Saturday, December 31, 2011


‎2012. The turning of the wheel.

Praying for an astonishing shift in our collective psyche, one which will enable us to meet the astonishing shift in our circumstances; resolving to work diligently and live joyously into and through both of these shifts.

Blessings of love and vision to all of you. Beautiful beings, look at yourselves in the radiant mirror of this precious life.

Celebrate Gaia and she will sustain you. Celebrate Durga and she will protect you. Celebrate White Buffalo Woman and she will move among you.

The Gregorian calendar New Year is upon us.

I hope to meet 2012 with great peace and great clarity, and to move within it from great love and great courage.

But living from the global perspective, I remember that there are numerous beginnings wrapped within the beginning: Chinese New Year (Jan. 23), Tibetan New Year (Feb. 22), Persian New Year (March 20), Rosh Hashanah (Sept. 16), Samhain (Nov 6) and of course the Equinoxes (March 19 and December 21) and the Solstices (June 20 and September 22), and ...

The circle of life always ending, always beginning, always turning toward itself ...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Solstice: This World is Kerdiwen's Cauldron

Winter Solstice. Profound. Turning at the nadir. Seeing in the dark. But simultaneously, Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. These realities do not contradict each other, they compliment and amplify each other. Choose to live with a Planetary Consciousness. All polarities exist, but only within a greater oneness.

Similarly, the Pathless Path leads from all four directions; if you journey far enough from one direction, you emerge from the others to meet yourself. There is nowhere it is not. Although it eludes mapping, it cannot escape you, because it is you. There is only one great circle.

This world is Kerdiwen's Cauldron. Everything is poured in; all good is broken open, all bad is boiled away. Pursue the human far enough and you will discover the divine; pursue the divine far enough and you will discover the human.

-- Richard Power

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Not a Political Crisis, Not an Economic Crisis, Not an Environmental Crisis; No, a Mental Health Crisis

Edward Curtis, Apache Girl (1906)

Ayn Rand’s “philosophy” is nearly perfect in its immorality, which makes the size of her audience all the more ominous and symptomatic as we enter a curious new phase in our society....To justify and extol human greed and egotism is to my mind not only immoral, but evil.— Gore Vidal, 1961 Bruce E. Levine, How Ayn Rand Seduced Generations of Young Men and Helped Make the U.S. Into a Selfish, Greedy Nation, Reuters AlterNet, 12-15-11

Not a Political Crisis, Not an Economic Crisis, Not an Environmental Crisis; No, a Mental Health Crisis

By Richard Power

A week has now passed since the greatest failure of governance in human history reached its culmination at the Durbin climate summit. And no, I am not indulging in hyperbole.

The UN climate talks in Durban were a failure and take the world a significant step back by further undermining an already flawed, inadequate multilateral system that is supposed to address the climate crisis ... Friends of the Earth, Disastrous "Durban Package" Accelerates Onset of Climate Catastrophe, 12-31-11

"Delaying real action till 2020 is a crime of global proportions. "This means the world is on track to a 4C temperature rise, a death sentence for Africa ... The richest 1% of the world have decided that it is acceptable to sacrifice the 99%."John Vidal and Fiona Harvey, Durban Climate Deal Struck after Tense All-Night Session, Guardian, 12-12-11

They bailed out the banks in days. But even deciding to bail out the planet is taking decades. George Monbiot, Why is it so easy to save the banks – but so hard to save the biosphere? Independent, 12- 16-11

Yes, a week has now passed since the greatest failure of governance in human history reached its culmination at the Durbin climate summit, and there has been almost no debate about it in the US body politic or even mention of it on US air waves. (Instead, chillingly, the national discussion this week has been an utterly delusional one about whether "we achieved our goals" in Iraq, and whether or not "it is the right time" to leave.)

Meanwhile, Occupy Wall Street has brilliantly framed our current predicament as the co-opting of US economic and political power by 1% at the expense of the 99%. Of course, if the contrast were not so stark between the current circumstances and trajectories of the 99% versus the 1%, the framing would not seem so brilliant.

The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and everyone in between in slipping downward toward the abyss into which the poor are already falling.

The banks and the rating agencies have become the dictators of the West. Like the Mubaraks and Ben Alis, the banks believed – and still believe – they are owners of their countries. The elections which give them power have – through the gutlessness and collusion of governments – become as false as the polls to which the Arabs were forced to troop decade after decade to anoint their own national property owners. Robert Fisk, Bankers are the Dictators of the West, Independent, 12-11-11

Yes, we are at a moment in history when the reality of our economic and environmental challenges have become inescapable. And yet, there is nothing much more than escapism being proffered from either our political establishment or mainstream news media; both are unabashedly propping up false memes of a 1% world-view.

Have we ever been so badly served by the press? We face multiple crises – economic, environmental, democratic – but most newspapers represent them neither clearly nor fairly. The industry that should reveal and expose instead tries to contain and baffle, to foil questions and shut down dissent. The men who own the corporate press are fighting a class war, seeking, even now, to defend the 1% to which they belong against its challengers. But because they control much of the conversation, we seldom see it in these terms. Our press re-frames major issues so effectively, it often recruits its readers to mobilise against their own interests. George Monbiot, Britain's press are fighting a class war, defending the elite they belong to, Guardian, 12-12-11

We do not have a political crisis, or an economic crisis, or an environmental crisis, as much as we have a mental health crisis, a moral crisis, and a spiritual crisis.

Scientific research is revealing that 21st century financial institutions with a high rate of turnover and expanding global power have become highly attractive to psychopathic individuals to enrich themselves at the expense of others, and the companies they work for. A peer-reviewed theoretical paper titled “The Corporate Psychopaths Theory of the Global Financial Crisis” details how highly placed psychopaths in the banking sector may have nearly brought down the world economy through their own inherent inability to care about the consequences of their actions ... Scientists believe about 1% of the general population is psychopathic ... There is emerging evidence that this frequency increases within the upper management of modern corporations." Mitchell Anderson, Weeding Out Corporate Psychopaths, Toronto Star, 11-24-11

As I have said since I started writing and speaking about these issues over a decade ago, our environmental and economic crises are inextricably bound up, and so are the solutions. Either our future is green, and altruistic, and grounded in declarations of human rights and Gaia's rights, or it will be a horrific one. The choice really is ours.

Remember, there are many mysteries about the pyramids, but the source of their strength is not one of them, the strength of all pyramids flows from the base, the broad bottom, and not from the pinnacle. That is a geometric truth.

Do you know why 350 is the most important number in your life and the lives of everyone you love? Go to for the answer.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Richard Power is the author of seven books, including Between Shadow and Night: The Singularity in Anticipation of Itself and True North on the Pathless Path: Towards a 21st Century Yoga. He writes and speaks on security, risk, human rights and sustainability, and has delivered executive briefings and led training in over 40 countries. He blogs at and

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Mic Check Mic Check We Are We Are On Our Own On Our Own The Future The Future Is Being Abandoned Is Being Abandoned In Durbin In Durbin

John William Waterhouse, Mermaid, 1901

If the British chancellor won't take responsibility, most other political leaders in developed countries won't either ... Some say we need a miracle to save the eurozone and the banks. We need a far bigger one to save the planet. According to the World Bank's 2010 world development report, if all coal-fired plants scheduled to be built in the next 25 years come into operation, their lifetime CO2 emissions will equal those of all coal burning since the industrial revolution. Peter Wilby, Guardian, 12-2-11

Between 15,000 and 20,000 farmers, unionists, teachers, peasants, students, garbage pickers, transport workers and other indignant citizens gathered outside the U.N. consultation chambers in Durban on Saturday calling for "system change, not climate change". Many of these protestors marched to the U.S. embassy, demanding that the "world's biggest polluter" start supporting climate solutions that benefit the 99 percent. Kanya D'Almeida, US Inaction on Climate is "Criminal", Activists Say, IPS, 12-4-11

And this battle demands that the world see that, at some stage, as the water tables are dropping and the minerals that remain in the mountains are being taken out, we are going to confront a crisis from which we cannot return. The people who created the crisis in the first place will not be the ones that come up with a solution.Arundhati Roy, Guardian, 11-30-11

Mic Check Mic Check We Are We Are On Our Own On Our Own The Future The Future Is Being Abandoned Is Being Abandoned In Durbin In Durbin

By Richard Power

So POTUS finally delivered a powerful and long overdue Roosevelt-style speech about economic injustice; but, of course, true to his predilections, it was a Teddy Roosevelt speech not an F.D.R. speech. Because, after all, no matter what fellow community organizer Saul Alinsky meant to him in the past, or still means to him in the solitude of his own mind, POTUS is, practically speaking, the ideological equivalent of what was once known as a progressive Republican.

And on the same day as POTUS' Teddy Roosevelt speech, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was also delivering a powerful speech; one in which she called on the governments of the world to cease discriminating against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Well, I would love to indulge in revelry, and I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news (again), but ...

The Obama administration's actions in Durbin this week and last cancel out the positive benefit of both laudable speeches.

The United States has become the major stumbling block to progress at the mid point of negotiations over a new international climate regime say civil society and many of the 193 nations attending the United Nations climate change conference here in Durban. "The U.S. position leads us to three or four degrees Celsius of warming, which will be devastating for the poor of the world," said Celine Charveriat of Oxfam International. "They are proposing a 10-year time out with no new targets to lower emissions until after 2020," Charveriat said. Stephen Leahy, IPS, 12-6-11

Don't you understand? Even if we were to succeed in establishing a new baseline of economic justice in the USA (POTUS flirted with it in his speech), while bringing gay marriage to bastions of homophobia like Uganda and Saudia Arabia (which would be the logical extension of the principled position Hillary Clinton outlined in hers), it would all likely be for naught.

If you live in the Southwest or just about anywhere in the American West, you or your children and grandchildren could soon enough be facing the Age of Thirst, which may also prove to be the greatest water crisis in the history of civilization. No kidding ... Just think of the coming Age of Thirst in the American Southwest and West as a three-act tragedy of Shakespearean dimensions. William deBuys, Coming to a Theater Near You: The Greatest Water Crisis in the History of Civilization, Tom Dispatch, 12-5-1

Severe drought has hit Europe's second largest river, the Danube, turning it into a navigation nightmare for shipping companies all the way from Germany to Bulgaria ... "There is just no water! The situation is critical not only here on the lower Danube but also upriver in Hungary, Austria, Germany," Ivan Ivanov, deputy chief of Bulgarian River Shipping (BRP), told AFP. Agence France Press, 12-4-11

Storms and droughts that have unleashed dangerous surges in food prices could be a “grim foretaste” of what lies ahead when climate change bites more deeply, Oxfam said ... “This will only get worse as climate change gathers pace and agriculture feels the heat,” said Oxfam’s Kelly Dent. Agence France Press, 11-28-11

The U.S.A. government has indeed led the world - into the greatest failure of governance in human history.

But it is not just our political leadership that is responsible for these dire circumstances.

The Climate talks in Durbin are well into the second week. And yet, the U.S. mainstream news media has spent the last few days and nights doting on the madness of Cain, Trump and Gingrich, and then, in turn, analyzing POTUS' new-found populism.

Sadly, so have progressive cable news sources, e.g., Maddow, Schultz, O'Donnell, even Olbermann (although K.O, to his credit has been in-depth and relentless on Occupy Wall Street). Likewise, progressive talk radio hosts have also been AWOL on the Climate Crisis this last week and last, first obsessing over Cain, Gingrich and Trump, and then fawning over POTUS' speech (only Thom Hartmann consistently deals with the Climate Crisis in any meaningful way).

None of these sources (as of this post) have provided coverage worthy of what is at stake in Durbin.

Only Amy Goodman and Democracy Now! have provided coverage worthy of what is at stake in Durbin. Day after day, this week and last, we have been reminded of how much Democracy Now! does with so little, as opposed to how little CNN does with so much. (See some examples in the embedded videos below.)

Yes, we know Durbin is a lost cause; but honestly that it is a lost cause (and why) is even a bigger story than if a meaningful agreement were to come out of it. Madness. Madness. Madness. We are on our own. But you knew that, didn't you? For thousands of years, human civilization has been hurtling toward the impossible situation in which you and I find ourselves. All that is blessed has been fused with all that is wicked. What will come of this singularity? Emergence or extinction?

Choose to meet this unprecedented moment with unconditional love, simple awareness and bold creativity. There is no other way forward. If you look ahead and see no one in front of you, well, that's because you are leading the way.

You think OWS is radical? You think was radical for helping organize mass civil disobedience in DC in August against the Keystone Pipeline? We’re not radical. Radicals work for oil companies. The CEO of Exxon gets up every morning and goes to work changing the chemical composition of the atmosphere. No one has ever done anything as radical as that, not in all of human history ... 2011 showed we could fight back. 2012 would be a good year to step up the pressure. Because this time next year the Global Carbon Project will release another number. And I’m betting it will be grim. Bill McKibben, The Most Important News Story of the Day/Millennium, Common Dreams, 12-5-11

Oh, and while I have your attention ... let us share some insights on what is really happening to the European Union:

Fundamentally, this is a struggle to take a crisis, caused by the business community and the governments they support, and make the mass of people pay for it. That’s what austerity means. And the test here is whether the mass of people will absorb it and accept it. And I think what’s happening is that they didn’t accept it in Greece, they’re not accepting it in Italy, and so they’re trying to make it a continental austerity program, led by the powerful countries. And I don’t think that’s going to work any better than what has been done in the individual countries. Richard Wolff: Eurozone Woes Result from Mating of Our "Dysfunctional" Political, Economic Systems, Democracy Now! 12-2-11

How did things go so wrong? The answer you hear all the time is that the euro crisis was caused by fiscal irresponsibility ... But the truth is nearly the opposite. Although Europe’s leaders continue to insist that the problem is too much spending in debtor nations, the real problem is too little spending in Europe as a whole. And their efforts to fix matters by demanding ever harsher austerity have played a major role in making the situation worse. Paul Krugman, Killing the Euro, NYT, 12-1-11

Greenpeace Director Kumi Naidoo, from Anti-Apartheid Activist to Leading Voice for Climate Justice

At Durban Summit, Leading African Activist Calls U.S. Emissions Stance "A Death Sentence for Africa"

Nobel-Winning IPCC Chair Rajendra Pachauri Urges Obama to "Listen to Science" on Global Warming

Do you know why 350 is the most important number in your life and the lives of everyone you love? Go to for the answer.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Richard Power is the author of seven books, including Between Shadow and Night: The Singularity in Anticipation of Itself and True North on the Pathless Path: Towards a 21st Century Yoga. He writes and speaks on security, risk, human rights and sustainability, and has delivered executive briefings and led training in over 40 countries. He blogs at and

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Dante Gabriel Rossetti - The Damsel of the Sanct Grael or Holy Grail (1874)

You are the containment of the universe, you are it's chalice; without you, it has no form, it flows away.

The universe is your containment, it is your chalice; without it, you have no form, you flow away.

So whose lips are parched? Whose thirst is quench?

Truth embraces love. It is an inextinguishable kiss. They refuse to be separated.

Within that embrace, the story of you and the universe arises.

It has been whispered, danced, painted billions of times over billions of years.

One embrace. Each eon, a heartbeat within that one embrace.

-- Richard Power

Rope Ladders

Nicholas Roerich - Kirshna, Spring in Kulu (1930)

There is no "silence," nor any "stillness."

Much of the language of our spiritual heritages is misleading.

All is moving, all is humming. There are only ever-subtler levels of vibration.

When you immerse yourself in "silence," you are simply moving into subtler dimensions of eternal, unstruck sound.

When you settle into "stillness," you are simply coming into the experience of a subtler realm of perpetual motion.

The web of life is inconceivably VAST and incomprehensibly SENSITIVE. It shudders with every joy and every sorrow; and that shuddering is information passed on to each silken node of light, which processes the information, whether consciously or not.

Mantra, breath and yoga function like rope ladders, each syllable, each breath, each asana is a step on one of these rope ladders.

These steps lead into an infinite labyrinth of sublime light.

-- Richard Power


Camille Claudel - Prayer (1889)

Love has already arrived at our destination.

It has sent emissaries to lead us on.

It has sent a map that marks all the secret paths and hidden doors.

It has sent water and manna.

All that is required is to undertake the journey, one step after another.

Never turn back.

-- Richard Power

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Massive Non-Violent Evolution Holds a Mirror Up to Plutocracy on the Streets and in the Corridors of Power

El Greco, Scourging the Moneychangers from the Temple, also known as Purification of the Temple (c. 1600)

Massive Non-Violent Evolution Holds a Mirror Up to Plutocracy on the Streets and in the Corridors of Power

By Richard Power

So let me get this straight, corporate money is political speech but citizen's tents and sleeping bags aren't? Yeah, right.

On the night NYPD moved into Occupy Wall Street encampment, the First Amendment (i.e., freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly to petition for the redress of grievances) was hauled to the land fill in a garbage truck by order of a billionaire who bought himself a third term as Mayor in defiance of a term limit law.

Meanwhile, Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky slept safe and snug in their own beds.

This is what plutocracy looks like.

Not only did the police, at the orders of billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg, abruptly move on the protesters, they are alleged to have deliberately kept the press away, which is clearly unconstitutional if true. The US constitution prohibits Congress from restricting the right of citizens to assemble peacefully and to petition for redress of grievances ... The government is also forbidden to interfere with the workings of the free press ... Juan Cole, Informed Comment, 11- 15-11

As police swooped on the park in the early hours of Tuesday, the city closed airspace in lower Manhattan to prevent news helicopters taking aerial shots of the scene. Vans were used to obscure views of the park and a police cordon effectively blocked accredited media from reaching the site. Some of those members of the press who were in the park or were able to get there say they were arrested, pepper sprayed or treated aggressively. Occupy Wall Street: NYPD attempt media blackout at Zuccotti Park, Guardian, 11-15-11

Massive, NON-VIOLENT Evolution holds a mirror up to the Plutocracy; the Plutocracy does not like what it sees, so it smashes the mirror.

Remember those thinkers, like Fukuyama, who declared that "history" had ended back in the 1990s? Ha, ha. No history is still spiraling out from the shadows of the human psyche. It is "time" that has ended (linear time, i.e. an orderly procession from past to future). It was finished with the Mayan Calendar sometime in what we know as October 2011. We are in a quantum universe. We always were, and the shaman have always known it, but all humanity is being made inescapably aware of it now.

That marvelous date 11/11/11 has come and gone. This is a moment of extraordinary opportunity. Choose unbearable beauty. Choose unspeakable truth. Choose invincible love. Choose indefatigable justice. Choose indomitable peace. Of course, this choice is not a choice, it is a choiceless recognition of the primal reality.

Massive, NON-VIOLENT Evolution is manifesting on a planetary level; and one vital aspect, although not the only one, is political struggle.

Here are some beacons in the night that the U.S.A. has lost itself in since the Reagan counter-revolution.

Eighty-four-year-old activist Dorli Rainey spoke to Countdown host Keith Olbermann on Wednesday night after being pepper sprayed by police the previous night during an “Occupy Seattle” protest ... She said a “wonderful” young Iraq veteran protected her during the scuffle with police, preventing her from falling on the ground. Rainey, who grew up in Nazi Germany, expressed her displeasure with the mainstream American media ... “It would be so easy to say, ‘Well I’m going to retire, I’m going to sit around, watch television or eat bonbons,’ but somebody’s got to keep ’em awake and let ’em know what is really going on in this world,” Rainey said. Raw Story, 11-16-11

A popular Hawaiian recording artist turned a top-security dinner of Pacific Rim leaders hosted by President Barack Obama into a subtle protest with a song in support of the “Occupy” movement ... in the midst of the dinner on the resort strip Waikiki Beach, he pulled open his jacket to reveal a T-shirt that read “Occupy with Aloha,” using the Hawaiian word whose various meanings include love and peace. He then sang a marathon version of his new song ... “We’ll occupy the streets, we’ll occupy the courts, we’ll occupy the offices of you, till you do the bidding of the many, not the few.” Agence France Press, Hawaiian singer surprises Obama summit with ‘Occupy’ song, 11-13-11

Occupy Wall Street protesters disrupted a U.S. Chamber of Commerce luncheon featuring the President and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield ... The Occupy demonstrators, using a call-and-repeat method of speaking, complained about Serota’s $2.5 million annual salary, and said that he “is an example of the 1 percent in the healthcare industry.” Common Dreams, 11-14-11

Former Bush political adviser Karl Rove seemed a bit flustered Tuesday night after his speech to Johns Hopkins University was interrupted by a group of about 15 protesters connected to “Occupy Baltimore” ... a woman shouted out, “Mic check?” A chorus of voices replied, “Mic check!” “Karl Rove! Is the architect!” they shouted. “The architect of Occupy Iraq! The architect of Occupy Afghanistan!”
Raw Story, 11-15-11

“I’ll be staying here tonight,” the former whistleblower [Daniel Ellsberg] told filmmaker John Hamilton. “I’ve never seen a group process like the general assembly tonight. They actually were voting here, thousands of people. It was an inspiring sight. I wouldn’t have thought it could happen.”
“This Occupy movement is an invention,” he continued. “Actually it came right from Egypt and from Tunisia. And actually, an inspiring thought to me is that the man who is accused of putting out the State Department cables to WikiLeaks, Bradley Manning, who is sitting in Leavenworth right now, one of his cables was a major inspiration the uprising in Tunisia. So, one person speaking out can make a major difference.”
Ellsberg added: “Frankly, it’s been a while since I felt as much hope as I feel tonight. … The young people are recreating the youth movement of the 60s. And the youth movement changed the country.”
Dave Edwards, Daniel Ellsberg joins protest at UC Berkeley, Raw Story, 11-17-11

Here are embedded videos for each of these compelling tales of resistance. Please view them, and share them with others.

Occupy Seattle: Octogenarian activist Dorli Rainey on being pepper-sprayed by Seattle police, importance of activism

Occupy Honolulu: Hawaiian Musician Makana Performs Protest Song to World Leaders at APEC Summit

Occupiers Interrupt Chamber of Commerce Speech by Health Insurance CEO

#occupybaltimore Mic Checks Karl Rove

Daniel Ellsberg Joins UC-Berkeley's "Occupy Cal" Encampment

from John Hamilton on Vimeo.

Do you know why 350 is the most important number in your life and the lives of everyone you love? Go to for the answer.

Richard Power is the author of seven books, including Between Shadow and Night: The Singularity in Anticipation of Itself and True North on the Pathless Path: Towards a 21st Century Yoga. He writes and speaks on security, risk, human rights and sustainability, and has delivered executive briefings and led training in over 40 countries. He blogs at and

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

This Time the Whole World Can't Just Be Watching, It Must Be In the Streets, & At the Ballot Box

Kay Sage - Tomorrow is Never (1955)

In May, I went to the site of the Tunisian protests; in July, I talked to Spain's indignados; from there, I went to meet the young Egyptian revolutionaries in Cairo's Tahrir Square; and, a few weeks ago, I talked with Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York. There is a common theme ... On one level, today's protesters are asking for little: a chance to use their skills, the right to decent work at decent pay, a fairer economy and society. Their hope is evolutionary, not revolutionary. But, on another level, they are asking for a great deal: a democracy where people, not dollars, matter, and a market economy that delivers on what it is supposed to do. The two are related ... Joseph Stiglitz, The Globalization of Protest, 11-7-11

This Time the Whole World Can't Just Be Watching, It Must Be In the Streets, & At the Ballot Box

By Richard Power

Not Yet Ten Days That Shook the World, But ...

No, it wasn't ten days that shook the world, but it may well prove to have been ten days that caused a few serious cracks and fissures in the edifice of greed and misanthropy.

First, in the wake of an Oakland police riot, during which Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen suffered a fractured skull, the Occupy phenomenon seized the narrative for several days. The outrage led to a day of General Strike and a temporary port shutdown. It also resulted in an extraordinary march on Wall Street by Olsen's fellow Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

In uniform and formation, scores of veterans joined Occupy Wall Street marchers Wednesday, proclaiming "We are veterans and we are the 99%." ... "My name is Joseph Carter. I am a two-time Iraq War vet, and this is the only occupation I believe in." Abby Zimet, Veterans Occupy: I Am Still Serving My Country, 11-3-11

Next, many thousands of engaged citizens surrounded the White House to deliver a powerful message to POTUS regarding what is perhaps the single most meaningful, unilateral action that he could take before November 2012.

Within 40 minutes a text had been sent out by the organizers saying, “We are completely circling the White House!” It ended up taking far less than 12,000 people to encircle the White House. One organizer said there were enough people that the lines around the White House were “four deep.” Bryan Farrell, Waging Nonviolence, 11-7-11

And finally, the electorate got a chance to return to the ballot box for the first time since November 2010, when it forfeited its responsibilities by staying home and allowing the Zombie Cult to gain even more power; this time, the electorate did not fail itself ...

The electorate successfully rolled back attacks on collective bargaining, and fighting for the jobs of teachers and fire fighters:

Advocates for labor, women’s and immigration rights are celebrating a number of key victories in Tuesday’s state elections. In Ohio, voters defeated Republican Gov. John Kasich’s controversial limits on the collective bargaining rights of state employees ... Election Day 2011: In State After State, "Remarkable Wins for Progressive Politics," Democracy Now! 11-9-11

The electorate successfully rolled back attacks on women's reproductive rights:

A constitutional amendment that would have defined a fertilized egg as a person failed on the ballot in Mississippi on Tuesday, dealing the so-called “personhood” movement another blow. Washington Post, 11-9-11

But do not underestimate our predicament. Our circumstances are grave, nationally and globally. Economic and environmental pressures are threatening the world with implosion.

Buddy, Can You Spare A Krugerrand?

By making Wall Street its symbolic target, and branding itself as a movement of the 99%, OWS has redirected public attention to the issue of extreme inequality, which it has recast as, essentially, a moral problem. Only a short time ago, the “morals” issue in politics meant the propriety of sexual preferences, reproductive behavior, or the personal behavior of presidents. Economic policy, including tax cuts for the rich, subsidies and government protection for insurance and pharmaceutical companies, and financial deregulation, was shrouded in clouds of propaganda or simply considered too complex for ordinary Americans to grasp. Francis Fox Pivens, Tim Dispatch, 11-7-11

Remember Martin Niemöller's legendary litany, "First they came for ..."? The Middle Class is screaming now, because it is being squeezed so hard. But since the 1970s, the Middle Class has lived in deep denial about the extent of hard-core poverty in the USA. It has simply looked the other way. The Middle Class didn't speak out when the banksters, the faux drug warriors and the prison industrialists came for the poor. (The War on Poverty was replaced by the self-deceit of "Welfare Reform.") The Middle Class didn't speak out when the oil, gas and coal men (yes, men) came for the climate. ("The spice must flow.") The Middle Class didn't speak out when the Fortune 500 came for our industrial base, and shipped it lock, stock and barrel to the corporatist's paradise that is the new China. (Quite the contrary, the Middle Class foolishly embraced the "free trade" nonsense of Thomas Friedman as if somehow he spoke for them too.) Well, who is left standing to speak up for the Middle Class now that the Reagan Counter-Revolution has finally arrived at the well-insulated walls of its fantasy castle?

As I follow the Occupy phenomenon (and exhort it on), I keep remembering the tragedies of the 1992 uprising in South Central, and also how the nation's inner cities burned in the 1960s; and I keep wondering how long it will be before something truly earth-shaking occurs here? How will the most egregiously wronged and long-suffering among us respond to this quickening confrontation between the reactionary forces and the evolutionary forces? After all, the marches, demonstrations and occupations that have sprung up in the U.S.A. this year are, to date, significantly smaller than similar protests in countries with significantly smaller populations, such as Chile, Spain, Israel and Egypt.

From 20,000 Years Down to 5 Years

Meanwhile ...

So begins the news release for a recent study, “Current global warming appears anomalous in relation to the climate of the last 20,000 years.” That study finds clear evidence recent human-caused global warming is unprecedented in the past 20 millennia. Climate Progress, 11-8-11

"If we do not have an international agreement whose effect is put in place by 2017, then the door will be closed forever," IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol warned today. Environmental News Service, 11-9-11

We have five years left. Five years.

The failure to act on the Climate Crisis is the greatest failure of governance in human history.

The global output of heat-trapping carbon dioxide has jumped by a record amount, according to the US department of energy, a sign of how feeble the world's efforts are at slowing man-made global warming. The figures for 2010 mean that levels of greenhouse gases are higher than the worst case scenario outlined by climate experts just four years ago. Guardian, 11-3-11

What Happens Now May Not Be Up to Us But We Better Assume It Is

This is a time to get engaged and stay in engaged. Don't surrender the streets. Don't abandon the ballot boxes. As Thom Hartmann says, we need an inside game and an outside game.

If you think that meaningful change will occur without radical action as exemplified by Occupy and the Tar Sands Action, than you don't know where you are or how you got here or what is going to happen next.

Conversely, if you think that meaningful change will occur while abandoning the ballot box in November 2010, as many of you did in 2010, than you don't know where you are or how you got here or what is going to happen next.

Appendix - Noam Chomsky Traces the Arc of the Moral Universe

Here is an excerpt from a long talk by Chomsky, followed by a Q and A with the Occupiers. It is a vital document, both for its analysis of where we are, and its insights into what to do and how to be. I urge you to follow the link to the full transcription and read it in its entirety.

The 1970s set off a kind of a vicious cycle that led to a concentration of wealth increasingly in the hands of the financial sector, which doesn’t benefit the economy. Concentration of wealth yields concentration of political power, which, in turn, arrives to legislation that increases and accelerates the cycle. The physical policies such as tax changes, rules of corporate governance, deregulation were essentially bipartisan. Alongside of this began a very sharp rise in the costs of elections, which drives the political parties even deeper than before into the pockets of the corporate sector.
A couple years later started a different process. The parties dissolved, essentially. It used to be if you were a person in Congress and hoped for a position of committee chair or a position of responsibility, you got it mainly through seniority and service. Within a couple of years, you started to have to put money into the party coffers in order to get ahead. That just drove the whole system even deeper into the pockets of the corporate sector and increasingly the financial sector--a tremendous concentration of wealth, mainly in the literally top 1/10th of 1 percent of the population.
Meanwhile, for the general population it began an open period of pretty much stagnation, or decline for the majority. People got by through pretty artificial means -- like borrowing, so a lot of debt. Longer working hours for many. There was a period of stagnation and a higher concentration of wealth. The political system began to dissolve. There’s always been a gap between public policy and the public will, but it just grew kind of astronomically ...
Noam Chomsky Speaks to Occupy, 11-1-11

Covering Occupy Wall Street, Current TV's Countdown with Keith Olbermann Interviews Joshua Shepherd Links Vets’ Issues With Larger Movement and Reads a Text from Scott Olsen

Democracy Now Interviews Bill McKibben: 10,000 Surround White House to Protest Keystone XL Tar Sands Oil Pipeline

Do you know why 350 is the most important number in your life and the lives of everyone you love? Go to for the answer.

Richard Power is the author of seven books, including Between Shadow and Night: The Singularity in Anticipation of Itself and True North on the Pathless Path: Towards a 21st Century Yoga. He writes and speaks on security, risk, human rights and sustainability, and has delivered executive briefings and led training in over 40 countries. He blogs at and

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Occupational Hazards on the Path to Massive, Non-Violent Evolution

Occupy San Francisco, 2011, Photo Credit: Richard Power

Occupy San Francisco, 2011, Photo Credit: Richard Power

Occupational Hazards on the Path to Massive, Non-Violent Evolution

By Richard Power

This is a note to the Occupiers. From a committed evolutionary, who has survived many decades in this wilderness and carries the timeline within him like an illuminated manuscript.

Occupy your heart. With love. Occupy your mind. With truth. Occupy your streets. With conscience and courage.

Beware of arrogance. (The "New Left" got old fast). Beware of naivety. (You have almost nothing in common with "Tea-baggers" or Libertarians.) Beware of resentment. (Do not scorn the broader progressive movement. You could be the tip of the spearhead, but there is no spear without a shaft.) Beware of bitterness. (Winter is descending. Spring may lead elsewhere. Mandela spent 27 years in prison, and yet he still emerged a peacemaker.)

Establish the proper context.

Education, employment, healthcare and retirement are human rights, as established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1948 The "Occupy" phenomenon is an acknowledgement that what we have in the U.S.A. today is a human rights crisis, not a fight over political ideologies.

Rely on the simplest of messages.

Corporations are not people, and money is not speech.

If it were true that money were speech then the logical conclusion would be that some people (e.g., billionaires, millionaires, and the imaginary "corporate persons" they hide behind) have a right to far more speech than the rest of the population, which is of course absurd and contrary to not only the First Amendment, and the Bill of Rights as a whole, but also to the Declaration of Independence: i.e., all are "created equal."

Corporations are not people, but they do control the world.

147 companies control 40% of the total economic value of all transnational corporations; and 45 out of the top 50 of those 147 companies are in the financial sector. (See Catherine McLean, It’s True, Bankers Really Do Control the World: Study, Globe and Mall, 10-25-11)

The class war started with the Reagan counter-revolution.

The wealthy one percent of the US population saw its average after-tax household income grow by 275% between 1979 and 2007. During that period, the middle class' average after-tax household income grew only 40%, and poorest 20%'s average after-tax household income grew only 18%. (See Agence France Press, US Income Disparity, Economic Anxiety Grow: Studies, 10-26-11)

Occupy San Francisco, 2011, Photo Credit: Richard Power

Meanwhile, no attempt to overcome the oligarchy's grip on our political and economic systems will succeed unless it includes moving urgently and radically away from fossil fuels and deep into green power. And even if the oligarchy could be beaten back without a 21st Century energy model, the celebration would be short-lived.

The window to limit global warming to less than two degrees C is closing so fast it can be measured in months, a new scientific analysis revealed Sunday. Without putting the brakes on carbon emissions very soon, large parts of Africa, most of Russia and northern China will be two degrees C warmer in less than 10 years. Canada and Alaska will soon follow, the regional study shows. Stephen Leahy, Durban May Be Last Chance to Stabilize Climate Under Two Degrees, IPS, 10-24-11

Hundreds of millions of people may be trapped in inhospitable environments as they attempt to flee from the effects of global warming, worsening the likely death toll from severe changes to the climate, a UK government committee has found. Refugees forced to leave their homes because of floods, droughts, storms, heatwaves and other effects of climate change are likely to be one of the biggest visible effects of the warming that scientists warn will result from the untrammelled use of fossil fuels, according to the UK government's Foresight group, part of the Office for Science. Fiona Harvey, Climate change could trap hundreds of millions in disaster areas, report claims, Guardian, 10-20-11

Don't make the mistake of Beltwayistan, Infotainmentstan, the Zombie Cult formerly known as the Republican Party, and yes, even most of the progressive movement, i.e., pretending that the Climate Crisis is just another issue. It is not. The Climate Crisis, and the numerous sustainability meltdowns interwoven with it (e.g., water, food security, population, ocean acidification, mass extinction of species) pose the gravest threat of all. indeed, it is both our greatest challenge and our greatest opportunity.

There is no time left to waste, and there will be no place left to hide.

Occupy San Francisco, 2011, Photo Credit: Richard Power

Countdown with Keith Olbermann (Current TV): Adam Knight of Occupy Nashville (10-28-11)

Do you know why 350 is the most important number in your life and the lives of everyone you love? Go to for the answer.

Richard Power is the author of seven books, including Between Shadow and Night: The Singularity in Anticipation of Itself and True North on the Pathless Path: Towards a 21st Century Yoga. He writes and speaks on security, risk, human rights and sustainability, and has delivered executive briefings and led training in over 40 countries. He blogs at and

Occupy San Francisco, 2011, Photo Credit: Richard Power

Particle and Wave

The gods and goddesses do not exist as "separate entities." Nor do the avatars. Nor do you and I. The gods and goddesses are like vortices. You and I are like fractals. The avatars are fractals morphing into vortices.

There is no "above" or "below" or even "within." All are the dance of particle and wave, all are the revelation of the Matrix.

This era into which we enter now demands great courage, great love, great laughter, great patience, great strength, great cleverness, great silence, and great song.

You have access to inexhaustible resources of all that will be demanded of you, otherwise you would not be here now.

-- Richard Power

Invincible and Inexhaustible

Human ignorance is pervasive and unassailable.

It can only be overthrown from within, by the cultivation of a quiet mind and an open heart.

Each time human ignorance is thus overthrown from within the microcosm, the macrocosm shifts deeper into itself, deeper into its core, infusing the circumference with greater love, greater truth, greater beauty, and thus more microcosms are uplifted into glimpses of the innermost reality and its exaltation in every particle and all waves.

Love is invincible and inexhaustible. It can only be defeated from within, by choosing to live some lesser truth.

-- Richard Power

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Occupy Wall Street, MoveOn, 2012, Tuvalu and Why Lao-Tzu Went Beyond the Wall

The problem is that it interferes with the most profitable industry the world has ever seen. Exxon made more money last year than in the history of money. And it doesn't take much in politics to stop things from happening. Their only goal is to delay action. It took 20 years to work round the delaying efforts of the tobacco industry. And the tobacco industry is a mere pimple on the butt of the oil industry. It is the most profitable enterprise that humans have every engaged in. Bill McKibben on tar sands, Obama, geoengineering and population growth, Guardian, 10-6-11

Occupy San Francisco, 2011, Photo Credit: Richard Power

The point is, today everyone can see that the system is deeply unjust and careening out of control. Unfettered greed has trashed the global economy. And we are trashing the natural world ... The task of our time is to turn this round ... What climate change means is that we have to do this on a deadline. This time our movement cannot get distracted, divided, burned out or swept away by events. This time we have to succeed. Naomi A. Klein, The fight against climate change is down to us – the 99%, Guardian, 10-7-11

Occupy Wall Street, MoveOn, 2012, Tuvalu and Why Lao-Tzu Went Beyond the Wall

By Richard Power

Lao-Tzu's Tao Te Ching has exercised a profound influence over my life. Lately I have been contemplating a legend concerning the circumstances under which the ancient sage wrote it down.

Lao-Tzu was a keeper of the Imperial Library. He looked around him, and saw that government corruption was pervasive and the social order was disintegrating, and so he slipped away and headed for the mountains. But a a sentry at the guard post recognized the great sage, and realized that the old man was not going to leave a trail; so he compelled Lao-Tzu to write down his philosophy, which he did, in the equivalent of two thousand or so words.

Lao-Tzu did not leave the imperial city for his own survival. Nor did Lao-Tzu leave because he feared some adversary or another. Lao-Tzu lived from a perspective beyond both of these small frames.

So I have been wondering if perhaps Lao-Tzu left because he could not bare to hear how the good would defeat itself.

Do Not Allow POTUS' Failure to Lead to Enable Your Own

Consider these two unfortunate glimpses into the character of some players in the Shakespearian drama of the coming election:

During the speech [to the Congressional Black Caucus], Obama struck somewhat of an authoritative tone to the audience. “Take off your bedroom slippers. Put on your marching shoes,” he said. “Shake it off. Stop complaining. Stop grumblin’. Stop crying. We are going to press on. We have work to do.” Obama to CBC awards crowd: ‘Stop complaining’ Raw Story, 9-25-11

POTUS' comments to the CBC were arrogant, insulting, but worst of all, STUPID.

"Take off your bedroom slippers, and put on your marching boots," seriously, POTUS? Madison, Wisconsin went marching. Where were you? Moving the Planet went marching. Where were you been? Occupy Wall Street went marching. Where were you? Tars Sands Action marched to your house, but you weren't home. Where were you? Playing golf with Boehner? Oh, sorry, Martha's Vineyard. Well, they will be back in November.

A few weeks after the CBC speech, while POTUS was speechifying at the ceremonial opening of a stone monument on the mall, Dr. Cornel West was offering a flesh and blood celebration of MLK's legacy by being arrested in an act of non-violent protest.

Dr. Cornel West climbed on the steps of the Supreme Court and denounced court decisions that have produced money-based elections that empower corporations. Dr. West was holding a sign that said ‘Poverty is the Greatest Violence of All.’ He was arrested because holding political signs on the Supreme Court steps is illegal.” Cornel West arrested protesting at Supreme Court, Raw Story, 10-16-11

POTUS, it is a lovely stroll from the Mall to the steps of SCOTUS, but it is a very long way to the beating heart of this movement from the corner you and your advisers painted you into.

(Nor is Dr. West the only prominent person who has felt the pulse of this moment. Read this remarkable story from Naomi Wolf: How I was arrested at Occupy Wall Street. Arresting a middle-aged writer in an evening gown for peaceable conduct is a far cry from when America was a free republic, Guardian, 10-19-11)

Well, of course, POTUS' CBC speech was just before Labor Day. POTUS was feeling the heat and perhaps looking to set-up a scapegoat in case his re-election chances started to crater. (Of course, he wouldn't think to pin the blame on Emmanuel, Axelrod, Geithner or Holder. Yes, all men.) He is singing a different tune now.

But that's because at least until winter descends, the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon has seized the narrative. So it is this phenomenon's chance to show whether it will lead or limit, whether it will embrace or exclude. Which will it choose?

Ah, consider this ...

Top MoveOn leaders/executives are all over national television speaking for the movement. fully appreciate the help and support of MoveOn, but the MSM is clearly using them as the spokespeople for OWS. This is an blatant attempt to fracture the 99% into a Democratic Party organization. The leadership of MoveON are Democratic Party operatives. they are divide and conquer pawns. For years they ignored Wall Street protests to keep complete focus on the Republicans, in favor of Goldman’s Obama and Wall Street’s Democratic leadership. If anyone at Move On or Daily Kos would like to have a public debate about these comments, we invite it. Move On Tries to Take Over Occupy Wall Street Protests, Washington Blog, 10-14-11

So was David DeGraw just having a bad day, or is this arrogant, insulting and worse yet STUPID statement a warning sign of a fatal blind spot in the vision of those behind Occupy Wall Street?

Bluntly, simply, my friend, deserves more respect (even though they pull their punches occasionally), so does the Daily Kos, and it is both a strategic blunder and a tactical blunder not to welcome them. Paraphrasing what Thom Hartmann told a listener this a.m., don't worry about them changing you, you change them.

The message you must bring is that the time for incremental change has passed; it is a luxury we can no longer afford, it is now or never. And yet, at the same time, understand that whatever government is elected in 2012 will be corporatist. If it is a "D" dominated government, it will be susceptible to pressure, if it is an "R" dominated government, it will be as if blind, deaf and dumb to our petitioning, and it will bury what is left of our democratic institutions.

IF the people who had voted in 2008 had not stayed home in 2010, thousands of more jobs would have been saved (because a "D" Congress would have moved BEFORE the initial stimulus ran out, and millions of more jobs would be on the way (because a "D" Congress would have passed Obama's current jobs bill); furthermore, POTUS would not have been able to allow the Bush tax cut extension, nor would he have been in a position to start babbling about "austerity"and giving everybody "hair-cuts." There would be no "Super Committee" now. And whether or not those who didn't vote in 2010 are sleeping in a park tonight as part of the Occupy Wall Street movement, they are just as responsible for our current circumstances as the most disingenuous of corporatist "Democrats."

Anyone who did not vote against the Zombie Cult in 2010 has not taken personal responsibility. It is not POTUS' failure that led you not to vote, it is you who allowed POTUS' failure to enable your own.

Occupy San Francisco, 2011, Photo Credit: Richard Power

I have no doubt that these remarks will lead to some "unsubscribes." Unfortunate, but so be it.

I support Occupy Wall Street, and I urge them to relentlessly, NON-VIOLENTLY confront the whole of Beltwayistan, Infotainmentstan, the Chamber of Horrors and the rest of the corrupted edifice, as some of us have been doing for over a decade, in our own ways, and at a high price. But to nurture a movement, you must expand your heart and mind enough to reach beyond your differences with those who stand along side of you and are facing in the same direction you are. To flow in a true, deep, history-bending movement, you must be able to operate in multiple dimensions at once.

I am not an Obama apologist. I have excoriated POTUS for his failure to lead on economic crisis, on healthcare reform, on the Climate Crisis, on Darfur, on accountability for Bush-Cheney, Goldman Sachs, BP and others. NEVERTHELESS, in 2012 I will also vote for the "D" candidates and against the candidates of the Zombie Cult formerly known as the Republican Party at every level, including the Presidency of the U.S.

From my perspective, anyone who does not embrace both of these positions is attempting to make progress with one hand while undoing it with the other.

The alternative is unthinkable.

Consider these three statements from the top three candidates for the Zombie Cult nomination:

Republican presidential candidate and Texas governor Rick Perry said Tuesday that "it's time for us to have a serious discussion about defunding the United Nations." CBS, 10-18-11

Mitt Romney came to the state with the highest foreclosure rate in the nation and said he wants to allow home foreclosures to "hit the bottom" to help the housing industry recover. AP, 10-19-11

Herman Cain recently criticized the Occupy Wall Street protesters, saying, "Don't blame Wall Street. Don't blame the big banks. If you don't have a job and you're not rich, blame yourself." At Tuesday night's CNN debate, Cain stood by his comments -- to loud cheers from the audience. "I still stand by my statement," he said. Amanda Terkel, Huffington Post, 1-18-11

Occupy San Francisco, 2011, Photo Credit: Richard Power

If you don't know the difference between a Sotomayor and a Roberts or a Kagan and an Alito than you don't know the difference between Bush v. Gore and an election or the difference between Citizens United and the First Amendment.

George W. Bush was not elected President of the U.S. in 2001 (or 2004).

Corporations are not people, and money is not speech.

2 + 2 = 4.

Meanwhile ...

Can You Die of Thirst While You Are Drowning?

Although I have written to you about the Climate Crisis, day after day, month after month, year after year, I have mentioned very little about the plight of the small island nations. Why? Because I know the mentality of the decision-makers, and of the public that hides behind them: just as China's crimes against Tibet are tolerated for the sake of trade, and Karthoum's crimes against Darfur are tolerated for the sake of the insane war IN OF and BY terror, the loss of the small islands nations will be tolerated for the sake of fossil fuel industry profits and the deep denial required to sustain them.

But this story is such a poignant example of the bitter, paradoxical nature of this planetary emergency that far too few of us (right OR left) have come to grips with, I must cite it here:

The drought in the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu, which declared a state of emergency this month because of a severe shortage of fresh water, is likely to last until January, the government says. Tuvalu normally receives 8-16 inches of rainfall each month but hasn't had significant rain in six months ... Amid its water shortages, the tiny archipelago of nine islands, with a combined land mass of just 10 square miles, also faces being inundated by rising sea levels linked to climate change. Tuvalu grapples with drought , UPI, 10-18-11

Yes, Tuvalu, an island nature facing near-future extinction from rising sea levels, due to human-induced runaway climate change, is currently facing crippling drought, due to human-induced runaway climate change ...

Occupy San Francisco, 2011, Photo Credit: Richard Power

And then, of course, there is the story of what it going on in Thailand.

Thailand Suffers Most Expensive Flood in History, Destroying More Than 10% of Rice Farms in World’s Top Exporter, Climate Progress, 10-14-11


Ah, someone answered ... with courage and clarity of mind from the floor of the U.S. Senate ...

Another name to scrawl on the wall of heroes; that invisible memorial to those who work, with urgency, to bring MASSIVE NON-VIOLENT EVOLUTION to our world. Perhaps the names on that wall will be the beginning of something new; perhaps they will be all that is left of something that is lost.

Mr. President, I am here to speak about what is currently an unpopular topic in this town. It has become no longer politically correct in certain circles in Washington to speak about climate change or carbon pollution or how carbon pollution is causing our climate to change. This is a peculiar condition of Washington. If you go out into, say, our military and intelligence communities, they understand and are planning for the effects of carbon pollution on climate change. They see it as a national security risk. If you go out into our nonpolluting business and financial communities, they see this as a real and important problem. And, of course, it goes without saying our scientific community is all over this concern. But as I said, Washington is a peculiar place, and here it is getting very little traction. Here in Washington we feel the dark hand of the polluters tapping so many shoulders. And where there is power and money behind that dark hand, therefore, a lot of attention is paid to that little tap on the shoulder. What we overlook is that nature — God’s Earth — is also tapping us all on the shoulder, with messages we ignore at our peril. We ignore the messages of nature of God’s Earthand we ignore the laws of nature of God’s Earth at our very grave peril. Senator Whitehouse’s Must-See Climate Speech: “We Ignore the Laws of Nature of God’s Earth at Our Very Grave Peril” Climate Progress, 10-19-11

Occupy San Francisco, 2011, Photo Credit: Richard Power

Do you know why 350 is the most important number in your life and the lives of everyone you love? Go to for the answer.

Bill McKibben at Occupy Wall Street Rally 10/8/2011

Richard Power is the author of seven books, including Between Shadow and Night: The Singularity in Anticipation of Itself and True North on the Pathless Path: Towards a 21st Century Yoga. He writes and speaks on security, risk, human rights and sustainability, and has delivered executive briefings and led training in over 40 countries. He blogs at and

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Burning Man 2011: Primal Culture and Core Civilization as a Moveable Feast

All photo credits in this post: Richard Power/Burning Man 2011

[NOTE: I am honored that this piece is cross-posted at Buzzflash/Truthout (See Burning Man 2011: Primal Culture and Core Civilization as a Moveable Feast). Buzzflash/Truthout is one of the great bastions of alternative, progressive media in the USA. Furthermore, I am delighted that the publishing of this piece is concurrent with the phenomena known as Occupy Wall Street; because before this planetary crisis (economic, political and environmental) is over, citizens will likely be called on not only to occupy symbolically important squares and parks within their cities, but indeed to move whole cities. -- Richard Power]

Burning Man 2011: Primal Culture and Core Civilization as a Moveable Feast

By Richard Power

Burning Man isn’t what you think it is. Well, OK, Burning Man is more than you think it is. Much more. There is a powerful, new narrative developing within the legend of Burning Man, one that moves beyond Black Rock City and into the daily lives of some dedicated Burners. What is this new narrative? And what does it offer those working to overcome the challenges of this troubled era?
To answer these questions, I visited the offices of the Burning Man Project, on Market Street in downtown San Francisco, conducted numerous interviews, and yes, drove up into the Nevada desert to immerse myself in Burning Man 2011.

Ethos and Pathos
As 50,000 burners headed to Black Rock City, the National Guard was airlifting food and water to the citizens of thirteen Vermont towns cut-off for days, without electricity or potable water, in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. (NYT, 9-1-11) With four months to go in 2011, the U.S.A. has experienced a record 10 weather disasters causing at least $1 billion each in damages. (AP, 9-3-11)
As 50,000 burners headed to Black Rock City, James Hansen, the NASA’s leading climate scientist was getting himself arrested outside the White House, in an act of civil disobedience aimed at urging President Obama to block the XL tar sands oil pipeline. Hansen says that the project would translate into “game over” for the climate upon which human civilization has been predicated for millennia. (Climate Progress, 6-25-11) Shouldn’t NASA’s leading climate scientist be inside the White House advising the President, rather than outside the White House, with thousands of other citizens, trying to get the President’s attention?
Within the dominant culture of “the default world” (a term many burners use to refer to the world beyond Black Rock City), the cable news networks recently offered 24 hour coverage of Hurricane Irene as it hit NYC, but did not mention climate change once; similarly, earlier this year, U.S. President Barack Obama dared not even mention it once in his 2011 State of the Union address.
Friends, we are on our own.
So what is the Burning Man ethos? What does it speak to the pathos of our time? What does it offer us at this perilous crossroads?
Do you remember the 1985 Australian film, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome? Max, portrayed by Mel Gibson, comes to Bartertown, which is run on energy drawn from pig feces, and ruled over by the ruthless and beautiful Aunt Entity, portrayed by Tina Turner. The dystopian premise behind this and the other films in the Mad Max series is that our obsession with oil, and our refusal to develop alternate fuel resources, would lead to the collapse of civilization. It is does not require much of a stretch of the imagination to envision a dystopian post-Climate-collapse world, similar in its environmental harshness and its social barbarism. But what if, instead of a cruel world-view predicated on brute force and self-survival, we approached the collapse of it all as a call for a synergy of self-reliance and collectivity? What if we approached the collapse as a celebration of life instead of a fight to the death?

Welcome Home
Burning Man is held in northern Nevada, on the Playa of the Black Rock Desert, a remnant of the Pleistocene Lake Lahontan.
The Playa is a wasteland, and as such it is an apt venue for these musings. After all, deforestation is one of the major contributing factors to human-induced Climate Crisis; and desertification is one of its major impacts. Both are advancing rapidly, and on a global scale.
At the entrance gate to Burning Man, a security officer took my ticket and inspected my car for contraband, and greeted me with a heart-felt “Welcome home” and a genuine embrace.
There is powerful magic and deep meaning in greeting 50,000 people in this manner. To be welcomed “home” into a nomad city on the desolation of the Playa. Yes, the truth is that culture and civilization if they are to survive must be a moveable feast, and as the movers of that feast, we must be adaptive, adventurous, expansive and inclusive. The Playa itself greeted me with an intense sand storm that led to several white-outs on the long drive from the entrance gate into Black Rock City.

A Zone of Freedom
At Burning Man, 50,000 people come together to build a city and life in it for a week, and then disband again. A month or so before Burning Man there is no sign of it on the Playa; a week or so after it, there is no trace of it left behind.
But in the course of that brief time, many burners report transformative experiences that re-define their life-journeys, and they return again and again to deepen the process. How is this possible?
What happens at Burning Man is that a zone of freedom is established; but it is not a platitudinous freedom, it is willful, conscious freedom: a freedom from routine and inhibition, a freedom for creative expression and self-discovery. On the Playa, there is both personal responsibility (not only to take care of oneself but to be part of the whole) and a radical acceptance (something more than tolerance) of the creative expression and self-discovery of others; and there is space for self-elected ambassadors of a range of human interests from the sublime to the ridiculous, from the sacred to the blasphemous, from the beauteous to the obscene, and every combination thereof.
Asked about her “biggest life lesson learned” from the Burning Man experience, Marian Goodell, Burning Man’s Director of Business and Communications (one of the principle figures in its growth and success over the years) responded: “The power of creativity to change the way you feel about yourself and the way you interact with other people. And through that I learned about the importance of finding ways to communicate and connect with people, because once we do, there is a lot we can do together.”

Truth is Not Written on Stone Tablets
The framework of this Zone of Freedom is best epitomized in Burning Man’s Ten Principles:
• Radical Inclusion

• Gifting

• Decommodification

• Radical Self-reliance

• Radical Self-expression

• Communal Effort

• Civic Responsibility

• Leaving No Trace

• Participation
• Immediacy
The “Ten Principles” are meant to be “descriptive, not prescriptive,” as Burning Man founder Larry Harvey remarked at a Playa press conference.
They evolved organically, from the nature of the shared experience, and they serve to describe the community to itself.
For Ria Megnin, burner, and freelance journalist, the “Ten Principles” are “what makes Burning Man stand out.”
“This is not a bunch of happy hippies or random ravers playing around with sparklies,” Ria told me, “this is an organization of people who know how to Get Stuff Done … we're able to return to the default world with a new sense of empowerment and possibility … it’s about making the world tangibly, lastingly better for each other and for future generations.”
In a pre-Playa interview, Goddell recounted the origins of the document.
“The group grew bigger and the questions grew more and more imposing … it became clear that there were certain types of questions that were coming from these regional contacts, as they were trying to develop their communities … guidance on a party or a gathering, and also some questions that grew up around personal dramas … [Larry] went to Mazatlan for a holiday [in 2004], having digested all of the exasperation that Andie Grace and I had been delivering to him … and he came back with this document, and Andie and I swooned, it was nine bullet points, and we teased him, ‘Well, gee, Larry, why would you not want ten.’ So he disappeared and came back a day later and had added a tenth, which he said was he favorite, although I can’t remember which one it was, he has played with the sequence a bit since …”
Burning Man’s "Ten Principles" shares a fundamental realization with the philosophy of anarchism: truth is not written on stone tablets, it evolves organically from the human heart/mind through direct experience.
Anarchy is misunderstood as a political ideology. It is not nihilism. "Conventional wisdom" (which I translate into "convenient cliche") projects the image of a masked bomb-throwing provocateur as the prototypical anarchist, but actually the face of Noam Chomsky would be more representative.
“As I understand the term ‘anarchism,’ it is based on the hope (in our state of ignorance, we cannot go beyond that),” Chomsky has said, “that core elements of human nature include sentiments of solidarity, mutual support, sympathy, concern for others, and so on.”
During the grim first decade of the 21st Century, I dived deeply into the history of the Spanish Civil War, looking for lessons learned and unlearned; I re-read George Orwell, Ernest Hemingway and Arturo Barea for a cross-section of bold, direct perspectives. One common theme in all that I read was that among the diverse factions within the popular front that stood against Franco and the Fascists, the anarchists were the most trustworthy, the most efficient, the fiercest, and yes, the most well-organized.

The Playa as Anti-Museum
How many times a year can you escape to the museum to see the art imprisoned there? And when you do you typically pre-purchase a ticket, and wait on a long line to get in, only to be rushed through the exhibit.
Well, at Burning Man, huge, audacious art installations are spread across the Playa. After dark, they are illuminated by rainbow LEDs powered by a solar array. Night and day, throughout the event, these installations are caressed by billowing sand storms and circled ceaselessly by burners on bicycles and mutant vehicles (which are art works in and of themselves, duly registered with the BRC Department of Mutant Vehicles).
“At Burning Man, the art is so sensational that it draws people to gather together and share an experience of curiosity, awe and wonder,” Josie Schimke of the Black Rock Arts Foundation (BRAF) explained. “Visiting works of art becomes the highlight of one’s day, and social interactions, connections and inspirations naturally grow out of the experience.”
What if life affirming, psyche-stimulating art that invited interaction and empowered your own creative expression, or that of your children or your parents, were being created on your downtown boulevards, in your parks, and in the courtyards of your neighborhoods?
That’s what BRAF was established to fund in world beyond the Playa
“Every year’s crop of grantees astonishes us with their diversity, both in their chosen media and strategies of bringing art into their communities,” Schimke remarked, “Each project responds to a community’s culture, needs and environment in an innovative and unique way.”
The BRAF web site documents many examples of BRAF funded art projects.

Burn Down the Borders
At a café on Valencia in the Mission, several weeks prior to Burning Man 2011, I sat down with Carmen Mauk, Executive Director of Burners Without Borders.
“When Katrina happened, and we Burners got involved after Burning Man 2005, I said ‘Whoa…’ I had been working in human rights and with people in poverty my whole life. The creativity we brought to the Gulf Coast was completely different than the other groups who were there. We were taking debris from the surrounding areas and creating beautiful art, and inviting the community to do the same, and then burning it on Saturday night. We had not done it before in a disaster zone, but it was something we knew to do as a community, but we weren’t just doing it for us, it was Radical Inclusion … So in addition to a million dollars worth of debris removal and reconstruction work, we contributed a real sense of culture and community.”
Since Katrina, Burners Without Borders has been working on the ground in the aftermath of catastrophes in Peru, Haiti, Joplin, Missouri and elsewhere.
“What we try to do is fill in the gaps as an organization, or create a new organization when needed,” Mauk explained, “so that things that wouldn’t ordinarily happen can happen.”
But Burners Without Borders are limited to disaster relief efforts.
“A woman in Detroit, doxie (little “d”), was upset about the homeless situation, and noticed some marginalized people who didn’t seem to be getting services, and so rather than become like a social worker about it, and blame and fight, she just started to getting materials that they might need for harsh winters and putting them in backpacks. She is been going on three years now, and has an entire community that supports her, she has so many donations … the city loves it …”

The Sun Delivers a Sustainable Burn
Black Rock Solar is another example of how burners are taking the inner fire lit on the Playa and using it to energize and illuminate their communities (in this instance, quite literally).
“We installing solar for non-profits, and tribes, and schools in northern Nevada, and basically giving it away to them, charging them a very small portion of the actual cost, Patrick McCully, Executive Director of Black Rock Solar explained.
“We’re saving money for our clients, who are all worthy entities, and we’re sticking more clean energy on to the grid, and hopefully reducing carbon emissions. We are funded mainly with rebates from NV Energy.”
Like Burners Without Borders, Black Rock Solar sprung directly from the Playa.
“In 2007, the theme was the Green Man, so there was an attempt to green the festival, and there was a pretty sizable array donated to power the Man, recalled McCully, “you don’t want to leave it sitting out in the desert or in a shipping container somewhere …” So some burners installed the panels on a building in nearby Gerlach, and with the rebate, bought more panels for another array.
Meanwhile, back in Black Rock City, the drive to green Burning Man continues.
“We have both solar models out here on the Playa,” Marnee Benson, Deputy Director of Black RockSolar reported. “At the Snow Cone Solar camp, they have two large systems providing power to a grid they create for their camp mates, and in the Alternative Energy Zone (AEZ), it’s more that each camp has their own system [no generators allowed].”
But as Benson, who hosted a Sustainability Summit during Burning Man 2011, also noted, most camps are still using generators.
“Someone wanting to put solar panels on their RV is faced with similar decisions to someone wanting to put solar panels on their house [i.e., the cost]. I hope what we are doing out here on the Playa is helping them get over that initial hurtle.”

Red Lightening in the Desert
There is music everywhere at Burning Man, it blares 24x7, and merges with the sound of the burner multitude and a fleet of engines, into one glorious cacophony. Nevertheless, there are spaces steeped in silence and serenity.
For example, Red Lightening camp has a Medicine Wheel, with four tipis (north, south, east and west) and a sacred fire at its center, “holding energy and intention for the camp and the Red Lightening family.”
Ria Megnin, who belongs to Red Lightening, shared some background.
“What makes Red Lightning so unique is its focus on collective evolution and healing. Our programming is super-diverse, but all of our workshops support personal growth that connects us with community, Mama Gaia and the cosmos. We started with visions drawn from Plains Indians traditions about how to honor our planet and ourselves, woven with new visions of balancing and empowering the feminine and masculine powers in all of us.”
Out on the Esplanade, Samantha Sweetwater, founder of Dancing Freedom, is leading a journey in a canopied pavilion.
“Yesterday was Wednesday, we don’t know what that means anymore. Today is Thursday, in case you were wondering. Mid-burn. That means it is going to get juicy … We are about to work with medicine. The medicine is your biochemistry in motion. The medicine is our community in motion … This one blessed, profane, fucked up, perfect heart, how does it feel right now? These blessed, profane, fucked up, perfect fingers, hands, elbows, knees, genitals, bellies, shoulders, jaw-bones, how do they feel right now? Anchoring into the Earth, the mystery of this life is going to be our material …”

The Temple
In the beginning, there was the Man, and the powerful magic of burning him year after year. In that burning, great archetypal power is released, and great archetypal fear is banished. But the Man alone was not whole, not full, not balanced, there was something missing, and so the Temple came into being, and now each year, like the Man, it is built and then burned.
All around the Temple, there is an aura of sacredness; it is palpable in the atmosphere. It is burned the day after the Man. It turns the straight line of the arrow into a circle. It completes the ceremony. It is the Yin to the Yang, the Apollonian to the Dionysian, and it embodies the Divine Feminine.
Burning Man invested $80,000 in the 2011 Temple; $80,000 just to circumambulate it, use it as a crucible of memories, dreams, and losses, and then to burn it; a truly, profoundly communal experience of the sacred.

Leaning into Change
In 2007, James Hanusa was at his second Burning Man, and volunteering in Media Relations, telling the story of greening the Burn. (He described his first Burn as “the greatest party” he had ever experienced.) But it was at the Temple on that second year, that Hanusa had a transformative experience.
“I was alone, among 20,000 people who were silent in the middle of nowhere, offering respect to those that had passed on. Walking back from the Temple, in the dark, I heard a women crying behind me. She told me she had been honoring an addicted friend who had died. As his addiction worsened, he had continued to lose friends until she was the last person communicating with him. At that moment, something in my life opened up, and I understood, at the cellular level what I had often read about in books, the Buddhist concept of impermanence. Leaning into change became my mantra from that point forward.”
Today, Hanusa is responsible for New Initiatives at the Burning Man Project. These “New Initiatives” include an Economic Development & Civic Engagement program, partnership with the City of San Francisco to develop an Arts & Innovation Zone in the Market Street area, as well as a showcase for sustainability, technology, social enterprise and interactive urban art forms. Other partnerships in development include collaborations with neighbors in the Tenderloin, to work toward a cohesive community prepared for any disaster, a citizen-based, special forces group for disasters in other cities, and special plan for the city of San Francisco, involving a Burner-assisted disaster recovery.

Changing Culture
“When the economic collapse began, I was talking to my brother on the telephone,” said Larry Harvey at the Playa press conference, “and my brother said, ‘Larry, isn’t capitalism sort of a Ponzi scheme?’ The market system of course is almost cognate with civilization in many ways, but this notion that it is all predicated on endlessly increasing amounts of consumption doesn’t really work anymore, which makes for a paralyzing … we have just reached a state of cognitive dissonance. Everybody knows that almost everything we do is unsustainable now. If the Chinese consume at the rate that we have the world’s got a problem; the 21st Century is going to be about resource wars. One thing that could mitigate that is using the resources that inhere in communities, which can lead to remarkable economies … if you look at a theme camp and where they acquire their resources, projects out here tend to create these ever-enlarging gifting networks, and doing things that way it is possible to recycle, reuse, repurpose … I do not think the economic system is going to change until we change the culture that we have concocted in the last several decades, and in that way, I think what we are doing here is an inspiring model that could be applied as yet un-thought of ways …”

Time Travel
Approaching the Temple on my first night at Burning Man, I vividly remembered the Central Park Be-In on the night humankind walked on the Moon; that “giant step for [human]kind” was televised on a huge TV screen to our massive tribal gathering. I also was taken back to Jimi Hendrix playing the Star-Spangled Banner at dawn in Woodstock, as well as the wild magic of attempting to levitate the Pentagon two years earlier. It is not as if these memories had been buried in my psyche; but out on the Playa, I experienced them in a new way. There, it occurred to me that there was a continuity in all of these events, and that an evolutionary spiral was underway, and that although the thread sometimes seemed lost or broken, it never was or would be, and that one day (or night) hopefully sooner but probably later, the tapestry of a better, truer more humane society will be revealed. Meanwhile, primal culture (i.e., expressing, celebrating, sharing, loving, educating) and core civilization (i.e., food, water, shelter, clothing and security) would have to continue to be a moveable feast.

Richard Power is the author of seven books, including Between Shadow and Night: The Singularity in Anticipation of Itself and True North on the Pathless Path: Towards a 21st Century Yoga. He writes and speaks on security, risk, human rights and sustainability, and has delivered executive briefings and led training in over 40 countries. He blogs at and

Burning Man 2011: Rites of Passage ~ The Temple of Transition Burn