Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Future of the Planet, the Fate of the Nation, the Failure of the Collective Conscience, & Why Mahakasyapa Smiled When Buddha Twirled the Flower

Image: Frida Kahlo, Love Embrace of the Universe

In a new paper published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Sir Partha Dasgupta makes the point that the problem with gross domestic product is the gross bit. There are no deductions involved: all economic activity is accounted as if it were of positive value. Social harm is added to, not subtracted from, social good. A train crash which generates £1bn worth of track repairs, medical bills and funeral costs is deemed by this measure to be as beneficial as an uninterrupted service which generates £1bn in ticket sales. George Monbiot, After this 60-year Feeding Frenzy, Earth Itself has Become Disposable, Guardian, 1-5-10

Migrant Mother/Pea-Picker in the Dust Bowl, Photo by Dorothea Lange, 1936

The decade that just ended has been the worst for the U.S. economy in modern times by a wide range of data, with zero net job growth and the slowest rise in economic output since the 1930s. Many who stayed employed were hurt too, with middle-income families making less in 2008, when adjusted for inflation, than they did in 1999 — the first decade since the 1960s that median incomes have fallen. Think Progress, 1-2-09

For More Compelling Photos from Mia Farrow's Journeys, click here.

In Washington ... few challenges have produced a greater chasm between words and deeds. A first step toward closing that gap is debunking the myths about Sudan that persist among policymakers, diplomats and the public: The genocide in Darfur is largely over ... China's oil investments in Sudan keep it from pressuring the government ... Pressure on Sudan hasn't worked, so let's try incentives ... Indicting President Bashir hurt peace efforts ... The United States is doing everything it can to end the violence. John Prendergast, Five Myths About Genocide and Violence in Darfur, Washington Post, 12-18-09

The Future of the Planet, the Fate of the Nation, the Failure of the Collective Conscience, & Why Mahakasyapa Smiled When Buddha Twirled the Flower

By Richard Power

Predatory capitalism has failed as an economic model, just as surely as Soviet "communism" failed; and just as we suddenly found ourselves on the precipice of the Soviet empire's collapse in the late 1980s, we could soon find ourselves on the precipice of the U.S. empire's collapse.

The antidote to both otherwise fatal illnesses is a mixed economy, which promotes true free enterprise and yet cultivates a robust commons (e.g., critical infrastructure, mass transportation, public education and yes, universal, single-payer healthcare). This antidote, if allowed to take hold, will evolve over time into a new model, for which we do not yet have words or concepts; a model that will be more respectful of the framework outlined by our founders.

Does this nation have the collective courage or the clarity of mind to locate the balance point between these two extremes before it is too late and we are plunged irretrievably into chaos? Certainly, in past two decades since the fall of the Soviet Union, it has not given any evidence of such qualities.

Consider the evidence.

I have now been speaking out on the threat of climate change for a decade.

In 2000, Bush-Cheney reneged on the US commitment made to the Kyoto accords during Clinton-Gore. For the next eight years, the US political establishment ducked this grave planetary threat, hiding behind a faux controversy, predicated on denial and disinformation, and coated with a veneer of credibility by the US mainstream news media. (There is no legitimate debate. The scientific consensus is well-established, and has been for YEARS now.)

In 2009, despite good intentions and some skillful moves, Obama came back from Copenhagen with next to nothing. Better than nothing? Yes. Better than blowing it off? Certainly. Enough to rescue the future from the follies of the present? Not even close.

After a weak deal in Copenhagen, Pachauri warned that allowing scepticism to delay international action on global warming would endanger the lives of the world's poorest people. "In the end, knowledge and science will undoubtedly triumph, but delay in reducing emissions of greenhouse gases would only lead to ...worse impacts of climate change and growing hardship for the most vulnerable regions in the world, which are also unfortunately some of the poorest communities on Earth." Adam Vaughan, Climate Change Scepticism Will Increase Hardship for World's Poor: IPCC Chief, Guardian, 1-4-10

I have been speaking out in the catastrophe in Darfur for seven years now.

Despite occasional outbursts of sanctimonious rhetoric from Bush, between 2003 and 2008, the USA did nothing of any note. And despite high-borne campaign promises, the Obama administration is not undertaking a sufficiently radical change in policy.

Look, it is simple. For a couple of years now, those on the ground have been calling for a DOZEN HELICOPTERS to support the work of the UN/AU peacekeeping force.

No one in the West has come up with these helicopters.

Do you know the full extent of the US military hegemony in this world?

The 2009 U.S. military budget is almost as much as the rest of the world's defense spending combined and is over nine times larger than the military budget of China ... The United States and its close allies are responsible for about two-thirds of the world's military spending ...

And yet still, no helicopters to support the UN/AU peacekeepers.

The point is not the upcoming Sudanese elections, or the on again off again peace negotiations. Civil war is the most likely outcome to both flawed processes.

The point is this evening some young girl will be sent out to collect firewood, and she will be much more likely to become a victim of rape as a weapon of war because we have not scrounged up those helicopters.

Of course, when the civil war comes, it may not matter anymore, because it is quite possible the young girl and her family will have been massacred in the final strokes of this slow motion genocide.

She won't be going out to collect firewood, she will be firewood.

Since 2003, an estimated 300,000 have perished in this violence and 2.7 million have been displaced or forced to leave their homes. This genocide is seen as the most atrocious humanitarian crisis occurring today. The U.S. called this murder, rape and torture genocide in 2004, yet our country hasn't learned that actions speak louder than words. Let's reaffirm our Darfur commitment, The Tennessean, 1-4-10

So at this extraordinary juncture, with the future of the planet, the fate of the nation and the failure of our collective conscience in the balance, I am compelled to ask you, why is it, do you think, that Mahākāśyapa smiled when Buddha twirled the flower?

Do you know the story?

On Vulture Peak, Gautama Buddha twirled a flower, and raised his eyebrow. No one in the assembly responded. They sat, silent and expressionless. Only Mahākāśyapa smiled. Then Buddha announced that he was entrusting Mahākāśyapa with "the heart of Nirvana, the true form of non-form ... a special transmission outside the teaching." Thereafter, whenever Buddha communed with the assembly, Mahākāśyapa shared his pillow.

So why did Mahākāśyapa smile?

He smiled because the flower was in the mind, and the mind was in the flower. He smiled because the beauty of the flower was the clarity of the mind, and the clarity of the mind was the beauty of the flower. He smiled because the heart was the fathomless depth of the mind, and the mind was the shining surface of the heart. He smiled because there was a dimension of being where word was deed and deed was word, and all was vibration, and that vibration was boundless, unconditional love.

That flower is twirling inside each of us even now. And from the seed of each of those twirling flowers in the pool of psyche waves of love's wisdom, in infinite reverberation, are emanating. These waves are producing miracles of humanity all around us (some secular, some religiously inspired, NONE of them fundamentalist).

And so even here even now, we can find ourselves smiling.

Miracles of love's wisdom in action in Egypt ...

The two solar panels and bio-gas unit on the roof of Soliman's building in Darb El-Ahmar provide hot water and cooking gas to his two-bedroom apartment, reducing his family's carbon footprint and energy costs. The clean energy appliances, made mostly from recycled material, have reduced his household's waste have meant that "my gas and electricity bills are much less than before," says Soliman. They shaved nearly 50 percent off the utility bills. EGYPT: Rooftops Empower the Poor, IPS, 1-3-10

Solar CITIES, the group that engineered this set-up has built 35 solar water heaters (approx. $500 each) in Egypt since 2007. Imagine if they had been empowered to build 3500.

Miracles of love's wisdom in action in Columbia ...

Indigenous and rural women from southern Tolima, a province located in the heart of Colombia, are lending a hand to the bleak land around them, with the aim of simultaneously recovering the ecosystem and regaining their own dignity, in a community effort that is changing their environment and their lives. Columbia: Women Empowered by Restoring Desertified Land, IPS, 1-2-09

The Women's Hands project "extends over 56 rural villages, townships and Pijao reservations, which make up six municipalities." Imagine if it spread across South America, Africa and the Middle East.

Miracles of love's wisdom in action in Germany, Britain, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic ...

Less and less waste, these days, is actually allowed to go to waste. Instead, it is used to generate biogas, a methane-rich mixture that can be employed for heating and for the generation of electricity ... The consequence of techniques such as these is that an ever-larger proportion of sewage is being used as a raw material for energy generation. Germans already process about 60% of their faeces this way, and the Czechs, Britons and Dutch are close behind (see chart). GENeco reckons the figure in Britain by the end of 2010 will have leapt to 75%—enough, when converted into electricity, to power 350,000 homes. The seat of power, The Economist, 12-30-09

The sewer systems of many of America's great cities are crumbling and in desperate need of repair. Imagine a nationwide job program that not only rebuilt this vital infrastructure but turned it into a source of energy. In the teeming mega-slums of much of the rest of the world, there are towering walls of human faeces overtaking the human population producing the waste. Imagine a renewed peace corp turning into an energy resource.

Miracles of love's wisdom in action in the USA ...

Boulder and Denver’s civic and government leaders, research institutions, and entrepreneurs are building a home for the electric car. Rather than waiting for the car to arrive, these entities are plug-in-proofing their cities and demonstrating a belief in the potential for vehicle electrification. Grist, 12-28-09

Imagine every one of the major metropolitan areas in the USA undertaking such an initiative.

Ah, but so much more could be done ...

Solar power technologies could generate 15 percent of America's power in 10 years, but only if Washington levels the playing field on subsidies ... Currently, solar contributes less than 1 percent of energy used in the U.S. and employs some 60,000 people. Increasing that amount to 15 percent would result in a total of 882,000 new jobs, the association said ... The solar ramp-up would also fight climate change. A 15 percent scenario would slash America's energy-related emissions by an estimated 10 percent ... Stacy Feldman, Solve Climate, 12-29-09

Imagine that, 15% of the USA's power, 882,000 new jobs and a 10% cut in our greenhouse gas emissions.

And the Crisis in Darfur, too, can be profoundly impacted by the miracle of love's wisdom ...

While Fidelity and Vanguard failed to step up to the plate, TIAA-CREF emerged as the first large U.S. fund firm to take up the banner of the anti-genocide investment cause, revealing on Monday that the firm sold stakes in four Asian oil companies alleged to have ties to the Sudanese government behind the Darfur genocide. Mutual Fund Wire, 1-4-10

Imagine if Fidelity and Vanguard shook off the spell of denial and exercised a meaningful grasp of corporate social responsibility by joining TIAA-CREF, an act which in turn led to pressure on other economic and financial interests to disabuse themselves of their complicity (whether directly or indirectly) in underwriting rape as a weapon of war and genocide as a geopolitical tactic.

Whatever happens now, always remember why Mahākāśyapa smiled, and look for that twirling flower in your own consciousness; it is there, it has always been there. It is the reality of you, it is love's wisdom. No matter what becomes of us all.

For the Words of Power Climate Crisis Updates Archive, click here.

Have you met Al Gore at the Wall yet?

I encourage you to find out why 350 is the most important number in your life and the lives of everyone you love: go to 350.org or Google "Bill McKibben" for the answer.

As always, I encourage you to follow events in Darfur on Mia Farrow's site, it is the real-time journal of a humanitarian at work; the content is compelling, insightful and fiercely independent.

For an archive of Words of Power posts on the Crisis in Darfur, click here.

True North on the Pathless Path: Toward 21st Century Spirituality is available from Amazon.com

Left-Handed Security: Overcoming Fear, Greed & Ignorance in This Era of Global Crisis is available from Lulu.com.

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