secretary of State ignored community voices and approved the company’s request on appeal), Cuadrilla recently commenced fracking at its Preston New Road site in Lancashire. However, as in 2011 when the company was forced to abandondrilling, work was suspended for two days out of four because of earthquakes. Tremors measured 0.5 on the Richter scale, which breached the seismic threshold established following the 2011 earth tremors. Instead of abandoning the project as the local community and environmental groups are demanding, the firm’s chief executive, Francis Egan, wants the Government to raise the threshold.
Another Regressive Step
America is home to hydraulic fracturing, where it’s been taking place for decades. Greenpeace statethat as of 2012 the “fracking industry [in USA] has drilled around 1.2 million wells and is slated to add at least 35,000 new wells every year.”Fracking has led to US oil production increasing faster than anytime in its history, resulting in lower domestic gas prices. The US Energy Information Administration recordthat around two thirds of gas is now produced by fracking and almost half the countries crude oil.
Shale gas is spoken of as a positive alternative to coal, but it’s just another filthy fossil fuel that is adding to GGE, which in turn are driving climate change. Fracking has a substantive impact on the natural environment and the health of those living within the surrounding area. Earthquakes, air pollution, soil pollution, carcinogenic chemical leakage and contaminated groundwater are the primary risks.
An enormous amount of water, which needs to be transported to the site incurring significant environmental costs, is required in the fracking process. The amount of water used varies per well: between 1.5 and 10 million gallons is required every time a well is fractured. Greenpeace relatethat, “in 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that 70 to 140 billion gallons of water were used to fracture just 35,000 wells in the United States.”The water is mixed with various chemicals to make fracking fluid, a toxic cocktail that can be further contaminatedby “heavy metals and radioactive elements that exist naturally in the shale.”A significant portion of the frack fluid returns to the surface “where it can spill or be dumped into rivers and streams…frackingfluids and waste have made their wayinto our drinking water and aquifers. Groundwater can be contaminated through fracking fluid and methane leakage and the energy companies have “no idea what to do with the massive amount of contaminated water it’s creating,”
In addition to water and soil pollution, fracking adds to existing levels of air pollution as methane gas is released into the atmosphere through leaks and venting, a study conducted by Cornell University found that “over a wells lifetime, 3.6 to 7.9 percent of methane gas escapes” in this way. Unlike CO2, which sits in the atmosphere for centuries or millennia, methane only lasts for decades, but the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change asserts that it warms the planet by 86 times as much as CO2 before then degrading to become CO2.
Many countries recognize the retrogressive nature of fracking and have passed legislative bans or moratoriums; England is the only country within the UK where it is currently allowed. More than 100 fracking licenses have been awarded by the government, but in order to start fracking they need permission from the local council.Fracking is universally unpopular amongst the communities where sites are located or proposed; on 13th October the Gasdown-Frackdown action saw thousands of people from six continents take to the streets demanding an end to fracking and calling for long-term investment in renewable sources of energy. Fracking is not an environmentally sane way to meet the energy needs of a country, it is part of the problem not the solution and it should be rejected totally. What is required is a global energy strategy rooted in environmental sustainability. As Friends of the Earth rightly say, “a 21st Century energy revolution based on efficiency and renewables, not more fossil fuels that will add to climate change.”
November 2018
 

Sharing is Key to a New Economic and Democratic Order

In order to meet the colossal challenges of the time, fundamental change to the socio-economic order is needed. The environmental catastrophe is the major issue, together with armed conflict, potentially nuclear. Both threaten the survival of humanity and the planet, and both are widely ignored by the men and women of power, whose short-term approach, obsession with ‘the economy’, and a nationalistic introspective view of the world is leading us to the precipice of disaster.
If humanity is to survive these interconnected crises and overcome other crucial challenges, including poverty, social injustice and the displacement of people, a totally new vision of the way society functions is required. At the root of much if not all of the chaos is the socio-economic model combined with inadequate, artificial forms of democratic governance. State and private institutions are interdependent monopolies of power that require radical democratization; deep-rooted systemic deficiencies must be addressed and altogether different values to those that are currently encouraged, inculcated.
Totalitarian Structures 
Neo-Liberalism has infiltrated all areas of society and permeated life in virtually every corner of the world; it is a dysfunctional system that instead of serving human need is designed to provide wealth ‘beyond the dreams of Avarice for a privileged few,’ as Noam Chomsky putsit. Its very existence denies the manifestation of real democracy.
Flowing from this paradigm of injustice is extreme inequality leading to a wide range of social ills, high levels of unemployment – particularly among the young in many parts of the world – low investment in public services and, as the political/economic scientist C. J. Polychroniou, says,“rapidly declining standards of living, dangerously high levels of both public and corporate debt, a financial system that remains out of whack, and ecological collapse.” It is a decrepit global system propped up by the guardians of the status-quo, who are intellectually bankrupt, have no answers to the issues of the day but, desperate to cling on to power, use all their tools of control to resist change.
Within the existing forms political influence is concentrated in the hands of a tiny group of people and institutions — they run the corporate organizations and stock the governing executive, these are the wealthy and powerful — the ruling elite; Corporations and their masters dominate this entitled ensemble; huge tyrannical institutions, unaccountable bodies with enormous power. As Noam Chomsky states, corporations are “one of the most tyrannical systems human beings have ever devised”. Control is concentrated at the top from where policy is made and orders are issued, managers pass on instructions and workers are expected to obey, conform, and be thankful to the beneficent company for buying their labor, albeit for a pittance compared to the pay checks of the boardroom. This is little more than wage slavery.
The raison d’être of the corporate world is to maximize market share and generate profits, irrespective of the impact on people or the environment. To do this they need the population to behave in ways consistent with their ideological approach to life, namely consumerism. Their persuasive message of pleasure and competition is spread to aweary populous via the communications industry, which they happen to own: the media, entertainment sector and advertising companies. These bodies color the social atmosphere, are responsible for setting the public agenda, facilitating collective discussion, and, together with education and (organized) religion are the principle outlets for mass conditioning, or what Walter Lippmann in Public Opinion(published 1922) called the ‘manufacture of consent.
Corporate institutions actively work to curtail democracy and deny the establishment of a just economic system; they have tremendous influence over government policy and consistently obstruct environmental legislation. They operate in secret, have been granted extraordinary rights and access, and, as Chomsky says, have “complicated strategic alliances among alleged competitors” forming what some economists have called “Alliance capitalism big networks of tyrannical institutions basically running the world,” institutions which “have no right to exist any more than any other tyrannical systems,” and should be dismantled.
Over the last 30 years or so a worldwide protest movement has developed, huge numbers of people have united demanding socio-economic and democratic change, to be listened to by remote arrogant politicians and for a meaningful global response to the environmental crisis. In scale and scope the movement is unprecedented. People of all ages have come together expressing collective frustrations, demanding a new approach to living. The Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement were prominent expressions of the same underlying current for change, and, it could be argued, so were Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, albeit in a distorted, reactionary form.
Despite setbacks,an irresistible current of change is sweeping the world that will not be extinguished. The old forms must give way to the emerging ways of the time, the economic, political, social and in due time, religious forms that have crystallized and are incapable of responding to the needs of the many.
The 2008 financial crisis revealed some of the inherent flaws in the economic model, since when politics has become more polarized and reactionary, wages have been frozen, austerity has been enforced, punishing the poorest in society, and the financial system has been allowed to continue much the same. The lack of genuine change means that a second crash is a real possibility, indeed perhaps that’s what it will take to bring about the lasting systemic change that so many yearn for. As statedin the introductory literature forNew Thinking for the British Economy, “the evident failings of our present economic system, and the growing political mobilization for change, suggest that we may be on the cusp of another major shift in economic thinking and policy.” A shift away from oligarchic systems of governance, and an unjust, unsustainable, environmentally abusive economic model, to a sustainable, participatory and just way of living.
The Age of Sharing
The same essential element in harmonious living and justice is absent from both the economic world and the political sphere: the principle of sharing. Placing sharing at the heart of a new economic paradigm would do more than any other single factor to bring about real change. It would completely alter the collective social atmosphere and allow for a range of other positive democratic ideals, such as social justice, tolerance and compassion, to manifest. Sharing of resources (including food, water and land), wealth/income, knowledge, skills, ideas, etc., sharing in the management of the institutions (state and private) that dominate society, and the bodies that one happens to work in or study at, and crucially sharing in the decisions and ideas that shape our lives, i.e., real participation.
In corporate democracies the right to vote and run civil society may exist, there may even be an independent judiciary, the observation of human rights (more or less) and unfettered (albeit monitored) access to information, but without social justice and meaningful participation it is not really democracy. It is an inadequate ideological construct, the nature and structure of which is set by those sitting within gilded offices of power, who limit its scope and control its expression; it is democracy owned by the corporate world entwined with the methodology of the market. As such its exponents are complicit in perpetuating injustice, maintaining concentrations of power, facilitating division and encouraging wage slavery. Participation is at best limited, competition, greed and personal gain over collective well-being are promoted and lived. Material success is held up as the aim of life,selfish tendencies are encouraged, feeding intolerance and division – all of which work to deny true democracy and stifle the good in humanity.
Real Democracy is meaningful participation in all socio-political/economic and business institutions. When this takes place positive aspects of human nature will begin to flourish and the structures that perpetuate the existing injustices will crumble under the weight of the good. Group participation, social responsibility and unity are essential elements in bringing about such a change and are key principles of the time, at the heart of which, and from which all else flows must be sharing, and for a range of reasons: sharing breaks down divisions and engenders trust, kindness grows and humanities inherent goodness can flower. Sharing is an expression and acknowledgement of our common humanity, cooperation takes place when we share, and as people cooperate they build relationships, form groups, exchange ideas.
Without sharing the corrosive patterns of the present will continue, as Chomsky putsit, “if we were to move towards [real] democracy we would say that there should be no maldistribution of power in determining what’s produced what’s distributed what’s invested and so on, rather that’s a problem for the entire community. In fact my own personal view is unless we move in that direction human society probably isn’t going to survive.”
This is a view shared by many, however if one looks beyond the ugly theatrics of nationalism and fear an alternative vision of the future can be seen. A coalition of change is forming throughout the world and a shift in consciousness in underway. Perhaps unsurprisingly it is young people who are leading the way,they are less conditioned by the old order, have a powerful sense of social justice and freedom and care deeply about the natural environment.
We are at the beginning of the Age of Sharing, but it will not be gifted to us. Like movements of change throughout history it will be brought about by consistent coordinated action, by demanding change, by recognizing that we are all responsibility for this world and if we want a new and just society we have to build it.
https://dissidentvoice.org/2018/10/sharing-is-key-to-a-new-economic-and-democratic-order/
October 2018

Sharing is Key to a New Economic and Democratic Order

In order to meet the colossal challenges of the time, fundamental change to the socio-economic order is needed. The environmental catastrophe is the major issue, together with armed conflict, potentially nuclear. Both threaten the survival of humanity and the planet, and both are widely ignored by the men and women of power, whose short-term approach, obsession with ‘the economy’, and a nationalistic introspective view of the world is leading us to the precipice of disaster.
If humanity is to survive these interconnected crises and overcome other crucial challenges, including poverty, social injustice and the displacement of people, a totally new vision of the way society functions is required. At the root of much if not all of the chaos is the socio-economic model combined with inadequate, artificial forms of democratic governance. State and private institutions are interdependent monopolies of power that require radical democratization; deep-rooted systemic deficiencies must be addressed and altogether different values to those that are currently encouraged, inculcated.
Totalitarian Structures
Neo-Liberalism has infiltrated all areas of society and permeated life in virtually every corner of the world; it is a dysfunctional system that instead of serving human need is designed to provide wealth ‘beyond the dreams of Avarice for a privileged few,’ as Noam Chomsky putsit. Its very existence denies the manifestation of real democracy.
Flowing from this paradigm of injustice is extreme inequality leading to a wide range of social ills, high levels of unemployment – particularly among the young in many parts of the world – low investment in public services and, as the political/economic scientist C. J. Polychroniou, says,“rapidly declining standards of living, dangerously high levels of both public and corporate debt, a financial system that remains out of whack, and ecological collapse.” It is a decrepit global system propped up by the guardians of the status-quo, who are intellectually bankrupt, have no answers to the issues of the day but, desperate to cling on to power, use all their tools of control to resist change.
Within the existing forms political influence is concentrated in the hands of a tiny group of people and institutions — they run the corporate organizations and stock the governing executive, these are the wealthy and powerful — the ruling elite; Corporations and their masters dominate this entitled ensemble; huge tyrannical institutions, unaccountable bodies with enormous power. As Noam Chomsky states, corporations are “one of the most tyrannical systems human beings have ever devised”. Control is concentrated at the top from where policy is made and orders are issued, managers pass on instructions and workers are expected to obey, conform, and be thankful to the beneficent company for buying their labor, albeit for a pittance compared to the pay checks of the boardroom. This is little more than wage slavery.
The raison d’être of the corporate world is to maximize market share and generate profits, irrespective of the impact on people or the environment. To do this they need the population to behave in ways consistent with their ideological approach to life, namely consumerism. Their persuasive message of pleasure and competition is spread to aweary populous via the communications industry, which they happen to own: the media, entertainment sector and advertising companies. These bodies color the social atmosphere, are responsible for setting the public agenda, facilitating collective discussion, and, together with education and (organized) religion are the principle outlets for mass conditioning, or what Walter Lippmann in Public Opinion(published 1922) called the ‘manufacture of consent.
Corporate institutions actively work to curtail democracy and deny the establishment of a just economic system; they have tremendous influence over government policy and consistently obstruct environmental legislation. They operate in secret, have been granted extraordinary rights and access, and, as Chomsky says, have “complicated strategic alliances among alleged competitors” forming what some economists have called “Alliance capitalism big networks of tyrannical institutions basically running the world,” institutions which “have no right to exist any more than any other tyrannical systems,” and should be dismantled.
Over the last 30 years or so a worldwide protest movement has developed, huge numbers of people have united demanding socio-economic and democratic change, to be listened to by remote arrogant politicians and for a meaningful global response to the environmental crisis. In scale and scope the movement is unprecedented. People of all ages have come together expressing collective frustrations, demanding a new approach to living. The Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement were prominent expressions of the same underlying current for change, and, it could be argued, so were Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, albeit in a distorted, reactionary form.
Despite setbacks,an irresistible current of change is sweeping the world that will not be extinguished. The old forms must give way to the emerging ways of the time, the economic, political, social and in due time, religious forms that have crystallized and are incapable of responding to the needs of the many.
The 2008 financial crisis revealed some of the inherent flaws in the economic model, since when politics has become more polarized and reactionary, wages have been frozen, austerity has been enforced, punishing the poorest in society, and the financial system has been allowed to continue much the same. The lack of genuine change means that a second crash is a real possibility, indeed perhaps that’s what it will take to bring about the lasting systemic change that so many yearn for. As states in the introductory literature forNew Thinking for the British Economy, “the evident failings of our present economic system, and the growing political mobilization for change, suggest that we may be on the cusp of another major shift in economic thinking and policy.” A shift away from oligarchic systems of governance, and an unjust, unsustainable, environmentally abusive economic model, to a sustainable, participatory and just way of living.
The Age of Sharing
The same essential element in harmonious living and justice is absent from both the economic world and the political sphere: the principle of sharing. Placing sharing at the heart of a new economic paradigm would do more than any other single factor to bring about real change. It would completely alter the collective social atmosphere and allow for a range of other positive democratic ideals, such as social justice, tolerance and compassion, to manifest. Sharing of resources (including food, water and land), wealth/income, knowledge, skills, ideas, etc., sharing in the management of the institutions (state and private) that dominate society, and the bodies that one happens to work in or study at, and crucially sharing in the decisions and ideas that shape our lives, i.e., real participation.
In corporate democracies the right to vote and run civil society may exist, there may even be an independent judiciary, the observation of human rights (more or less) and unfettered (albeit monitored) access to information, but without social justice and meaningful participation it is not really democracy. It is an inadequate ideological construct, the nature and structure of which is set by those sitting within gilded offices of power, who limit its scope and control its expression; it is democracy owned by the corporate world entwined with the methodology of the market. As such its exponents are complicit in perpetuating injustice, maintaining concentrations of power, facilitating division and encouraging wage slavery. Participation is at best limited, competition, greed and personal gain over collective well-being are promoted and lived. Material success is held up as the aim of life,selfish tendencies are encouraged, feeding intolerance and division – all of which work to deny true democracy and stifle the good in humanity.
Real Democracy is meaningful participation in all socio-political/economic and business institutions. When this takes place positive aspects of human nature will begin to flourish and the structures that perpetuate the existing injustices will crumble under the weight of the good. Group participation, social responsibility and unity are essential elements in bringing about such a change and are key principles of the time, at the heart of which, and from which all else flows must be sharing, and for a range of reasons: sharing breaks down divisions and engenders trust, kindness grows and humanities inherent goodness can flower. Sharing is an expression and acknowledgement of our common humanity, cooperation takes place when we share, and as people cooperate they build relationships, form groups, exchange ideas.
Without sharing the corrosive patterns of the present will continue, as Chomsky putsit, “if we were to move towards [real] democracy we would say that there should be no maldistribution of power in determining what’s produced what’s distributed what’s invested and so on, rather that’s a problem for the entire community. In fact my own personal view is unless we move in that direction human society probably isn’t going to survive.”
This is a view shared by many, however if one looks beyond the ugly theatrics of nationalism and fear an alternative vision of the future can be seen. A coalition of change is forming throughout the world and a shift in consciousness in underway. Perhaps unsurprisingly it is young people who are leading the way,they are less conditioned by the old order, have a powerful sense of social justice and freedom and care deeply about the natural environment.
We are at the beginning of the Age of Sharing, but it will not be gifted to us. Like movements of change throughout history it will be brought about by consistent coordinated action, by demanding change, by recognizing that we are all responsibility for this world and if we want a new and just society we have to build it.
October 2018

 

Priorities of the Time: Peace

For as long as anyone can remember violence and conflict have been part of daily life: humanity appears incapable of living peacefully together. There are the brutal cries of war, the vile acts of terror, homicides, rapes and assaults of all kinds. People everywhere long for an end to such conflicts, and are crying out for peace and understanding, to live in a just world free from fear.
Creating a world at peace not only demands putting an end to all forms of armed brutality, it also entails building peace within communities, in the workplace, educational institutions and the home, in the natural environment and, most importantly, it requires the inculcation of harmony within all of us. Each of these areas of living are interconnected, the prevailing condition in each affecting the stability and atmosphere of the other.
The task before us is to identify and change the prevailing divisive modes of living for inclusive ways that facilitate peace and cultivate tolerance.Peace itself is part of our essential nature: when the conditions of conflict are removed, peace between groups and within individuals arises naturally.
We are Society
Society is not an abstractionit is a reflection of the consciousness of the individuals that make up any given community.As such, the responsibility for the nature of a town, city, school, office, country, region, etc., rests largely with those who live within its boundaries.I say largely, because the corporate and state bodies that fashion the structures and promote the ideals of the day bear a large part of the responsibility. Specific values and conclusions are daily poured into the minds of everyone, virtually from birth, conditioning the consciousness and behavior of people around the world; the media (including the internet), institutionalized education and organized religion being the main outlets for such propaganda.
Variations on the nature of such conditioning are determined by circumstances of birth and background: the religious, political, socio-economic belief systems, the values of the family, the region and/or the country. All ism’s are inhibiting and divisive, and as the Dalai Lama says in A Human Approach to World Peace, when they are adopted people lose “sight of the basic humanity that binds us all together as a single human family.” Freedom of thought and independent creative thinking is denied, conformity expected. And can there be peace when the mind is imprisoned within the confines of a doctrine, no matter how lofty?
Whilst it is true that a symbiotic relationship exists between society and the individual, fundamentally the external world in which we live is a reflection of the internal life of humanity. Violent, disharmonious societies are the external manifestation of the inner turmoil, discontent and fear that many people feel.
The business of War
The loudest, ugliest form of violence is war, the machinery of which is a huge global industry greatly valued by the corporate state. It is a business ostensibly like any other, the difference being its products are intended to kill people and destroy everything in their path.
Like all businesses, weapons manufacturers operate to generate profits:wars are big business for arms companies, and therefore highly profitable, desirable even. International arms sales (dominated by America, with 34% of the total) according to the BBC “is now worth about $100bn.” By contrast, to end world hunger, which currently crushes the lives of around a billion people globally, would cost a mere $30 billion per year. And we wonder why there is no peace – how can there be peace when such gross injustice and inhumanity persist? 
Profit, whether financial remuneration, status or power, is the principle motivating forcewithin the working methodology of the global economic system. It is an unjust model that promotes a range of divisive, therefore violent values, including selfishness, competition and ambition. It thrives on and continually engenders dissatisfaction, and can there be peace when there is discontent?
Enormous wealth and power for a handful of men flow from the Ideology of Consumerism, leading to unprecedented levels of inequality in income/wealth, influence, education, health care, employment opportunities, access to culture and freedom to travel. Inequality is a fundamental form of social injustice: peace will never be realized where social injustice exists. Nor can peace be known when hunger, poverty, and exploitation, flowing from (financial) vulnerability, stalk the land destroying the lives of millions throughout the world.
Removing the obstacles to peace
Extreme inequality is a vilestain on our common humanity; inequality between the hideously wealthy, who have everything but want more, and the desperately poor, who have nothing, can barely feed themselves and live lives stunted by suffering; inequality between the economically secure and habitually complacent, and those who work until they drop yet can barely pay the rent. The hierarchy of injustice is crude at the extremes, variable in the middle and toxic throughout. It feeds anger and resentment and crushes peace.
Together with a ‘dog-eat-dog’mentality, global inequality fuels insecurity and fear, both psychological and physical, leading to tension, anxiety and depression. It fosters bitterness, crushes hope and strengthens false notions of superiority and inferiority. This in turn reinforces the prevailing fear and a strengthening spiral of suspicion, intolerance and unease is set in motion, thereby denying the quiet manifestation of peace.
The realization of peace is inextricably related to the introduction of a new socio-economic order based on values altogether different from the existing model. A socially just system that reduces inequality, encourages cooperation instead of competition, and facilitates equal access to well designed accommodation, good quality health care and stimulating education. Where social justice exists trust develops, relationships evolve, peace comes into being.
At the heart of any alternative system should be the inculcation of the Principle of Sharing; sharing not only of the food, water, land and other natural resources, but of knowledge, skills and opportunities.Sharing encourages cooperation between people from different backgrounds, allowing understanding and tolerance to grow. Tolerance of those who look different, pray and think differently, and understanding that humanity is one, that the human condition is universal no matter one’s circumstances or worldview. That we share one home, which we are all responsible for, and that in every corner of the world men, women and children want the same things: to live in peace free from fear, to build a decent life for themselves and their families and to be happy.
When we share, we acknowledge our common need, our shared humanity and our universal rights. Through sharing, a more equitable world can evolve; sharing, together with cooperation, tolerance and understandingare key elements of the time, and when expressed individually and collectivelyallow for peace to naturally come into being. Complementary to such Principles of Goodness, forgiveness and the absence of retaliation or retribution are essential in establishing peace. As is well documented, punishment without rehabilitation and compassion is a recipe for despondency,more violence and further acts of crime. Suchactions have dogged humanity since records began, as has war, and while there have been tremendous advances in technology, medicine and science, the consciousness of humanity seems to have changed very little, we remain violent, selfish and fearful. As the Dalai Lama puts it, “there is no doubt about the increase in our material progress and technology, but somehow this is not sufficient as we have not yet succeeded in bringing about peace and happiness or in overcoming suffering…thebasic human problems remain.”
The overcoming of these ‘basic problems’ and the realization of peace both flow from the same root: the recognition of mankind’s essential unity, and the cultivation of a sense of “universal responsibility”. Fragmentation and dishonesty of mind must be resolved, fear and desire understood. The current modes of living inflame these negative tendencies and make what already appears difficult, even more so. Discontent and desire are constantly agitated, social and national divisions inflamed, and an atmosphere of insecurity created. At the same time a reductive image of happiness and security isportrayed through mainstream films, TV and other media outlets. It is a hollow construct based on pleasure, the fulfillment of emotionally rooted desires and material satisfactions, none of which will ever create lasting happiness or inner peace. Peace does not lie inside walls of division, whether formed of concrete or constructed out of some ideological doctrine, but, like lasting happiness, reveals itself when there is total freedom from desire.
September 2018
https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/09/21/priorities-of-the-time-peace/

Alcohol: Why do we drink?

I had known John for 40 years on and off; just over a year ago he died. He was 62 and homeless, an alcoholic who over the course of four years or so had drunk himself to death. He died alone in a tiny basement room of a dreary hostel in London, where the local authority had placed him. A cocktail of alcohol and anti-depressants took him through the gates of death. It was a tragic, ugly end to a life that had once held such promise.
Along with millions of others around the world, John drank to escape the pain of his life; the emotional agony of living was unbearable and, desperate for relief, he turned to alcohol. Habit quickly became addiction, and addicts, as those who have known one will testify,are desperately difficult to help. Behavior changes, moral boundaries dissolve, self-respect and honesty are eroded, relationships destroyed.
Startling statistics
Like recreational drugs, alcohol fuels a range of social ills, including crime, depression, anxiety and suicide. It can cause long-term health conditions, many of which are fatal, and in 2016 (latest figures) “led to 2·8 million deaths and was the leading risk factor for premature death and disability among people aged 15–49 years,” according to a newreportpublishedin the Lancet magazine. This is consistent with figures collatedby the World Health Organization (WHO), which show that in 2012 alcohol was responsible “for 5.9% [around 3 million] of all deaths and 5.1% of the global burden of disease and injury.” This is far more than the percentage of deaths from HIV/Aids (2.8%), tuberculosis (1.7%) or violence (0.9%).
In addition to the individual drinker, alcohol consumption leads to a range of harmful consequences for “the drinker’s immediate environment and society as a whole.”The drinker’s family, partner or friends are often the first to be affected. Relationships sometimes breakdown, and abuse, leading in some cases to domestic violence, which is often inflicted by an alcoholic partner, can erupt.
Violent crimes of all kinds are closely linked to alcohol consumption. In America half of all homicides and 40% of all other violent crimes (including rape, assault, child and spousal abuse), are committed when the offender, victim, or both have been drinking. The National Council on Alcohol
and Drug Dependency reportsthat, “according to the Department of Justice, 37% of almost 2 million convicted offenders currently in jail, state that they were drinking at the time of their arrest.”
These are startling statistics, and are more or less representative of levels of alcohol-related crime throughout industrialized countries. In Britain, where overall consumption has fallen by around 18% in the last 14 years, the Office of National Statistics relatesthat in 2013/14 “70% of violent incidents which took place in a public space were alcohol-related”and that, “70% of violent incidents occurring at the weekend, and 70% of violent incidents occurring in the evening or night, were alcohol-related.” A 2012 government paperstated that, “alcohol is one of the three biggest lifestyle risk factors for disease and death in the United Kingdom after smoking and obesity. It has become acceptable to use alcohol for stress relief, putting many people at real risk of chronic diseases. Society is paying the costs – alcohol-related harm is now estimated to cost society £21 billion annually.”
The richer a society is the more people drink, the greater the quantity consumed and the smaller the “number of abstainers.” And whilst, as the UK shows, there are exceptions, the worldwide tendency is towards increased levels of consumption, with China and India, where the economy has been growing in recent years, energetically joining the party. A trend that WHO believes to be “linked to active marketing by the alcohol industry and increased income in these countries.”
Why drink?
There are of course varying levels of alcohol consumption and many types of drinker, but why do people drink at all and why do governments allow alcohol to be commercially sold and energetically promoted?
Like many problems of contemporary life the reasons are complex, interconnected and woven into the worldwide mode of living, the values it promotes and the conditioned social behavior produced. Individual success, competition and conformity to a certain lifestyle are some of the prominent ideological characteristics of the time; all are divisive in varying degrees and contribute to an atmosphere of anxiety. Like John, large numbers of people cannot cope with the stress and drink to escape,they find life overwhelming, and suffocating under the weight of expectation and self-doubt, loneliness and despair, use alcohol to soften the agony. Widely available and inexpensive, it offers immediate relief, but whilsta drink or two may initially quieten the nervous system the effects soon wear off, appetite grows, dependency develops, and, alcohol being both addictive and a depressant adds to the suffering and quickly becomes part of the problem.
Young people (under 25), who in many parts of the developed world drink less than their predecessors, may drink out of curiosity, because it’s available and (in supermarkets) comparatively cheap, and to belong to the group, to conform to the image of what it means to be a strong young man, or an open, exciting woman. A few drinks may loosen inhibitions, facilitating a fun night out. In some countries, France Italy, Spain e.g., alcohol is part of the culture, usually taken with food; in others, like India, it is a new phenomenon, and, consistent with a range of unhealthy western imports, is regarded as an unwelcome development by many Indians. With national economic growth (such as has occurred in India) as well as personal success, typically come increased levels of alcohol consumption as well as other types of indulgence.
Happiness, not Pleasure
Like all types of consumerism, at the heart of alcohol use sits desire, the desire to escape unhappiness and to be happy, and the desire for comfort, for freedom from distress. This desire is promoted by a distorted understanding of life that identifies the self with the body and the constructs of thought, and proclaims the principle purpose of life to be maximizing pleasure and avoiding (psychological) pain. This notion is rooted in a materialistic approach to life that focuses on the form, the body, instead of investigating into the nature of ones being. Within such a reductive paradigm, happiness has been replaced by pleasure, love exchanged for desire, and freedom for choice. The result is fragmentation and conflict, individually and collectively.
The emphasis on pleasure maintains the desire for stimulation and consumption of all kinds. Pleasurable experiences flowing through the senses may wellprovide distraction and a momentary sense of happiness, or fleeting relief from unhappiness, however, far from filling the inner void it reinforces it, leaving the person wanting more. Pleasure is external, hollow and transient; what we might call ‘true’happiness is permanent, it is part of who and what we are. As the great Indian sage Raman Maharshi said, “Happiness is your nature. It is not wrong to desire it. What is wrong is seeking it outside when it is inside.”
The pattern of desire, indulgence and discontent, followed by desire and further indulgence is perpetuated by the apparatus of the Neo-liberal economic system, which is dependent on such habitually destructive behavior. And, because Corporate State Governments are so heavily focused on the economy and the requirements of business, government policy is designed in line with the demands of the market, and not the needs of the people. Responsible governments would reject the poisonous values of the Neo-liberal project, and work ceaselessly to inculcate values of goodness thereby changing the atmosphere in which people live. Sadly the world is saddled with inadequate politicians without vision, who, far from facilitating the badly needed changes, consistently add to the chaos.
Alcohol consumption is one damaging effect among many that flow from this dominant socio-economic system. Consistent with other polluting patterns of behaviour, it will continue until a kinder, more just paradigm is inculcated, values change and a shift in attitudes takes place. To some degree this reorientation is underway, people everywhere recognize the destructive nature of the current order and long for a different, simpler way of living. When the constant movement outward into the sensory world begins to be arrested and the mind is allowed to be quiet, desire for external stimulation and the focus on pleasure will begin to fall away, allowing happiness to naturally and spontaneously flower.
September 2018
 

Climate Change, Extreme Weather, Destructive Lifestyles

Throughout the world heat waves, flooding and uncontrollable wildfires have caused widespread havoc, lives have been lost, homes destroyed, livelihoods ruined.
Unprecedented levels of heat have been recorded in North America, Europe and Asia, as well as the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. According to The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) record cold May temperatures were registered in “northeastern Canada and the northern Atlantic Ocean, off the southern coast of Greenland.” Global temperatures for the first five months of the year were the highest on record for a La Niña year; higher temperatures, “lead to more frequent and long-lasting heat waves causing adverse environmental impacts.”
These extreme weather patterns are the ferocious signs and sights of climate change in 2018, and, because so little is being done to tackle the causes, year on year they become more and more intense. Planet Earth is becoming a world in which the extreme becomes the expected, the disastrous the everyday.
How bad must it get?
The year began with the coldest first week of January on record for numerous cities in eastern America; freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall swept across Europe in March as the “Beast From the East” hit. Britain was severely affected, with up to three feet of snow in some areas and temperatures down to minus 10ºC.
Floods have affected East Africa killing dozens of people, tropical cyclones hit Somalia, Djibouti, Yemen and Oman, dust storms killed hundreds in India, and Pakistan had an intense heat wave with temperatures exceeding 40ºC. Heavy rains and 70 mph winds in Bangladesh caused landslides, deaths and injuries. California had the largest wild fires ever recorded, and down under, Australia is becoming the ‘Land of Drought’ according to the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.
A heat wave of unprecedented temperatures scorched Europe and Japan, where 40ºC (104ºF) temperatures were recorded, 30 people died and thousands needed medical treatment for heat related conditions. A month earlier Japan had some of the worst floods in its history, more than 200 people lost their lives and almost 2 million people were evacuated; the Caribbean is bracing itself for this year’s hurricane season, while “still recovering from last year’s devastation,” which, the UNFCC say, was “the costliest on record”.
The list of extreme weather events across the word is endless; extremes that are increasingly normal as the impact of man-made climate change become more and more apparent, and yet little is being done to address the primary causes. How bad does it have to become before substantive action is taken to reverse the terrible damage we are doing to the natural world?
The mechanics of climate change
Climate change is being triggered by global warming;Global warming, described by NASA as “the unusually rapid increase in Earth’s average surface temperature…primarily due to the greenhouse gases released as people burn fossil fuels” occurs,“when the atmosphere traps heat radiating from Earth toward space.” This happens when so-called greenhouse gases (Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4) and Nitrous Oxide (N2O), being the three main culprits) clog the lower levels of Earth’s atmosphere.This leads to a range of effects: The planet overall becomes warmer (average ground temperature rises), causing “extreme weather events and other severe natural and societal impacts” to become more frequent; glaciers in the Arctic region melt sending huge quantities of water into the ocean, which raises the sea level, oceans are made warmer and expand, further contributing to rising levels. As the sea level rises land is flooded, cities, towns and villages are threatened, lives lost, homes destroyed, communities ripped apart, people displaced.
Man-made greenhouse gases (GGE) are produced by a range of sectors and activities: Animal agriculture produces the largest amount (18% of the total according to the UN, other sources put the figure much higher), followed by electricity and heat production, transportation and industry – all through burning fossil fuels – oil, coal and gas. GGEs have been increasing since the industrial revolution, leading to a rise in global ground temperatures, which to date has reached about 1ºC above pre-industrial levels. Temperatures continue to increase at around 0.17ºC per decade.
One degree doesn’t sound like much but, as the extreme weather events show,the effect of this modest rise on the climate is huge, the consequences far reaching, potentially catastrophic.
In 2015 the Paris Agreement on Climate Change was reached and signed up to by every country in the world; under President Trump America has since pulled out. Hailed as historic, its central aim is to keep global rises in temperature “well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.” Even if these rather optimistic targets are met, a recent study by an international team of scientists writing in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencessuggests, “there is a risk of Earth entering what the scientists call “Hothouse Earth” conditions.”The BBC report that the group believe 2ºC of warming “could turn some of the Earth’s natural forces [forests, oceans and land] – that currently protect us – into our enemies…As the world experiences warming, these carbon sinks could become sources of carbon and make the problems of climate change significantly worse.”
If this occurs they forecast the climate stabilizing at “a global average of 4-5°C higher than pre-industrial temperatures with sea level 10-60 m higher than today.”This would mean that some parts of the Earth would become uninhabitable. In order to avoid this nightmare scenario the authors make clear that “a total re-orientation of human values, equity, behavior and technologies is required. We must all become stewards of the Earth.” This requires a major shift in human attitudes.
Unhealthy destructive lifestyle
Climate Change and the environmental disaster in its various colors is the result of human activity and complacency; we have poisoned the oceans, rivers and streams, cleared 85% of the world’s tropical rainforests, mainly for livestock, and are turning healthy land into desert; we are filling the air we breathe with toxins, creating dead zones in the oceans and causing the eradication of species at an unprecedented rate. Collectively we seem to have no respect or love for the natural environment and whilst some people are acting responsibly, the majority fails to see the connection between lifestyle and disaster and appear content to treat the planet like a giant rubbish tip.
The natural order has been thrown into disarray by the widespread adoption of a selfish, destructive way of life: A particular lifestyle, or collection of related ‘lifestyle choices’ are responsible for the production of man-made greenhouse gases that are triggering the extreme weather patterns we are seeing all around the world.
Hedonism and consumerism sit at the heart of the unhealthy mode of living that is driving the catastrophe and making us ill; mankind’s relentless consumption of stuff, the vast majority of which is not needed, combined with an animal-based diet (common to 97% of the global population), has created a cocktail of chaos within the natural world, bringing about the greatest crisis in the history of mankind. It is a materialistic lifestyle that the global economy, and by extension the corporate state depends on and ceaselessly promotes. This is why, despite the intense urgency of the environmental issue, we hear little on mainstream media and virtually nothing from governments, who are more concerned with economic growth and petty domestic politics than the stability and health of the planet.
The harmony of the natural world has been thrown into chaos by the same approach to life that has separated us one from another, and fuelled internal conflict resulting in a global mental health epidemic. In all areas, where there should be unity and right relationship we see enmity, discord and disease.Restoring the planet to health and creating a world in which human beings can live healthy peaceful lives are inextricably linked. Both require a fundamental change in values, a shift away from divisive modes of living built on competition and greed to inclusive ways in which social/environmental responsibility is cultivated and embraced.
Such ideas are not new and are frequently championed, but the prevailing socio-economic ideology actively works to suppress such principles, and powerfully promotes values of division and selfishness. Despite this widespread conditioning, an unstoppable current of change can be seen sweeping the world; social responsibility is growing apace, and perennial values of goodness – cooperation, tolerance and sharing – are increasingly influencing the minds of men and women everywhere.
To galvanize this global movement amajor public education program should be undertaken by governments and schools to increase awareness of climate change and lifestyle and create a sense of urgency and engagement. Change can be slow, but these are extraordinary times, and there is a growing recognition that if we unite all things are possible. If not, if we continue in the selfish, greedy, divisive ways of the past, the weather patterns will become more extreme and unpredictable, the air and waterways will become more toxic, loss of life will increase and the associated environmental ills will deepen. The choice is ours.
https://dissidentvoice.org/2018/08/climate-change-extreme-weather-destructive-lifestyles/
August 2018

 UFO’s: Proven ‘Beyond Reasonable Doubt’

In December 2017 the New York Times (NYT) revealed details of a hitherto secret defense program set up to investigate reports of unidentified flying objects (UFOs). The Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP) was funded ($22m) by Congress and led by Luis Elizondo, a senior military intelligence officer. It ran from 2007 to 2012 when, the Pentagon claim it was closed down, but Mr. Elizondo, who resigned in 2007 said the program carried on for another five years.
Photographs and video recordings were studied, including one released in August 2017, “of a whitish oval object, about the size of a commercial plane, chased by two Navy F/A-18F fighter jets off the coast of San Diego in 2004.” Commander David Fravor, a pilot with 18 years experience, described seeing a “Tic Tac [shaped object], about 40ft long with no wings” which was defying the laws of physics. He told Fox News that he believed, as do the other folks who saw it, that it was something not from this world.Luis Elizondo seems to agree with the him; in an interview with The Telegraph he said, I hate to use the term UFO but that’s what were looking atwe have highly educated pilots here and they’re seeing something they can’t understandI think it’s pretty clear this is not us, and it’s not anyone else, so one has to ask the question where they’re from.
 Is Earth Unique?
For decades western governments have suppressed data and publicly denied the existence of UFOs, mainstream media approaches the subject with cynicism and modern science asserts that no other planets within the solar system can sustain life, certainly nothing as complex as a human being. Earth is unique we are told. Such statements seem implausible to many of us, even illogical.
One man who had no doubt about the existence of UFOs was George Adamski (b. 1891, Poland, d. Silver Spring, Maryland, USA, aged 74). A fascinating, controversial figure, he claimed to have had long discussions with highly evolved beings from other planets. He chronicled these encounters in two extraordinary books: Flying Saucers Have Landed (co-written with Desmond Leslie), published in 1953, andInside the Space Ships,from 1955.
In the last chapter of Flying Saucers,Adamski records his first encounter with one of the space people. The meeting  (witnessed remotely by six people who were with Adamski)took place on the 20th November 1952 in the Colorado Desert:He took four steps toward me, bringing us within arms length of each other. Now, for the first time I fully realized that I was in the presence of a man from space, A HUMAN BEING FROM ANOTHER WORLDThe beauty of his form surpassed anything I had ever seen. And the pleasantness of his face freed me of all thought of my personal self.
In the follow-up book Adamski describes travelling in a scout ship to the Venusian mother ship, a huge craft, about one hundred and fifty feet in diameter and close to two thousand feet in length, and records a series of fascinating conversations, of particular interest arethe dialogues between Adamski and two highly evolved men described as Venusian Masters’. “The first fact your people must realize is that the inhabitants of other worlds are not fundamentally different from Earth men,said the Great Master.On all the other planets there is peace but “Man [mankind], in his lack of understanding, has destroyed the harmony of his being on your Earth. He dwells in enmity with his neighbor, his mind divided in confusion. Peace he has never known…We have learned that life is all-inclusive and that we are that life, we know that we can hurt nothing without hurting ourselvesWe are not on guard against one another, nor do we covet anything belonging to others. For we are all equal participants of the goods of our planets.
The space people’s close interest in Earth is revealed: we are as much concerned with your world and your life as we are with our own, for we are all in the same kingdom.He relates that throughout the solar system, the people’s of all planets except your Earth are travelling space freelyWe would gladly give you this [scientific] knowledge except that you have not yet learned to live with one another in peace and brotherhood ….as we have on other worlds.
There are two long interviews with the Great Master,whom everyone on the spaceships looked up to. Detailed information is shared on a wide range of subjects from death to human development, the spiritual nature of life, space travel and the dangers of atmospheric pollution. Radiation and other toxic elements are not only poisoning Earth but are a threat to outer space. Concerning the UFOs themselves, the Master revealed that, we have many kinds, many sizes, for many purposes.
At one point Adamski wondered, if our world was the lowest in development throughout the UniverseReading my thought this great teacher said, No, my son, your world is not the lowest in development in the Universe. Yours is the least developed of those in our own systemyour understanding of life in the Universe is very limited. As a result you have many false concepts about other worlds and the composition of the Universe; and so little knowledge of yourselves!
Adamski’s accounts are of course contentious and, as one would expect, have been dismissed by skeptics, but his work was of tremendous value to other ufologists, and the information recorded in the interviews remains illuminating.
 Inhabited Planets
The late British artist and author Benjamin Creme has also spoken in detail about UFOs and the Space Brothers. In Maitreya’s Mission Volume Two he confirms Adamskis information, stating that, all the planets [within the solar system], without exception, are inhabited.He also discusses why UFOs are not always visible, explaining that the spaceships exist on the higher etheric [planes], not solid physical levels.Although contemporary science recognizes the existence of only three levels of physical matter, solid, liquid and gaseous, esoteric literature understands that there are four higher, more subtle levels. These are known as the etheric planes, and remain to be discovered by science.
All dense physical forms (including human beings) have an etheric body formed of lines of energy from one or other of the etheric planes, and space itself is also composed of etheric energy. Where these currents overlap centers of force, known as chakras, are created. Unless one has etheric vision however, the vast etheric world, including UFOs and the people in them, remains unseen. The spaceships become visible when those flying the UFOs lower the [vibrational] rate of the vehicles to come within our field of vision.They are there all the time in their thousands and even millions,we just cant see them, unless they want to be seen. Creme states that the majority of UFOs come from Mars and Venus, and that all are manufactured on Mars.
Humanitys essential unity is not restricted to the confines of Earth, but exists throughout the solar system and beyond; the space people are our brothers and sisters, and, as Adamskis account shows they are not only peaceful and benevolent but are deeply concerned about our well-being and the health of the planet. They help us in many ways, they help within karmic law to maintain the stability of the planet ecologically” Creme relates,….“They mop up a great deal of the nuclear radiation which we release into the atmosphere through nuclear experimentation.This would explain the findings of AATIP that nuclear facilities and power plants were, as Elizondo put it, geographical hot spotsfor UFO sightings. We began to see trends and similarities in incidents. extreme manoeuvrability, hypersonic velocity without a sonic boom, speeds of 7-8,000mph, no flight surfaces on the objects. A lot of this is backed with radar signal data, gun camera footage from aircraft, multiple witnesses,and, there was never any display of hostility.
Signs of the World Teacher
Since the 1970s unexplained phenomena have been occurring in unprecedented numbers globally: Crosses of light, weeping icons, milk drinking Hindu deities, patterns of light on buildings, UFO sightings and crop circles among other miraculous happenings.
 According to Benjamin Creme the patterns of light and the crop circles are both made by UFOs. Crop circles are a sign of the presence of the space people and are part of their work to recreate to a certain degree the ‘grid’ of our earths magnetic field on the physical plane. Each of these crop circles is a chakra a vortex of energy.The beautiful, often complex forms are usually made at night, and in the case of ‘genuine’formations, none of the crop is damaged.
Whilst crop circles have been seen all over the world, more have appeared in southern England than anywhere else. The concentration of crop circles here is an attempt to draw attention to the fact that Maitreya the World Teacher, is in England, his point of focus, as He calls it, being London. Another major sign of Maitreyas presence is the star-like objects that have been seen day and night since January 2009; luminous shapes, witnessed by hundreds of people throughout the world that move across the heavens, changing shape and colour. Interestingly the first crop circle seen in 2009 (23rd April) was also a star design.
Some months after the first ‘Star’ was seen in the skies over Norway, Benjamin Creme explained that they are not stars at all, but four huge UFOs each the size of eight football pitches. The sightings of these radiant forms constitute yet more evidence of the presence of UFOs, evidence that is now overwhelming; as Luis Elizondo said, if this was a court of law, we have reached the point ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. The pervasive materialistic ideology dismisses such logic, denies wonder and pours scorn on the unexplained. A fog of ignorance and cynicism has blinded humanity to their true nature and the reality of life; it is time to reject such narrow definitions and look with an open, attentive mind, at oneself and the mysteries of life.
https://dissidentvoice.org/2018/08/ufos-proven-beyond-reasonable-doubt/
August 2018
 
 
 
 
 
 

A Time of Hope for Ethiopia

As a result of the protest campaign that started in 2015, political change is at last underway in Ethiopia, and a feeling of optimism is beginning to pervade the country. The new Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, deserves much credit, but it was the actions of thousands of people who took to the streets calling for change that has forced the government to act. All those who marched in defiance of the ruling party displayed great courage and relentless determination. They risked their lives and liberty in standing up to tyranny; they are the heroes of the day, and we should salute them all.
Despite the governments repeated claims to the contrary, Ethiopia has never known democracy. Under the ruling EPRDF a democratic farce took place every five years whenthepretence of a general election was staged, primarily for the benefit of the regimes main donors, America, Britain and the European Union. The ruling party has been in office for 27 painful years; they control the judiciary as well as the media and the Internet, and have virtually outlawed political dissent; the regime has murdered, intimidated and tortured, ruling the country through fear.
There are positive signs that those dark days are now coming to an end and that the changes longed for by so many, for so long, are now a real possibility. The time of tyrants is over, and despite the fact that repressive regimes continue to exist, their days are numbered. A new energy is sweeping the world engendering Principles of Goodness and strengthening the will of the people. The values of the time are unifying ideals: cooperation, tolerance and understanding, sharing, freedom and justice, and with every day that passes these values grow in strength.
Over the last 40 years of so an unprecedented worldwide protest movement has evolved; throughout the world people have been taking to the streets demanding freedom and an end to injustice and suppression. The people of Ethiopia have responded whole-heartedly to this global movement and the country now stands at the beginning of a new chapter in its history.
The seed of democracy is being firmly planted; justice and the observation of universally enshrined freedoms are the cry of the people: Freedom from fear, freedom of expression, freedom of the media and freedom of assembly. Political and cultural pluralism, a politically independent judiciary, police and security services that protect the people rather than terrorizing them, and the repealing of unjust laws, such as The Anti Terrorism Proclamation and the Charities and Societies Proclamation. These steps are fundamental and, if the government is serious about initiating reforms, should be taken without delay.
Democracy, though, is not simply a means of governance and the observance of universally agreed human rights; democracy is a social contract of action between the people and their elected representatives. At the heart of democracy sits participation and social responsibility: participation in how the place in which we live, work and study functions; participation founded on a recognition that we are all responsible for society and the stewardship of the natural environment. Social justice, tolerance and mutual understanding are also inherent in the democratic ideal and constitute its primary colours.
The responsibility of the politicians is to create an environment in which people can freely express their views and aspirations. To listen to those voices, and work in collaboration with community representativesto initiate policies and design systems that work for the population as a whole, not simply a privileged few (something politicians in many countries fail to recognize) or those belonging to certain ethnic groups, as was the case with the ruling TPLF, who favoured people from Tigray, discriminated against others and initiated policies designed to inflame historical differences and divide ethnic groups.
Without the vibrant expression of these ideals, the efficacy of democracy is reduced; likewise, without a well-educated, engaged population that demands their rights and holds politicians to account, democracy remains little more than an ideological construct of the elite.
The way towards lasting social cohesion and harmony in Ethiopia is the way of unity, this issofor the world as a whole, but is particularly the case in Ethiopia, which is such a diverse nation with many tribal groups and ancient feuds. Under the EPRDF, ethnic anger and frustration was inflamed, leading to some within the Ogaden region and Oromia to call for self-determination. Perhaps such demands can now be laid aside, and a rallying call for national unity issued.
Expressions of unity nourish the dual principles of social responsibility and participation,and with every action rooted in these democratic principles the communal sense of unity is strengthened. This in turn gives rise to wider acts of responsibility and participation and so the spiral of brotherhood expands and deepens, giving rise to the recognition of humanities essential unity.
A strong and vibrant civil society is a cornerstone of democracy, and this will need to be built in Ethiopia. Civil society is an organized form of social responsibility, offering opportunities for community participation. Within the new dispensation existing institutions need to be strengthened and new forms allowed to come into being to support those in need and to champion human rights.
All this is new to Ethiopia and all will need to be lovingly nurtured.As the country begins to move forward, those working for change need to be encouraged and supported in their efforts. To this end Ethiopias principle benefactors (America, Britain and the European Union), who to their utter shame have remained largely silent in the face of regime brutality and the widespread abuse of human rights, should offer assistance to the Ethiopian government during this transitional time.
In the months ahead there will inevitably be those who try to delay change and hinder progress, some within the TPLF faction of the ruling party will no doubt try to foment division and conflict. Any such actions and words should be met with calm resolve and not allowed to have any impact on the extraordinary movement that has gripped the nation and is carrying the people of Ethiopia out of the shadow of fear into the clear light of unity and freedom.
https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/07/20/a-time-of-hope-for-ethiopia/
July 2018