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Deconstructing Power (Part One)

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Regular use of violence – for “external” or “internal” security – has become a salient characteristic of the modern age. The enormous capability of modern technology has been aiding the process, multiplying manifold the potential of suffering which is caused by the use of violence.

Dr. Naresh Jotwani – TRANSCEND Media Service

Deconstruct (verb): Analyze an aspect of human experience, activity or concept so as to strip away superficial and/or misleading verbiage; and thereby bring to light reality exactly as it is, rather than an erroneous or self-serving version of it.

It is an oddity worth noting that almost all such uses of violence are made with deceptive – or even delusional – claims of aiming at a reduction in suffering. Of course the trumpeted reduction in suffering never happens and, instead, we see “experts” speaking with great “expertise” of “unintended consequences”.

As every person learns at school, it is the strong who bully the weak – never the other way around. Similarly, in the deadly politics of violence, the delusion of being “powerful” plays a central role in any decision to initiate violence. The psychology of violence is therefore also the psychology of power.

Do “the powerful” learn any lessons from the tragic consequences of violence? What a naïve and indeed a silly question! Of course they do not! Power insulates them from normal human emotions, suffering and the desire for a peaceful life.

Therefore – tragically and inevitably – the deadly game continues from one round to the next. Indeed, the next bunches of power-mongers delude themselves to be incomparably wiser than their elders – who had only a short time earlier goofed horrendously. In each round, the inevitable result of the shenanigans of deluded power is – what else? – a further increase in human suffering.

But there is also a heroic side to this tragic human story.

No ordinary human being chooses to suffer. To work towards reduced suffering is in fact a ‘wired-in’ and perfectly healthy human instinct. Indeed, efforts to reduce suffering – or, conversely, to add to happiness – have driven virtually the entire human endeavor, starting from the common human origin in Africa.

[The words “pursuit of happiness” figure prominently in the US Declaration of Independence – although one may not guess that from observed outcomes.]

The earliest forms of human suffering involved the simplest requisites of life – water, food, protection from wild animals … and so on. Today we live more complex lives, and accordingly our causes of suffering have also become more subtle, intricate and sometimes even remote.


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Activities in the areas of health, civic facilities, charity, community support, vocational training et cetera aim at a reduction of suffering amongst people.

Therefore, when we look to both these aspects of human behavior, we see an obdurate and extreme “bipolarity”. On the one hand, there is untiring and indeed valiant effort by the vast majority to reduce human suffering. And, on the other hand, there is always a small and powerful minority which is quite persistent in adding to human suffering – often while claiming to want to reduce it.

An example: Actions of a “powerful” country cause the bombing of a remote farmer’s house, with several of his family members killed or injured. The “powers that be” will either deny or rationalize the suffering caused, but people on the ground will get on with the urgent task of mitigating the suffering.

This seemingly mysterious “bipolarity” has been observed throughout history. Attempts to explain or rationalize this baffling mystery in human behavior have contributed to beliefs such as those in “god”, “satan”, “demons”, “evil spirits”, “propitiation”, “heaven”, “hell” … and so on.

There is no implication here that people are divided into two distinct categories – such as “the compassionate” and the “the cruel”. We shall assume here that every person has the potential of getting into either of these two broad categories – and even of experiencing a “life changing” event.

Against this backdrop, surely it makes good sense to examine, as dispassionately and objectively as possible, the deep-seated human psychology underlying this “bipolarity” – or what we may also call “the problem of human suffering”?

Surely it then also makes good sense to turn to the first and the most diligent human being who applied all his efforts – over a period of over forty five years – to the problem of suffering? We can certainly hope that some of his valuable insights may help in our chosen task of “deconstructing power”.

***

Siddharth Gautam, long before he became Gautam Buddha, resolved to discover the root cause of suffering in human life – and to discover a way to gain freedom from suffering. The first part of his two-fold task involved total deconstruction, while the second involved an enormous amount of compassion, creativity and synthesis in finding a path towards a better life.

By the standards of any human society – whose members may be tall or short, white or black, rich or poor, modern or ancient – this is an incredibly ambitious and noble goal.

Finding a way to end human suffering is no small thing. Otherwise why this goal would be proclaimed loudly – time and time again – by all manners of rulers and politicians around the world? Their charades have been going on for millennia – but almost all of these rulers and politicians have failed. Brutal policies – such as colonization, slavery and genocide – have brought only short-lived well-being even to their chief perpetrators.

So what did Gautam Buddha discover which might help us today?

All we need at present is just the core element of his discoveries:

What obscures one’s clear view of any situation is craving, aversion and/or illusion; and, in the absence of a clear view, one cannot find a way to deal with suffering.

Before we proceed, the following points may be noted:

  • The terms used by Gautam Buddha provide an objective and empirical view into the human experience of suffering. No reference whatsoever is made by him to any phenomena or beings which are “beyond the ken of human experience”. The approach taken by him is therefore perfectly rational and down-to-earth; there is nothing “other-worldly” or mysterious about it.
  • For our present purpose, we shall understand “delusion” to be a more deep-seated and pernicious form of “illusion”. Whereas an “illusion” may bring harm to the person concerned, a “delusion” may result in much more widespread harm – as when a deluded person initiates a deadly war.

***

Before we proceed, an important exclusion needs to be made from the subject matter of our deconstruction.

In the family, at school, on the sports ground or during an apprenticeship, it is necessary to lay down rules about what can or cannot be done by a youngster. The rules are central to the process of nurture, training, education and character-building – and they are laid down on the basis of an underlying set of shared values and goals. Such rules are accepted by all stakeholders, as a healthy community prepares its next generation to assume responsibility

Naturally some coercion may be involved in such cases. However, in a healthy community, that would be far outweighed by goodwill and concern. Such well-meaning instances of coercion will not be questioned here, nor the immense value of nurture, training, education and character-building.

***

Our subject of interest is the misuse of power – that is, ill-intentioned coercion – which is all too common today. Such coercion is nothing but disguised violence – which does not take long to degenerate into overt violence.

This means that our interest is in state or corporate coercion – which is totally impersonal, uncaring and exploitative. The goal behind the use of such coercion is exploitation of one kind or another – personal, economic or political. Even “duly enacted laws” of a society often end up assisting such processes.

The globalized scale of such exploitation today is truly mind-boggling. The rule seems to be followed that every evident weakness must be exploited fully – and that to forego any such “opportunity” is folly. It is no wonder that community spirit takes a big hit. It was not long ago that Mrs. Thatcher announced to the world her discovery that “There is no such thing as society”.

Admittedly, society is a collective noun which is somewhat abstract. However, compassion is something real that every human being is capable of experiencing. In the matter of dealing with suffering, one can get the right answers on the basis of compassion – even while avoiding use of the word society.

People need to smarten up in dealing with all such vital issues – or else they are more likely to fall prey to exploitation. It is easier to exploit a person without any compassion than to exploit a compassionate person – since the latter is likely to feel doubt or hesitation in the process. The most effective henchmen or toadies of power are the ones lacking in compassion as well as understanding.

We need to understand clearly the human psychology at work, so that thinking individuals can find a way to deal with the apparent insanity of the unchecked use of malevolent coercion, power and violence.

We must also see that almost invariably one or another “ideology” or “doctrine” is used as “cover” or “obfuscation” for brutality and rapacity. In such a situation, even a thinking and sincere person may think erroneously that somehow an “ideology” or a “doctrine” overrides the truth he or she feels deep within.

No! An “ideology” or a “doctrine” does not – and it cannot ever – override the truth you have within!

All the proponents and megaphones of “ideologies” and “doctrines” are either well-paid sycophants or useful idiots of power.  It is absolutely critical for right-thinking persons to see through the disguises of “ideologies” and “doctrines” – and into the unbridled human greed and rapacity lying underneath.

The rapacious now have with them a new and extremely powerful weapon – namely, the deliberately deceptive use of mass media. The majority of people in any society are engaged fully in dealing with day-to-day matters; they do not have the surplus capital needed to indulge in – or sponsor – the shenanigans of power.  But those who do have surplus capital want desperately to protect it and to make it grow. They play a ruthless “no holds barred” game against their victims.

The propaganda genius Edward Bernays persuaded fashionable New York women to start smoking – by telling them that the act symbolized “freedom”. Long before him, the newspaper publisher Hearst had sent this cable to his photographer in Cuba: “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”

Today mass deception has been let loose on a global scale. Of course deception is not, by any means, new in human society – but today the technology of deception has become much more powerful, whereas its victims appear more defenseless. What is dubbed “information war” is really no more than “deception war”.

Sadly, today an average person barely knows anyone he or she can fully trust. He or she can no longer trust “god”, the “leaders of society”, the boss, or the banker. Such a condition – if it becomes chronic – is not conducive to human well-being.

Is it not then at least worth sparing a thought for what Gautam Buddha taught? To paraphrase once again:

Truth lies within. Once you discover it with your own effort  you can place your implicit trust in that truth.

Gautam Buddha’s insights provide the “X-ray vision” needed to see through the deceptions of the “high and mighty”. The observer thereby becomes aware of the elemental forces of craving, aversion and delusion which underlie and drive such deception. Naturally therefore – and especially in the present “Age of the Great Deception” – Buddha’s insights can prove to be immensely valuable.

When, in effect, even the idea of the “self” is deconstructed, what can remain of mere categories such as “royal”, “majestic”, “special” or “exceptional” people? All such categories are clearly seen as obfuscations designed to exploit. The “X-ray vision” applies to one and all – and bestows freedom from ignorance.

Equality at the most fundamental level is a ‘wired-in’ feature of human existence. This fact can be denied – and it may continue to be denied – but no amount of cunning propaganda can alter this fact of human existence.

Of course many people are caught up in an economic stranglehold, and are not in a position to do much about their condition – at least in the short run. However, we do hope that a truer appreciation of reality will prove helpful to all.

[To be continued …]

__________________________________________

Dr. Naresh Jotwani is a semi-retired academic living in India. Apart from part-time engagements in engineering education and consulting, he engages in an in-depth, personal exploration of how Gautam Buddha’s profound discoveries and teachings can be applied to the acute problems of modern life.

 

Source: Transcend

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Right to Repair Bill Introduced in Congress

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Hot on the heels of last week’s victory in the New York state senate, the fight for Right to Repair comes to the US Congress. Today, Congressman Joe Morelle (D-NY) introduced the first broad federal Right to Repair bill: the Fair Repair Act.

“As electronics become integrated into more and more products in our lives, Right to Repair is increasingly important to all Americans,” said Kyle Wiens, iFixit CEO. Lawmakers everywhere are realizing the need to protect our Right to Repair—along with progress in the EU and Australia, 27 US states introduced Right to Repair legislation this year, a record number.

“Every year I’ve worked on Right to Repair, it’s gotten bigger, as more and more people want to see independent repair protected,” said Gay Gordon-Byrne, Executive Director of Repair.org. Rep. Joe Morelle has been a champion for much of that journey, sponsoring legislation while in the Statehouse in Albany starting in 2015. Everywhere you go, people just want to be able to choose for themselves how to fix their stuff. You’d think manufacturers would wise up.”

Congressman Joe Morelle’s federal bill would require manufacturers to provide device owners and independent repair businesses with access to the parts, tools, and information they need to fix electronic devices.

“For too long, large corporations have hindered the progress of small business owners and everyday Americans by preventing them from the right to repair their own equipment,” said Congressman Morelle. “It’s long past time to level the playing field, which is why I’m so proud to introduce the Fair Repair Act and put the power back in the hands of consumers. This common-sense legislation will help make technology repairs more accessible and affordable for items from cell phones to laptops to farm equipment, finally giving individuals the autonomy they deserve.”

“Right to Repair just makes sense,” said Nathan Proctor, U.S. PIRG Senior Right to Repair Campaign Director. “It saves money and it keeps electronics in use and off the scrap heap. It helps farmers keep equipment in the field and out of the dealership. No matter how many lobbyists Apple, Microsoft or John Deere and the rest of the manufacturers throw at us, Right to Repair keeps pushing ahead, thanks to champions like Rep. Joe Morelle.”

“At iFixit, we believe that big tech companies shouldn’t get to dictate how we use the things we own or keep us from fixing our stuff.” said iFixit’s US Policy Lead, Kerry Maeve Sheehan. “We applaud Congressman Morelle for taking the fight for Right to Repair to Congress and standing up for farmers, independent repair shops, and consumers nationwide.”

We’re pleased to see Congress taking these problems seriously. In addition to supporting Congressman Morelle’s Fair Repair Act, we urge Congress to pass much-needed reforms to Section 1201 of the Copyright Act, to clarify that circumventing software locks to repair devices is always legal, and to expressly support the Federal Trade Commission’s authority to tackle unfair, deceptive, and anti-competitive repair restrictions.

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For a healthier planet, management must change

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Our environment sustains all life. Both human and wildlife. When habitat degrades, the lives of all that depend on it also deteriorate: poor land = poor people and social breakdown.By Sarah Savory, Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe (like many other countries in arid areas with seasonal rainfall) we are facing the many symptoms and signs of our country’s advancing desertification: ever-increasing droughts, floods, wildfires, poverty, poaching, social breakdown, violence, mass emigration to cities, biodiversity loss and climate change. No economy can survive if we destroy our soil – the only economy that can ultimately sustain any community, or nation, is based on the photosynthetic process — green plants growing on regenerating soil.


So, if we wanted to find out the optimum way to manage our wildlife, people and economy, logically, shouldn’t we be looking at our National Parks for the best examples of what we can do for our environment? Because in national parks, we not only have the best management the world knows, we don’t have any of the issues that are normally blamed for causing desertification: ignorance, greed, corruption, corporations, livestock, coal, oil, etc. Let’s do that now…the following are all photos taken in our national parks (the first 3 were taken in May right after the rainy season when they should still be looking their best!)

As you can see from those photos, some of the worst biodiversity loss and land degradation we have in Zimbabwe is occurring IN our National Parks. But, as I pointed out, those have been run using the best management known to us and have been protected and conserved for decades. We’ve clearly been missing something…

The above 8 pictures are a mixture of National Parks and Communal Land…can you tell which is which?

We are seeing this land degradation both inside and out of our Parks because there is an over-arching and common cause of desertification that nobody has understood, or been able to successfully address, until recently.

We spend our lives blaming resources for causing the damage (coal, oil, livestock, elephants, etc) but resources are natural, so how could they possibly be to blame? Only our management of them can be causing the problem.

ALL tool using animals (including humans) automatically use a genetically embedded management framework…and every single management decision made is in order to meet an objective, a need, or to address a problem. And those decisions are made with exactly the same framework, or thought process and for exactly the same reasons, whether it is an animal or a human.

For example, a hungry otter has an objective: he wants to break open a clamshell because he needs to eat. He uses a simple tool (technology, in the form of a stone) to do so. He does this based on past experience or what he learned from his mother.

Or, the president of the United States has an objective: to put a man on the moon within a decade. He and his team use the same tool (technology, but various and more sophisticated forms of it) and base their choices on past experience, research, expert advice, and so on. It’s the same process, or framework, in both cases, only the degree of sophistication has varied.

A screen shot taken from a short video clip we took with a film crew last month, of 4 different areas, all near to each other: you will clearly see the terrible desertification in both National Parks and nearby Communal Land. In comparison, you will see a vast difference on Dibangombe, the Africa Centre For Holistic Management (our learning centre, which is only 30km from Victoria Falls.) This habitat is being regenerated for all life by simply managing holistically. Every year on this land, despite the worsening droughts, the biodiversity increases and the land and wildlife flourish.
All this footage was taken in the same area, at the same time, with the same climate, the same soils, the same wildlife and the same humans.
But different management.

To this day, this decision making process works just fine for the otter. But imagine that one day, the otter invents a machine that can crack open 1,000 clam shells a day and that all the other otters suddenly stop doing what otters are designed to do and just come to him to get their clams. They still use the decision making process but everything else has changed…that tiny advance in technology would have inadvertently set off a complex chain reaction through the whole ecosystem and there would soon be catastrophic environmental knock-on effects because the balance of the ecosystem has been upset. The ecosystem will keep trying to adjust to this change but eventually it will start to collapse. Imagine the otter started charging for the clams. Now, with every decision the otters make, in order to make sure their ecosystem didn’t collapse, they would need to be simultaneously addressing the social, environmental and economic aspects of their actions. Their management would have to evolve with the change.

This is exactly what happened to humans…As soon as our technology advanced, our management should have evolved to accommodate for it. But it didn’t.

Our natural world is rapidly collapsing all around us and we have ended up constantly chasing our tails and dealing with the symptoms and complications we’ve created. While there have been thousands of books written over the years on different types of management, if you dig a little deeper and ‘peel the onion’ the same genetically embedded framework is still inadvertently being used.

In the last 400 years, our technology has advanced faster than in all of the two hundred thousand or so years of modern human existence. Over those same few centuries, you can now see why the health of our planet has entered a breathtaking decline.  We now have the knowledge to change that…

No matter what we are managing, we cannot ever escape an inevitable web of social, economic and environmental complexity, so, in order to truly address any issue, the people and the finances have to be addressed simultaneously, not just the land itself. Isolating one particular part of the problem, or singling out a species and trying to manage it successfully, is no different from trying to isolate and manage the hydrogen in water.

With this knowledge, the Holistic Management Framework was developed. And, incredibly, it all started here in Zimbabwe, by my father, Allan Savory, an independent Zimbabwean scientist. This new decision making process ensures that no matter what we are managing, we focus on the root cause of any problem. It also makes sure that all our decisions are socially or culturally sound, economically viable and ecologically regenerative by using 7 simple filtering checks. And, it introduces us to a new, biological tool: animal impact and movement, that can be used to help us reverse desertification and regenerate our land and rivers.

This framework has received world-wide acclaim and is now being mirrored in forty three Holistic Management hubs on six continents, including the first university-led hub in the USA.

Now we can begin to understand that most of the problems we are facing in Zimbabwe today are simply symptoms of reductionist management.

Imagine that one day, someone starts to beat you really hard over the head, once a day, every day, with a cricket bat. It really hurts, and instead of trying to take the bat away from them, you just take a dispirin to deal with the headache it’s caused and carry on.

After a week, the pain will be getting much worse and the dispirin will no longer be strong enough, so you’d need a new painkiller. The stopain comes out. After a while, stopain won’t be enough, so you turn to Brufen. And so it goes on. Yet the blows continue.

Eventually, your organs will be struggling from all the medication and you’ll end up in hospital with very serious complications. The best doctors and specialists in the world are called in at great expense and they rush around treating all your worsening, and now life-threatening, symptoms. None of them can understand why you aren’t getting better – they’ve used the best medicines and procedures known. It’s because everyone is so focused on your symptoms, that nobody has looked up and seen the person standing behind you with the cricket bat.

It sounds silly when I put it like that, doesn’t it? But that is exactly what we are doing.

Our planet is in that hospital with life threatening complications, with Governments, Organisations and individuals doing their best, spending millions of dollars, often using expert advice, to find out how to treat the patient, but nobody has realised that they are only treating symptoms. Nobody has noticed the guy standing there with the bat.

The holistic management framework stops the blows to the head. As soon as we do that and the cause is being treated, all the symptoms will automatically begin to heal and fall away.

I am going to show you a screen shot taken from a short video clip we took with a film crew last month, of 4 different areas, all near to each other: you will clearly see the terrible desertification in both National Parks and nearby Communal Land. In comparison, you will see a vast difference on Dibangombe, the Africa Centre For Holistic Management (our learning centre, which is only 30km from Victoria Falls.) This habitat is being regenerated for all life by simply managing holistically. Every year on this land, despite the worsening droughts, the biodiversity increases and the land and wildlife flourish.

All this footage was taken in the same area, at the same time, with the same climate, the same soils, the same wildlife and the same humans.

But different management.

These pictures were taken on the same day on land only 30km apart in February 2018, The 2 photos on the left are Zambezi National Park and the photo on the right is Africa Centre for Holistic Management (Dibangombe)

The great news is that we can turn it all around and we don’t have the thousands of different problems we all think we do. We only have to adjust one thing. Our management.

It’s time for us to evolve from using our outdated, reductionist management framework. We need to adapt to a new way of thinking and  apply this paradigm-shifting decision  making framework so that we can all work together towards regenerating our Zimbabwe.

Culturally. Socially. Economically. Environmentally. For for our people and for our wildlife.

Let’s start by stopping the blows to the head!

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Free to Download Fight the Fire: Green New Deals and Global Climate Jobs

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Fight the Fire

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OUT NOW!

“The most compelling and concise guide to averting climate breakdown.” – Brendan Montague, editor, The Ecologist.

Download Jonathan Neale’s Fight the Fire from The Ecologist for free now.

The Ecologist has published Fight the Fire for free so that it is accessible to all.

We would like to thank our readers for donating £1,000 to cover some of the costs of publishing and promoting this book.

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