This is a good question to ask now because you hear people talking about “economic growth” as if it’s a magic formula for every country:
“Economic growth is the key
to developing a country
to making people happy in that country
to raising their standard of living.”
Economic growth has been offered as a solution, yet
behind these words “economic growth” we don’t have creation: We have destruction.
How do we know this? Because this “growth” is premised on our securing the energy required to achieve this growth.
How do we currently secure this energy? For the past century and apparently increasingly so in the 21st century (due to fracking technologies) we have secured our energy using fossil fuels (i.e., by burning something).
If you want to achieve economic growth, the quickest way is to build a lot of places where you burn coal (or gas or oil) to turn some things, which will produce some electricity, which will then allow you to join the group of “developed countries”.
If you live in a developed country, you probably enjoy a supply of electricity
that is constant
that is affordable
that is predictable, and
that is secured for the next couple of decades.
This “economic growth” which we have been raised, educated and conditioned to believe in as the absolute good may pose some problems if you do not face the question: To create or to destroy?
There are of course times when we need to destroy in order to create; when you build a new house, you might have to destroy the old one. But how do you destroy the old one?
Do you plant a 100 kg bomb and blow a crater in the ground, blow everything apart, including whatever is next to you? or
Do you take it apart, piece by piece, recycling some of the beams, recycling some of the materials which you can salvage? or
Do you pile it all up in a truck and dump it some place?
“How do we create and how do we destroy?” is a very pertinent question to ask of modern man because it doesn’t hide as much of the current conditions as talking about “How do we achieve economic growth?”
There have been people who have said that humankind appears to be a cancer on this planet:
Eating everything, every resource, and reproducing in numbers that are ultimately unsustainable and ending up by killing the host.
This is different in the animal world where a parasite would not kill the host before it is mature enough to live on its own or has found a new host; moreover, a parasite is just blindly obeying the rules which have been codified in its genetic makeup.
How about the human world?
Are we pre-programmed?
Are our genes programmed to destroy the planet that we’ve been living on and now we’re living off?
Are we like the cancer:
A mutation that has gone wrong, that has caused us a whole species to choose the wrong path?
Probably not, because it is not the entire humankind moving in the same direction.
The numbers may seem to indicate that all humankind is moving in the same direction, but if you look at the diversity of human societies, you’ll quickly realise that this is not necessarily true for all people in the world.
The sad part is that the cancer cells (as it were) are much powerful than the healthy cells which they end up killing, by shutting down the whole body they prey on.
Are we a cancer? This is not a very good analogy, because (unlike the cancer cells) we have a choice:
We are conscious and we enjoy the privilege of knowing that we can create and we can destroy.
If the level of destruction required to achieve “economic growth” cancels out the possibility of creating anything else in 200, 300 or 400 years:
Do we care?
You and I will be dead at that time of reckoning:
you, who listen to this now (or 5 years from now), and I will most likely be dead in 200-300 years.
Do we make our choices with the interests of those who will follow us in mind?
Do we keep their interests in mind? or
Do we focus narrowly on our own lot?
Well, it depends.
Would you like to have children? Do you have children? If the answer is yes, then perhaps you entertain the notion that the generations 200-300 years from now may benefit from your actions now:
Changing course and choosing less destruction, more creation
Choosing to eliminate as much as possible of the self-destructive patterns of behaviour and choosing to focus entirely on creation.
The problem here is in the numbers:
We have reached, in most developed countries (and in a lot of developing countries also) a point where many people don’t want to have children any more.
It matters not whether this is a decision that has been imposed by the external circumstances (overcrowding, government policy etc.) or by personal choice, because ultimately what matters is that
these individuals need to act in an altruistic manner without the prospect of having their offspring benefit from their wiser choices now (if we call “wise” choosing creation over destruction).
Can we act altruistically if we’re not going to have children? The good news is that we are capable. We often act altruistically when we help each other even if we do not benefit directly.
The better (albeit more scary news) is that the big crisis may not be so far off into the future: If a certain number of people chooses to go on in this manner, the degree of destruction may reach such proportions that it may actually shorten the life spans of those alive now (regardless of their choice to procreate).
There is a richness and diversity on this planet which has been here for a long time and that’s slowly eroding away.
I have said that it is ethical, it is only right to keep and protect that which has given us birth, even if we don’t have children whose future we’d like to secure.
There are fewer and fewer places of refuge (=shelters) from the lash-back, from the blowback that Nature is visiting upon us right now and it is a pretty safe bet that it will continue to occur on a much more frequent basis if we do not choose well now, if we do not choose creation over destruction.
So be a creator. Stop this self-destructive behaviour. Now.
After 2000, the God of the millennial generation demands that you pursue your desires in a different realm.
You did not need to be Jewish to join Christ and now you do not need to be American (or part of the Western world). That is to say, you do not need to be born into this world of riches and prosperity to join the new religion.
You only need to show interest in processing all that is produced across the world for anonymous somebodies.
You join this new religion by starting to consume with the rest;
you do not stop at buying things, material objects (such as an iPhone, a new TV set or some pills to help you lose weight),
but you also buy into the idea of acquiring intangible products (ebooks, movies, games, membership into virtual communities) whereby you consume something which does not have shape or mass.
This (in itself) is not new:
People have been spending money on movies and music before, but now it’s available in your room. You could reasonably say it is actually in your ears and on the screen in your hands.
It’s not just that Amazon delivers to your room that piece of equipment which promises to make your abdomen look like a body-builder’s.
Amazon also delivers things for you to consume even if they don’t really have substance.
Nonetheless, these things still provide
a feeling of prosperity,
a feeling of pleasure.
The secret of the millennials is that we live in a mass-culture in which we don’t feel that we’re part of a mass-culture.
Of course people still go to the cinemas and sporting events and music concerts where you watch something together with thousands and thousands of others, but the great majority of people who watch movies or listen to music do so in the privacy of their apartments, houses, rooms… headphone-compounds.
You have a mass-consumerist culture in which the consumer feels individually special.
You can drool in front of your computer over I don’t know what fantasy produced by somebody, without needing to worry about how those around you might judge you.
However, even in the most carried-away moments in a stadium or in a cinema, at some level you’re still aware that you’re in a crowd: At the very least you had to think about how to dress before going to this place.
Even spiritually speaking, going to the church or the temple seems to be now available within the four walls of your room. Buy the tape or the DVD (self-help)
made especially for you individually,
marketed for a group of people called the “insecure”.
That’s the millennial generation. It’s a generation full of paradox, of mixed feelings, since
you’re feeling special
while rationally knowing yourself to be part of a faceless mass of people.
The natural inclination (then) is to join that class of producers of these intangible things: to be a film director, to be a marketing manager, to be a product designer, who spends time thinking about, polishing and devising a product.
Nowadays this occurs within the constraints of a system in which the number of consumers is (potentially) huge because the needs are not as commonsensical and as intuitive as they used to be.
Needs are created.
Remember Steve Jobs and his famous dictum that “people don’t know what they want”.
This means that
the degree of competition is extremely high and
the variety of products is extremely high.
Going back to the millennials: Who are the millennials?
The millennials are those for which the new God is not One.
Maybe in the Old Testament the need was for One and the recognition was that there can only be One, but for those who came of age after 2000 the need is for Many (things to consume).
The millennials are caught in a dilemma:
To consume more you need to be a successful producer,
but in order to be a successful producer, you need to spend less time consuming and more time thinking about what you could produce.
How much can you produce? Well, it depends on how much you consume.
Are there any (realistic) limits to how much you can consume (now)? No. Not anymore.
Now we have a system
where the balance is lost between producers and consumers,
in which hardcore consumers can no longer envision themselves as producers,
in which the producers need to worry about the backlash coming from a mass of consumers who can no longer recognise themselves as human.
No balance because we spend too much time taking in and almost no time putting something out.
If humanity is to survive, the system needs readjustment to encourage more producers than consumers.
Has our perspective changed since the 19th century?
Sometimes I wonder at the lack of ambition we can see in the world of politics nowadays.
We have technocrats, we have people who write these long-long terms of agreement which (in the end) very few people read, and then some lawyers quibble about the details and the definitions.
I can accept this as an intrinsic part of the modern world, but the problem is that we are essentially (even in the developed countries, even in the societies we would call democratic) still polities in which
representatives (=certain people) are chosen as leaders for set periods of time and then,
if we don’t agree with the policies these certain people enact,
we can vote them out and choose others.
We have democracies, we have the power of the people, we have the power to kick out somebody and to put in somebody else, but
only on very big issues we have the so-called referendums in which everybody actually votes on a policy and usually that’s when we are only given a choice between Yes and No.
Why is this?
Politicians, right now, are conscious of the huge change just ahead (just look at the unseemly rush to Tweeter), probably more so than the people who will have the power and will be called upon to live with this change.
This change rests with the technology.
If you can have crowd-funding for an idea that makes sense from a business point of view, why can’t we have a similar system for ideas (=policies) which make sense from a political point of view?
In other words, keep the representatives, keep them there to deliberate, to discuss the proposals, the policies and (perhaps) the wording, but also allow everyone to vote on each policy if they so choose.
Right now we vote every four years on some guy whom you think you know because the commercial (the 30 seconds clip) said that
he’s a man with family values
he’s a man with faith
somebody who has a lot of knowledge about these complex matters.
Okay, let’s keep this system in parallel, but
let’s add a system whereby we can vote on the WHAT as well, and not just on the WHO.
If this becomes possible, then we may be able to get out of the woods (of anomie), as long as these votes are binding, as long as these proposals winning the approval of the voters actually get enacted in legislation. It can be done.
People say we cannot have a democracy the way they had in Athens, where a few men (several hundred) gathered in a hall and everybody shouted, argued, raised their hands, talked and decided on various laws.
We can’t have a gathering where you have 100,000 people in the same place arguing.
Yes, that is not possible.
It is not possible in the physical space, but it has become possible in the virtual space (and it has been possible for the last 10-15 years).
Why is there no IT project to organize this?
Why is there no IT project to make it feasible to have a parliament of the people?
Because it’s much more in the interests of these so-called representatives to keep the current system, although nobody can stand this tide of change coming over us.
Should we be afraid of what the crowds will choose?
Should we be afraid of what they call mobocracy (=rule by the mob)?
I don’t think we need to, not as long as we can educate our citizens. Educate yourself and educate your children and we can all be citizens participating in the shaping of our city, country, community…
Why do we see little change when, say, 60% of the people polled answer that
Will the rainbow last long enough for us to see it?
As I was pacing across this room and contemplating the rather dreary news about the currents state of affairs in this world we live in, where people are still living with
the possibility of (another) World War
the likelihood of nuclear weapons being used
and so on…
I was thinking about this poem which you might see sooner or later on this blog. If you read this poem you might feel that it sounds quite pessimistic.
The poet ponders the extremely short period of time we are given to spend on the crust of this planet.
Immediately I had to ask myself:
Why are we so keen on deploring, on begrudging the short period of time we are allowed to spend here?
The answer lies in the heroic scale on which we imagine and project our Selves. We have a way of thinking about ourselves in the tradition of the Iliad and the Odyssey, the Homeric tradition:
When history begins, it begins with people standing tall, against the gods, as it were.
We have continued in this vein up until Nietzsche. Even Nietzsche has to contrast his Above-the-Human with (what he calls) the Dead Christian God, even he feels the need to scale up our self-image.
What shall we call it? An instinct of self-aggrandizement, I guess that’s what we would find in a dictionary. An overwhelming feeling that
you have to make yourself BIG
you have to project a LARGE shadow.
This feeling notwithstanding, we know the real scale of humankind in history, as brilliantly shown in geology and biology:
The briefest look you can take at the history of this planet and universe tells you in no uncertain terms that we are but a speck.
We are immediately dwarfed by all else.
I don’t mean just WE who are trudging along, doing our small jobs, driving taxis or buses, working in factories or tilling the soil or whatever.
I mean WE including the head of the IMF, or the President of the Russian… Federation (is it now?).
We’re all quite small, but we should not despair. I don’t say this because it is not good to whinge; I say that we should not despair because in despairing we forget that which is more important on a scale which
has nothing to do with history, geology or biology and
has all to do with an ability to self-reflect.
Of course we are small in this BIG universe, in this galaxy, lost in the eons in which we occupy but a blip.
Of course we are small, but we are aware.
We have a consciousness that allows us to write poems and philosophy. This is wherein lies
not our power, but rather
our feeling that we should be proud we exist (=Stand-Forth) in this universe.
Not on the scale of what we can do, but on the scale of what we can think.
Not on the scale of what we can effect in this world.
Not on the scale of what technological innovations we can bring about, or what brave experiments we can attempt (e.g., smashing together atoms and smaller particles and trying to re-create what happened in that instant at the Big-Bang).
If there is a reason we should be proud to have been given life in this universe, it lies in our ability to do something and to think about it, to realize what it means.
Consciousness reveals meaning, and the meaning is not one given by a god or by a spirit (whether these exist or not). The meaning is given by the fact that
among all these gigantic forces and interactions,
among all these countless galaxies,
across all these eons,
within that short time when we appeared, something called consciousness developed.
In a way, this consciousness we have right now is not (substantially) different from what it was
200 years ago, or
2000 years ago, or
20,000 years ago…
Consciousness is (obviously) different in
how we explain its workings
why we believe we happen to be here
What has not changed in thousands of years is that elemental principle of being able to become aware of being.
Is this because of Reason? Is it because of “I think, therefore I am”?
No, it’s not because of Reason. Why are we aware?
The universe awakening?
Up to a point, I suppose you could argue that a dog is aware of some things. However, it is not aware in a way that allows that dog to travel immense distances with the mind and to reach back (or forward) across time into the Past (or into the Future).
This is something we can (and should) take pride in, even if you didn’t do much to bring consciousness about:
We were just given it.
We were simply presented with this.
So don’t despair because you are aware of the desperately small place you occupy.
On the contrary, this awareness provides us with grounds to be infinitely hopeful. By this I don’t mean
hopeful that we will survive eternally and populate the whole universe
hopeful that we can shape reality in such a way as to survive eternally in a perfect world.
I mean hopeful in (and taking great comfort from) knowing that
this world did not blink itself into existence and out of it again with no eye to glance upon it.
Upon the beauty.
Upon the wonder.
Upon the sheer scale required to produce a consciousness
Upon the sheer improbability of our having the good fortune to look upon this world, to wonder and to enjoy together with all these other motes of dust who have also been given this extremely-heavy-yet-light gift.
Heavy in the despair consciousness carries with it: The despair of being aware of our own passing all-too-soon out of this wonderful world.
Yet matched with a lightness of being which has allowed us to encompass in our mind not only the span of our short lives, but also
a lot which has come to pass before us,
a lot which will come to pass,
a lot which has never come to pass and will never come to pass, although it could be encompassed within our minds…
Yes! In our minds the scales are reversed. In our minds we are the giants that stand out, even if in reality we are but small creatures, too busy to notice…
Catastrophic quake-and-nuke disaster predicted in 2003 for TOKYO; no longer a possibility. Thank you Fukushima.
Since today is the 11th, let me reminisce a bit, then lambast everybody.
I have been trained as an applied linguist, up to a point; my teachers did their best, but I didn’t do my best because I was also doing a job at the same time, then a big earthquake came and shook me out of my world on March 11, 2011:
It was pretty intense in Tokyo, but not as intense and as severe as in Tohoku (East-North [of Tokyo] 東北).
So if you hear about the 3.11 earthquake in Japan, or if you hear about the disaster in Fukushima (Wealth-Island 福島), your ears should convert this to Tohoku (East-North):
Tohoku is a region, and the whole region has been devastated. It is not just Fukushima (Wealth-Island, a misnomer now, whose irony bites) which is just a city (and a prefecture), just one place.
We are talking the whole coast, the East-North coast of Japan, almost from the tip of the main island (Honshu), there are 4 prefectures on that side, a huge shoreline (400-500 km long) with fishing communities.
So the big disaster didn’t happen in Tokyo, where I was.
I had the easy part; it was intense, but I had the easy part.
Now, at this time I had a job, I was an interpreter in a factory: I’m working near these machines, when the earthquake happens and I’m in a really old building and so on, and so on.
However, I survived very easily, unscratched, like nearly everybody else in Tokyo.
Now I’m talking to everybody in Tokyo:
You selfish bastards… I’m talking from Tohoku (East-North): Do you hear me Tokyo?
You selfish bastards… still becoming more selfish, forgetting about Tohoku (East-North).
I’m sorry I’m saying this in English, but it’s the only way I can say it (but just in case you need a Japanese translation, think
I count myself among the selfish bastards, up to a point, but I am conscious that I have been a selfish bastard and I’m trying to improve the dialogue by lending an ear to those guys In Tohoku (East-North).
It was a Tohoku (East-North) earthquake, not just Fukushima. So, to everybody who is worried about the radiation, just shut your mouth. It’s not you, and it’s not only the people in Fukushima, and it’s not the Tokyo people:
It’s the people in Tohoku (East-North), where the earthquake and the tsunami (Harbour-Wave 津波) hit; and then Fukushima hit; and then the pure disregard hit, the disregard shown by Tokyo people after the crisis seemed to have passed (for us, in Tokyo).
When we (in Tokyo) said: “Okay, it’s not going to reach Tokyo, it should be fine; we got lucky”.
You selfish bastards, just sighing with relief (“Glad it wasn’t me”). That was the reaction and I think, no, I know that the Tohoku (East-North) people thought to themselves:
“Look at these idiots, they have it coming soon, but they forgot about us in Tohoku (East-North).
They still want to have nuclear power-plants running.
They still want to keep doing things the same way they’ve been done until now”.
No, my friend. Tohoku (East-North) has been the lesson for Japan, a kaizen (Change-into-Good 改善) lesson; from now on, Japan and Tokyo have to wake up to the reality of where we are.
What’s the reality? The reality is that we have to go and help our brothers in Tohoku (East-North), first of all. Then we have to make sure that we don’t create other regions in Japan as Tohoku (East-North) is right now.
So I’m trying to improve myself as a Tokyo person. It took me ages. The earthquake was felt in Tokyo as well, but it was nothing compared to what it was (and still is) in Tohoku (East-North).
This is another dialogue.
A dialogue to improve the mentality (the mind-direction) not only for people in Tokyo, but for everybody who feels as self-entitled as the Tokyo (East-Capital 東京) residents (e.g., those who feel that they’re victims of radiation in America).
Come on, be serious! You are self-deluded if you think that the radiation from Fukushima is the problem for you now as an American, when you have a movement called “Open Carry” and your political leadership has set the country on the path to become the next Saudi Arabia.
Don’t you think that the apocalyptic scenarios of radiation-induced health problems would have been proven by now at Ground Zero? Short answer:
“No discernible increased incidence of radiation-related health effects are expected among exposed members of the public or their descendants. The most important health effect is on mental and social well-being, related to the enormous impact of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident, and the fear and stigma related to the perceived risk of exposure to ionizing radiation.”
In Fukushima, people were near the nuclear plant and some of them were probably outside when it exploded, when a hydrogen explosion occurred and blew a cloud of dust full of radioactive particles in the air. Imagine all the nearby places where people were dealing with
“Oh my God, this was the biggest earthquake-slash-tsunamiwe (and everybody for a thousand years) have ever seen”
This is the moment when this thing blew.
Why did it blow? It blew (of course) because of many and complex factors; Japan is safe in many ways, but it is not safe enough for nuclear power.
How do we know this? We know this from beforeFukushima. If you don’t know about the huge safety problems (regarding maintenance procedures) that had been discovered prior to Fukushima, if you don’t know about the health problems of nuclear plant workers in Japan (those who cleaned the reactors when they were operating “normally”), then you have no right to protest against or to argue for nuclear power (both sides in this debate are currently ignorant about the pre-Fukushima period).
First, you have to know what this drive for nuclear energy in Japan has done. It put some people in a position where everybody else agreed that
“These people are not so important, we don’t need to have a dialogue with them”
That’s where we are right now: Nobody wants to speak with the people who are living near these areas, because most of these people have been hit too hard. Not just by the nuclear disaster; but also by the tsunami and the earthquake.
I say that we need to become aware of what our actions mean and what our choices involve in terms of others: