“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.”- John F. Kennedy
In the context of technology the only way out is through. Global society is dependent on artificially inflated energy resources—i.e. oil—that are directly leading us toward total collapse. Technology is being used to most efficiently maximize wealth of the largest corporate conglomerates at the expense of the social fabric and a living environment. The biosphere is in fact collapsing. The technology exists to solve our technical problems but the solutions do not seem like they will be effectively put to use. The power structures concentrating money off the status quo are too entrenched. Each human is called on to become more aware.
‘The problem that confronts us is that every living system in the biosphere is in decline and the rate of decline is accelerating. There isn’t one peer-reviewed scientific article that’s been published in the last 20 years that contradicts that statement. Living systems are coral reefs. They’re our climatic stability, forest cover, the oceans themselves, aquifers, water, the conditions of the soil, biodiversity. They go on and on as they get more specific. But the fact is, there isn’t one living system that is stable or is improving. And those living systems provide the basis for all life.”[i]
Given the state of the world it seems increasingly clear that radical change is necessary to avert catastrophe. While I can find common cause with primitivists and really everyone that truly values life more than nominally against the current highly efficient destruction of the biosphere, to assert that the only way forward is to abandon technology and civilization entirely, knowing full well that that relationship with the planet would require that only a fraction of the current human population exist, is to be almost as willing as the current immoral system to sacrifice the lives of countless individuals for some given end. Of course those ends differ as greatly as night and day, but there is an equivalent “ends justify means” conceptual orientation. Civilizational primitivism, or a return to an idealized hunter gatherer society as the operating organizational framework, cannot be our first choice. It might be the only option many are left with if civilization collapses, but if it is at all possible to shift the course of civilization away from the maximization of externalities (the accumulating environmental and social costs) in pursuit of monetary gain toward instead a technologically facilitated re-embedding and reintegration of human society into the natural world, billions of lives might depend on the outcome. We have to try.
Zooming out, we are confronted by a situation in which philosophy in general has become increasingly viewed as largely irrelevant to both the concerns of everyday persons and the needs of the scientific community. If we care about truth, we care about the state of the world and the relationship the human species has to it. We must not forego combating untruths and misinformation wherever we find them, least of all here, but we should not spend all of our time in our ivory tower bogged down in abstract and esoteric debates that ignore the very real suffering of real persons. As members of an interconnected species we are all in this together. We are behooved to treat each other how someone like Carl Sagan would; with recognition that indeed now more than ever we are all in this together as a species, with all our eggs in one basket. We are one bad asteroid strike from having all the intelligent life we have found in the universe wiped out.[ii]
Seeing the world through a zero sum lens is ultimately counterproductive and in an increasingly interdependent global community with problems that need to be addressed globally it is only a matter of time until the most efficient and possibly only route to human flourishing is sought and reached: global human cooperation and the end of war.
It is of absolutely fundamental importance for the vast majority of the human species to realize our common humanity. It is not an exaggeration to say that our lives depend on it. As technology continues to give individuals more power, and the corresponding effect that we have on other persons and the world expands, the question of what we choose to do with our power will decide more than just the fate of our species, but the biosphere as a whole. Since the Cold War era, it has been within the capability of our species to destroy itself and take most of the planet with us.
Serious progress is being stymied by short-sighted oligarchic money power.
“The crash has laid bare many unpleasant truths about the United States. One of the most alarming, says a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is that the finance industry has effectively captured our government—a state of affairs that more typically describes emerging markets, and is at the center of many emerging-market crises. If the IMF’s staff could speak freely about the U.S., it would tell us what it tells all countries in this situation: recovery will fail unless we break the financial oligarchy that is blocking essential reform. And if we are to prevent a true depression, we’re running out of time.”[iii]
So the next step is taking back our country. For those of you in denial of the desperate need to do so consider,
“50 million Americans are now living in poverty, which is the highest poverty rate in the industrialized world; 30 million Americans are in need of work; Five million American families foreclosed upon, 15 million expected by 2014; 50% of US children will now use a food stamp during childhood; Soaring budget deficits in states across the country and a record high national debt, with austerity measures on the way; [and] Record-breaking profits and bonuses for [the financial oligarchy].”[iv]
Glenn Greenwald quotes The Atlantic,
“‘Squeezing the oligarchs, though, is seldom the strategy of choice among emerging-market governments. Quite the contrary: at the outset of the crisis, the oligarchs are usually among the first to get extra help from the government, such as preferential access to foreign currency, or maybe a nice tax break, or — here’s a classic Kremlin bailout technique — the assumption of private debt obligations by the government. Under duress, generosity toward old friends takes many innovative forms. Meanwhile, needing to squeeze someone, most emerging-market governments look first to ordinary working folk — at least until the riots grow too large.’
The real question is whether the American public is too apathetic and trained into submission for that to ever happen.”[v]
Since before the recession, Elizabeth Warren of Harvard has been warning us of the collapse of the American middle class. Two income families today have less money after fixed expenses than single income families did a generation ago. We all know families that have dealt with divorce, but we may not have realized that we know more families that have gone through bankruptcy.[vi]
“American civic education requires a transformative breakthrough. Current US wars are unlawful to an Orwellian degree. The US economy is transferring unprecedented wealth of trillions of dollars every year to a financial elite within corporate cartels that have captured their government regulators. Civic education in both of these areas is crippled by colluding political and corporate propaganda. These are factual claims easily verified as objective data, and substantiated by recognized experts within the Harvard community.”[vii]
The cost of not dealing with inequality will continue to grow. Marketwatch.com part the Wall Street Journal digital network even published an article titled, “Tax the Super Rich now or face a revolution.”[viii] All the major sociological conditions for modern revolution are already satisfied:
1. A quick decline in a prosperous nation
2. Open class war perpetrated by the upper classes
3. Intellectuals making common cause with the lower classes
4. “Atrocious government malfeasance in the face of precipitously declining fortunes” or widespread corruption
5. Leadership failure amongst the ruling classes to confront the truths bearing down on us
6. Mismanagement of the economy and fiscal irresponsibility
7. And the government no longer exercises force in a way that people find fair or consistent.[ix]
In fact all these conditions were met while Bush was still in office. The election of Obama was a failed opportunity to show people that their votes mattered; that there was hope of reforming the system from within.
Meanwhile, the fact of the matter is, we have very little idea of the kinds of potentials that will be technologically unlocked in the next five to ten years. There has been some speculation and analysis regarding the ways in which some technologies would alter our relationship with the larger world as individuals at the granular level, but we have very few tools to reasonably predict how these developments will fundamentally change the overall structure of society. And it seems likely that they will. We are facing changes greater than the onset of agriculture.
In addition to growing uncertainty about the external world, there are already internally limiting factors. The class of true statements that most of us find interesting are those that are not trivially true. They often say something about larger chunks of reality or how we would like to think these relate to each other, or how they might be organized into some structural whole. The only problem is that the more a statement or argument purports to say, i.e. the larger the scope of the claim, the more likely that our cognitive and perceptual tools will have a relatively diminished ability to verify such a claim. So the biggest and most important assertions that we make consciously, and even more importantly subconsciously; the stories, doctrines and patterns that we are most likely to use to guide our behavior because they are the context into which we place our entire identities, these concepts are precisely those most likely to be untrue.
Our only effective response to these uncertainties is collective, super-organismic really. A single neuron is structurally incapable of picking out the salient features of the environment to protect the life of a complex multi-cellular organism. It can only do so through organization with other neurons such that there is a constant bi-directional feedback loop in the system.[x] Similarly the human species having stepped outside of external predatory constraints like a colony of bacteria in a flask will grow until the resources to sustain human life are consumed and the species will collapse unless we become collectively organized to behave intelligently in the environment that the species finds itself (to say nothing of the cannibalization of the many by the few). No lone prophet or thinker will be able to show us the way. And if our collective process begins to have a homological and not merely analogical relationship with multi-cellular organisms there are certain things that we might predict about its development. If consciousness is itself a certain special kind of sensory apparatus of complex processing for which it acts as a global workspace for various parts of the mind to communicate with each other,[xi] the most noble goal that philosophy can aspire to is to work toward becoming this global workspace for our species. Philosophy can and should be the place through which the species comes to know itself. To take this project seriously is to take the sensory apparatus of the species seriously. The only sensory apparatus of the species worth its salt is scientific because it is the only reliable and transmissible form of relatively accurate information about the universe including us. It is not difficult to speculate on the various organs of a nascent superorganism. Humans have organized into progressively higher order units. There does not seem to be any good reason to assume that to be a trend that does not continue.[xii]
However, depending on how one defines purpose, function may or may not be a helpful aspect in how one contemplates one’s existence, but it can describe how we got here and where we might be going. No story has a happy ending because all your achievements are going to dissolve and you are going to die; no matter how many millions you have in the bank it becomes meaningless.[xiii] We are not here for the story we tell ourselves about who we are. Our life has no externally dictated meaning. We breathe meaning into our lives on a moment by moment basis. Likewise just like a fractal we can see self-similarity of this pattern on a larger scale, zooming out arbitrarily far, certainly past and including the level of any superorganism. Life itself has no externally dictated meaning. Meaning is breathed into life on a moment by moment basis by the fields of awareness that inhabit it. But at the end of the day, we don’t really know. Our individual conceptions of the universal will always fail us. Like infants we may be able to hold a certain field of view, but incapable of containing the context that makes sense of everything.
However to shift back to what we can make sense of, if we do not take advantage of the fact that we currently outnumber the super rich 9,999 to 1, advantages in cybernetics and gene therapy and other technologies could very well nullify that numerical superiority and result in terrible new weapons being developed and used by the ultra-wealthy few against us free range serfs . Among the technologies already developed are packs of robots designed to hunt down humans[xiv] laser[xv] and microwave cannons[xvi] etc. As things currently stand, the most heavily propagandized population in the history of the human species[xvii]—Americans—seem unlikely to wakeup in time to prevent utter chaos as the most globally powerful state nominally under their control as citizens instead continues to cause civilization to break down in the short term interests of the government’s corporate hijackers, unless mind enhancing techniques or other technological silver bullets hit the popular market in time for civilization to thread the needle so to speak and narrowly avoid energy and environmental implosion. Humanity faces a stark choice: evolve or die.[xviii] Introspection has not been the average American’s strong suit. Resignation, however, is not an option, I will end on a quote from “10 Steps to Defeat the Corporatocracy” by Bruce Levine:
“Historian Lawrence Goodwyn has studied democratic movements such as Solidarity in Poland, and he has written extensively about the populist movement in the United States that occurred during the end of the 19th century (what he calls ‘the largest democratic mass movement in American history’). Goodwyn concludes that democratic movements are initiated by people who are neither resigned to the status quo nor intimidated by established powers. For Goodwyn, the cultural and psychological building blocks of democratic movements are individual self-respect and collective self-confidence. Without individual self-respect, we do not believe that we are worthy of power or capable of utilizing power wisely, and we accept as our role being a subject of power. Without collective self-confidence, we do not believe that we can succeed in wresting away power from our rulers.
Thus, it is the job of all of us – from parents, to students, to teachers, to journalists, to clergy, to psychologists, to artists and EVERYBODY who gives a damn about genuine democracy – to create individual self-respect and collective self-confidence.”[xix]
[i] The Man of the Hour | Politics | Vanity Fair.” Vanity Fair Magazine | Vanity Fair. May 2007. Web. 25 May 2011. <http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2007/05/dicaprio200705>.
[ii] If it is a large enough asteroid to destroy human life, it is likely to destroy bottle-nosed dolphin life as well (the second most intelligent species on the planet). Leake, Jonathan. “Scientists Say Dolphins Should Be Treated as ‘non-human Persons’ – Times Online.” The Times | UK News, World News and Opinion. 3 Jan. 2010. Web. 01 Feb. 2011. <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/science/article6973994.ece>.
[iii] Johnson, Simon. “The Quiet Coup.” Atlantic Magazine. Web. 12 May. 2010
[iv] “We, as a population, have been acting against our own interests and fighting amongst ourselves, while the Economic Elite, who control our society and media system, are left unquestioned and unchallenged, operating behind the scenes, beyond the spotlight, above the law, concentrating wealth and resources, at our expense, in unprecedented fashion.
Other than to create and control popular opinion and keep us politically passive, the mainstream media exists to keep people consuming and spending their hard-earned money. That is the bottom line.
Every time you turn on the TV, you have to realize that the entire mass media system is an elaborate psychological operation to keep you passive and make you feel secure in spending your money. That’s why TV pundits and talking heads are paid huge salaries; they are experts in duping us and playing us for fools. We are all being played. We aren’t free citizens; we are indebted wage slaves. That may sound much too harsh for a population that has been propagandized for hours a day, every day of our lives, but it is the truth. As the brilliant John Dewey said, “We live exposed to the greatest flood of mass suggestion that any people has ever experienced.”
Who needs reality when you have American Idol, Disneyland and celebrity sex scandals?
Until we can block out these distractions and face reality, our future and living standards will continue to spiral downward.
. . .
I know the game is rigged against us, but I also know that we ultimately have the power. We are 99% of the population. It’s just a matter of organizing together and exercising our will. It comes down to our ability to inform and inspire our family, friends and neighbors. It comes down to us overcoming our own passive unwillingness to STAND UP for our own rights, which is part of the reason we are in this crisis to begin with. We are at a point in American history where the stakes have never been higher. I wish we could just turn away and ignore it, but I know we can’t. Our very way of life is under attack. It is the very unfortunate reality of our current crisis.
Will we WAKE UP and acknowledge this, or will we continue to sleepwalk in ignorance to a slow death?”http://ampedstatus.com/the-financial-oligarchy-reigns-democracys-death-spiral-from-greece-to-the-united-states
[v] Greenwald, Glenn. “What Collapsing Empire Looks like – Glenn Greenwald – Salon.com.” Salon.com – Salon.com. 6 Aug. 2010. Web. 16 Feb. 2011. <http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/08/06/collapse>.
[vi] Warren, Elizabeth. “The Coming Collapse of the Middle Class.” Youtube. The Graduate Council Lectures: The Jefferson Memorial Lectures, 31 Jan. 2008. Web. 13 May 2010. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akVL7QY0S8A>.
[vii] Carl, Herman. “Open Proposal to US Higher Education: End Unlawful War, Oligarchy Economics with Education.” Examiner.com. 28 Apr. 2010. Web. 13 May 2010. <http://www.examiner.com/x-18425-LA-County-Nonpartisan-Examiner~y2010m4d28-Open-proposal-to-US-higher-education-End-unlawful-war-oligarchy-economics-with-education-1-of-4>.
[viii] Farrell, Paul B. “Tax the Super Rich Now or Face a Revolution Paul B. Farrell – MarketWatch.” MarketWatch – Stock Market Quotes, Business News, Financial News. 29 Mar. 2011. Web. 25 May 2011. <http://www.marketwatch.com/story/tax-the-super-rich-now-or-face-a-revolution-2011-03-29?pagenumber=1>.
[ix] Robinson, Sara. “When Change Is Not Enough: The Seven Steps To Revolution | OurFuture.org.” Today’s Ideas & Actions | OurFuture.org. 20 Feb. 2008. Web. 25 May 2011. <http://www.ourfuture.org/blog-entry/when-change-not-enough-seven-steps-revolution>.
[xi] “Global Workspace Theory.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 01 Feb. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Workspace_Theory>.
[xii] I have skirted the issue on our merger with technology and the question of black swans entirely.
[xiii] Tolle, Eckhart. “The Flowering of Human Consciousness.” Lecture. Sherwood Auditorium, La Jolla, CA. 5 Mar. 2001. Google Videos. The Power of Now Teaching Series. Web. 01 Feb. 2011. <http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2546949894540352546#>.
[xiv] “Packs of robots will hunt down uncooperative humans – Short Sharp Science – New Scientist.” Science news and science jobs from New Scientist – New Scientist. Web. 26 Nov. 2009. <http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/shortsharpscience/2008/10/packs-of-robots-will-hunt-down.html>.
[xvi] Page, Lewis. “US Justice Dept Builds Microwave Heat-ray ‘rifle’ • The Register.” The Register: Sci/Tech News for the World. 10 Oct. 2008. Web. 25 May 2011. <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/10/10/justice_dept_microwave_rifle/>.
[xvii] Cnn, Taylor Gandossy. “TV Viewing at ‘all-time High,’ Nielsen Says – CNN.” Featured Articles from CNN. 24 Feb. 2009. Web. 25 May 2011. <http://articles.cnn.com/2009-02-24/entertainment/us.video.nielsen_1_nielsen-company-nielsen-spokesman-gary-holmes-watching?_s=PM:SHOWBIZ>.
[xviii] Tolle, Eckhart. A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. New York: Plume, 2006. Print.
[xix] Levine, Bruce. “10 Steps to Defeat the Corporatocracy | Economy | AlterNet.” Home | AlterNet. 20 May 2011. Web. 28 May 2011. <http://www.alternet.org/economy/151018/10_steps_to_defeat_the_corporatocracy/?page=entire>.