The Vastness of Our Moment

•October 17, 2019 • 1 Comment

[Another musing on where we’re at. Took photo in winter 2017 at Mystery Bay on the NSW south coast. To process grief, fear and anger I recommend perhaps joining Extinction Rebellion in your locality. XR co-founder Roger Hallam’s website, cf. blogroll, is worth a visit too.]


The vastness of our moment. Almost beyond imagination. After perhaps three million years of homo development, we have now arrived at our evolutionary crossroads. At the very real and increasingly likely possibility of widespread social collapse, our ending as an industrial civilisation, our decimation as a species.

Breakdown, and/or breakthrough.

Due to our global industrialisation, we are now facing the very real, or even very likely, possibility of a counter-evolutionary regression of our Ecosphere to a much simpler form. Without insects, a regression is possible to perhaps a few hundred million years back to the Silurian, a time only of primitive ferns and mosses, before insects.

No more living oceans, corals, rainforests. Instead: vast deserts and arid zones, brown zones of contaminated wastelands where cities once stood. Drowned cities. The reign of hardy, opportunist weed species. Rats, rabbits, cockroaches, bacterial and viral plagues. No more miracles of small birds, orang utans, elephants, whales. Millions of years before the planet recovers and evolution resumes its trajectory and develops higher biological complexities again.

We can see signs of it all already happening. Under further capitalist business as usual, as our life-support systems continue to collapse, increasing and widespread panic is likely, as are human societies re-feudalised, re-tribalised, re-masculanised in brutal, barbaric struggles over scarce water, food, land, resources. We can imagine warlords, violent gangs of angry, despairing young men and women, segregated remnant urban areas of fetid slums and walled enclaves of privilege guarded by hired thugs.

Or else. Breakdown becomes breakthrough.

Social movements of radicalising conflict and deepening dialogue (like Extinction Rebellion) lead to greater understanding among large, active minorities. Cooperation, solidarity, sharing, climate and ecological justice, radical democratisation are gradually realized as the only alternative to total breakdown, fascism and a suicidal war of all against all.

In ecological, economic, political and spiritual One World Consciousness we set about repairing and regenerating our Earth and our communities. Culturally diverse, our common language is Earth and evolution and the practical fact that we ‘think globally and act locally’.

We build a new, locally diverse and ecologically embedded world civilisation from the ground up. We find new forms of radically democratic participation at all levels.

We equitably share the costs and burdens of our transition to degrowth and ecologically sustainable, steady state economies. We continually counter fear and panic with humour, solidarity and compassion. We globally share the burdens of mass movements of people caused by ecological and social collapse.

We democratically sift through, culturally integrate and creatively use the best values, traditions, perspectives and technologies of the premodern, modern and postmodern.

We open a new, higher stage in our human and planetary evolution. Our Earth and we are now one integrated and conscious superorganism directing our own evolution towards ever higher dimensions of consciousness…


Why we must rebel (Greta Thunberg)

•October 10, 2019 • 3 Comments

[The gist in just over 4 minutes. The clarity, the logic of the wise child. Music by The 1975.]

How Dare You! Greta telling truth to power

•October 4, 2019 • 2 Comments

[This will go down as one of the great speeches, I reckon. Anger and facts. New York September 2019, cutting right through all the mainstream framings and fairytales to the core lie/truth: “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!” Here’s the transcript of her speech and a link to the video of her speaking:]

How Dare You

This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school, on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you! 

You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying.

Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money, and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!

For more than 30 years the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away, and come here saying that you’re doing enough when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.

You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And that I refuse to believe.

The popular idea of cutting our emissions in half in 10 years only gives us a 50% chance of staying below 1.5 degrees (Celsius) and the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control.

Fifty percent may be acceptable to you. But those numbers do not include tipping points, most feedback loops, additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution or the aspects of equity and climate justice. They also rely on my generation sucking hundreds of billions of tons of your CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist. 

So a 50% risk is simply not acceptable to us – we who have to live with the consequences.

To have a 67% chance of staying below a 1.5 degrees global temperature rise – the best odds given by the (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) – the world had 420 gigatons of CO2 left to emit back on Jan. 1, 2018. Today that figure is already down to less than 350 gigatons. 

How dare you pretend that this can be solved with just “business as usual” and some technical solutions? With today’s emissions levels, that remaining CO2 budget will be entirely gone within less than eight and a half years.

There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures here today, because these numbers are too uncomfortable and you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is.

You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you. 

We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not. 

Thank you.

Extinction Rebellion: radical system change & the power of mass civil disobedience

•September 18, 2019 • 2 Comments

[In preparation for this Friday’s global climate strike (happening somewhere locally near you), perhaps some useful input from the Extinction Rebellion movement, for those readers who might not have heard of it. This is part of the welcome shift in language we need as government and corporate elites continue to push us towards the cliff. From little things big things grow…In solidarity, Peter]

Fifteen people in a small English town got together and discussed the science of climate change and social and governmental inaction. They had long studied and researched the way to achieve radical social change. They came up with the declaration below and then embarked on a long campaign of civil disobedience to transform the way we talked about climate and ecological emergency and force governments all over the world to act. First they toured the UK to build a movement called Extinction Rebellion (XR) using presentations which walked people through the facts and then provided a necessary and rational response: non-violent mass civil disobedience.

In October last year they declared themselves to be in open rebellion against the UK government. Five ‘iconic’ locations were non-violently shut down in central London for ten days, over a thousand people arrested. Politicians from all major parties quickly invited them to meetings. The very next day, the UK parliament became the first country to declare a state of climate and ecological emergency. There has been a huge shift in public opinion, to which the student strike movement initiated by Greta Thunberg’s lone action before the Swedish parliament, also just last year, has also greatly contributed. Since then hundreds of XR groups have been formed in countries across the globe (including Australia). Hundreds of thousands of people have signed up to block roads, shut down bridges and – if need be – to get arrested. In April this year XR began its first phase of international rebellion in Pakistan, the US, Netherlands, Austria, Chile, Ghana.

XR is a decentralised mass movement open to anyone taking action in a non-violent way. It is based on the conviction that the climate and ecological crisis will not be solved by gradual reform and rotten compromise but rather requires radical system change on a scale never seen before. It sees itself a part of a global ‘movement of movements’ social, ecological, indigenous, gender… Part of the problem is ‘our complete and utter failure to imagine any meaningful alternative’ to extractive and capitalist business-as-usual. We must reform and extend our broken democracy. We must also all ‘rewild the imagination’ as much a rewild the world, and ‘learn how to dream again’… XR’s three key demands, so far, are:

1. government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change

2. government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025

3. government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.

(All this and below taken from the highly recommended: This is Not a Drill. An Extinction Rebellion Handbook (Penguin 2019)

Extinction Rebellion: Declaration of Rebellion

We hold the following to be true:

This is our darkest hour.

Humanity finds itself embroiled in an event unprecedented in its history. One which, unless immediately addressed, will catapult us further into the destruction of all we hold dear: this nation, its peoples, our ecosystems and the future of generations to come.

The science is clear:- we are in the sixth mass extinction event and we will face catastrophe if we do not act swiftly and robustly.

Biodiversity is being annihilated around the world. Our seas are poisoned, acidic and rising. Flooding and desertification will render vast tracts of land uninhabitable and lead to mass migration.

Our air is so toxic that the United Kingdom is breaking the law. It harms the unborn whilst causing tens of thousands to die. The breakdown of our climate has begun. There will be more wildfires, unpredictable super storms, increasing famine and untold drought as food supplies and fresh water disappear.

The ecological crises that are impacting upon this nation, and indeed this planet and its wildlife can no longer be ignored, denied nor go unanswered by any beings of sound rational thought, ethical conscience, moral concern, or spiritual belief.

In accordance with these values, the virtues of truth and the weight of scientific evidence, we declare it our duty to act on behalf of the security and well-being of our children, our communities and the future of the planet itself.

We, in alignment with our consciences and our reasoning, declare ourselves in rebellion against our Government and the corrupted, inept institutions that threaten our future.

The wilful complicity displayed by our government has shattered meaningful democracy and cast aside the common interest in favour of short-term gain and private profits.

When Government and the law fail to provide any assurance of adequate protection, as well as security for its people’s well-being and the nation’s future, it becomes the right of its citizens to seek redress in order to restore dutiful democracy and to secure the solutions needed to avert catastrophe and protect the future. It becomes not only our right, it becomes our sacred duty to rebel.

We hereby declare the bonds of the social contract to be null and void, which the government has rendered invalid by its continuing failure to act appropriately. We call upon every principled and peaceful citizen to rise with us.

We demand to be heard, to apply informed solutions to these ecological crises and to create a national assembly by which to initiate those solutions needed to change our present cataclysmic course.

We refuse to bequeath a dying planet to future generations by failing to act now.

We act in peace, with ferocious love of these lands in our hearts. We act on behalf of life.

Humanity’s Three Great Waves, Eight Great Leaps, and Anthropocene Choice

•August 28, 2019 • 2 Comments

[A section of a Big History book I have been working on for three years. Perhaps some theoretical background to the global climate strike scheduled for September 20, and what’s ultimately at stake.]

Humanity’s Three Great Waves, Eight Great Leaps, and its Anthropocene Choice

We have arrived, dear readers, at our present critical moment, of human, even planetary, evolution. It’s now known as the Anthropocene, the Human Age. Let us first briefly survey some of the empirical evidence for this new notion of the Anthropocene.

First, population. The global human population has expanded from perhaps a few tens and then hundreds of thousands in the old stone ages to perhaps around 1 million at the cusp of the long Neolithic revolution in 10,000 BCE, 5 million around 8,000 BCE, 10 million at the time of the first Sumerian civilization in 3,500 BCE, 100 million in 500 BCE, 200 million around the time of Christ’s birth, 300 million in 1000 CE, 500 million in 1500, around 1 billion c. 1804, 2 billion in 1927, 3 billion in 1960, 4 billion in 1974/5, 5 billion in 1987, 6 billion in 1999 and seven billion in 2011.

The acceleration we have noticed throughout planetary evolution is again evident: it took a few million years for the world population to reach about one million in 10,000 BCE, then about 6,500 years to reach ten million, then 3,000 thousand years to reach a hundred million in 500 BCE, then 1,803 years for the world population to expand from two hundred million to one billion between the birth of Christ and beginnings of the Industrial Revolution in 1804. However, from then it took only just over 200 years to explode exponentially from one billion to seven billion. Correspondingly, humans now have the highest biomass of any animal species, and whereas in the year 1000 CE humans and their domesticated animals still made up only about 2 percent of the Earth’s mammal biomass, we now make up around 90 percent.

Our human population explosion is directly linked to our explosion in energy consumption. Some estimates see an at least 30-fold per capita increase in energy use in human history from 80 watt in pre-fire use homo species to c. 2,400 watt per capita for global society as a whole and c. 10,000 watt per capita in overdeveloped countries like the US; when total energy consumption is multiplied by the increase of the human population from a few thousand to over seven billion, the increase in the total amount of energy harvested during human history may be by an overwhelming factor of c. 30 million.

Our collective footprint as a species is now so high that we can literally move and unbalance the planet and radically transform its natural cycles. The massive burning of fossil fuels by our populous species since the Industrial Revolution and resulting ice melting and huge water shifting across the planet, also as droughts and ground water depletions, have since 2005 even changed the earth’s balance and shifted its tilt and spin axis from its previous path by centimetres. If CO2 emissions are not reduced (they are now over 400 ppm), they will reach 600 ppm by 2050, the highest level for fifty million years, creating climate chaos and reversing the long-term decline in CO2 levels over the past 500 million years that has balanced out a gradual rise in the sun’s warmth over that period and helped keep planetary temperatures in the habitable zone.

While for the past two million years the earth’s climate system has oscillated between natural cycles of 400 billion tonnes (cold) and 600 billion (warm) tonnes of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, in the past century or so human fossil fuel releases and activities have added another 200 billion tonnes to the 600 billion of the warm Holocene interglacial, which 800 billion tonne total is twice as much as was present during the last ice age and a third more than in recent interglacial eras; we continue to add several billion tonnes more each year, and are thus in completely unchartered territory.

Humanity’s gaseous waste emissions have also heavily impacted the global atmosphere by creating a dangerous ozone hole and regionally serious toxic air pollution. In 2009 humanity’s ecological footprint had significantly altered at least 86% of the world’s ice-free land area (a 9% increase in just sixteen years since 1993) : from human culture being embedded in the wild we have evolved to the wild being embedded within human culture. (At the same time, we have romantically redefined ‘wilderness’ according to our own modern preferences to mean ‘free of humans’). Today, for the first time in human evolution, more than half of humanity’s seven billion people lives in cities, increasingly in mega-cities of over 10 million people.

Fossil-fuel driven mining and industrial emissions have also radically altered the Earth’s biogeochemical cycles (carbon, nitrogen, sulphur, phosphorous) and chemically toxified the biosphere. One estimate is that there are over one hundred thousand synthetic chemicals on the market and thus in the environment. At best only a few hundred of these have been studied in any depth or detail for their possible toxic effects on lab animals, and none at all for real-world cumulative, synergistic or transgenerational effects. Nevertheless, at least one thousand new ones are added each year, most of them without adequate testing or regulation. These chemicals are having severe impacts on the health and well-being of wildlife and humans. The average toxic body burden of people in industrialised countries may now include at least 250 chemicals and heavy metals, many of them hormone-disrupting and/or cancerogenic. Eating fish we now ingest not only mercury but micro-plastics. So many plastics find their way to the oceans that by 2050 there will be more plastics than fish, i.e. plastics will outweigh total fish biomass. The overwhelming majority of drinking water in all countries is now contaminated with micro-plastic particles.

Humanity is even literally altering the earth’s geology: around 208 completely new minerals or mineral-like compounds are now the product of human activity and will ‘form a marker layer for all geological time’. Nanotechnology is creating machines of atomic size and new materials never seen on the planet before.

The core fact of the Anthropocene is that humanity is creating a second, totally artificial, nature that is gradually replacing the one we co-evolved with in the Holocene.

This human earth-changing and re-engineering is a process which one could say began very gradually either three million years ago with the first stone tools of Kenyanthropus or Australopithecus or else about 100-200 thousand years ago in the full emergence of homo sapiens and human culture in east Africa during the Eemian interglacial period (a 15,000 year long temperate phase) when the total human population was probably only somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000. The beginning of the Anthropocene could also theoretically be placed in the ‘great cultural leap forward’ of homo sapiens around 50,000 BCE or in the beginnings of the Agricultural Revolution c. 10,000 BCE. It could also be legitimately placed around 1750 or 1800 at the start of the Industrial Revolution/Capitalism.

In my view most convincingly, however, the beginning of the true Anthropocene could be placed around the time of the birth of my own generation, at the end of the last total war and the beginning of the postmodern nuclear age in July 1945 with the dropping of ‘Little Boy’ on Hiroshima, and thus with the first possibility of human self-annihilation and the global spread of radio-nuclides (and subsequently of many other chemo-industrial metals, plastics, toxics and waste products of hyper-industrialism). This period is also the start of the postmodern ‘Great Acceleration’, when all demographic, economic and ecological indices accelerated exponentially, when ‘massive increases occurred in population, carbon emissions, species invasions and extinctions, and when the production and discard of metals, concrete and plastics boomed.’

Thus a recent research paper published in the academic The Anthropocene Review, pointing out that ‘about one half of the global population now lives in urban areas and about third of the global population has completed the transition from agrarian to industrial societies’, also suggests that

Of all the candidates for a start date for the Anthropocene, the beginning of the Great Acceleration is by far the most convincing from an Earth System science perspective. It is only beyond the mid-20th century that there is clear evidence for fundamental shifts in the state and functioning of the Earth System that are beyond the range of variability of the Holocene, and driven by human activities and not by natural variability.

The paper also notes, despite recent strong economic development in the non-OECD or BRICS world, the stark and ongoing global inequality associated with this Great Acceleration and Anthropocene, concluding that:

the bulk of economic activity, and so too, for now, the lion’s share of consumption, remain largely within the OECD countries, which in 2010 accounted for about 74% of global GDP but only 18% of the global population. This points to the profound scale of global inequality, which distorts the distribution of the benefits of the Great Acceleration and confounds international efforts, for example climate agreements, to deal with its impacts on the Earth System.

According to the prior rate of acceleration and momentum of the evolutionary trajectory postulated in this Big History (I am writing), this and one more fluctuation of relatively short duration (perhaps no more than about 13-20 years in all, taking us to around 2030-40) may be all that separates us from the end or rather self-transformation of the Ninth Great Wave of cosmic evolution, the Postmodern Wave of Mind and humanity, which we suggest began with the explosion of the first nuclear weapon of mass destruction in July 1945.

If we should parse the nine waves of human evolution outlined above slightly differently, namely in terms of accelerating evolutionary ‘leaps’ within the three great premodern, modern and postmodern waves, then we would now be approaching the ninth leap to a new (higher, deeper) level of human evolution, into what I would like to call the ‘Conscious Anthropocene’.

For when looked at in this way, within the three Great Waves of human evolution we can also distinguish eight Great Leaps of creativity and innovation between hominization and a conjectural, perhaps emerging but yet to be accomplished ninth Great Leap, the ‘Conscious Anthropocene’. Further, like the material universe we incorporate, human evolution itself has been exponentially accelerating, these successive cultural leaps initially lasting millions of years and now only decades, possibly only years.

As one can see from the overview below (Figure 9), the accelerating leap durations are roughly as follows. Premodern Leap One to Leap Five: 3.5 million years, 2.4 million years, 68,000 years, 7,000 years, 4,300 years; Modern Leap Six and Leap Seven: 450 years, 200 years; Postmodern Leap Eight: 70 years. On this self-accelerating trajectory, the conjectural, possible (but not necessarily probable), next Leap Nine into the ‘Conscious Anthropocene’, already latent as a seed of potential within our previous eighth leap of Postmodern Mind, may thus be already emerging. Given the trajectory of exponential acceleration this Leap Nine may be just a matter of a very few years, perhaps less than two decades, before it becomes clearly visible, an emergence which like all the previous ones, however, will only be clearly seen in retrospect. In contrast to all previous leaps, and in contrast to the present trajectory of business-as-usual, however, this possible one would have to be, at least for a significant minority, a conscious one. There lies the rub.

Figure 9: The Nine Great Leaps of human evolution within the Three Great Waves of Mind (all dates very approximate).

I Premodern Great Wave

LEAP ONE: Hominid Emergence from Apes (Hominization), c. 6 ‒ 2.6 million years ago
LEAP TWO: Palaeolithic Social Learning and Rise of Homo species, c. 2.6 mya – 300,000 years ago
LEAP THREE: Palaeolithic ‘Great Leap Forward’/global Homo sapiens, c. 80,000 ‒ 12,000 years ago
LEAP FOUR: Neolithic Agricultural Revolution, c. 10,000 – 3,000 BCE
LEAP FIVE: Agrarian Civilizations and Commercial Globalization, c. 3000 BCE – 1300 CE

II Modern Great Wave

LEAP SIX: Modern-Scientific Age and Mercantilist Globalization, c. 1300 – 1750s CE
LEAP SEVEN: Industrial-Capitalist Revolution and Imperialist Globalization, c. 1750s – 1945 CE

III Postmodern Great Wave

LEAP EIGHT: Postmodern Atomic Age, Globalization, Unconscious Anthropocene (1945 – present)
LEAP NINE: Global Transformation into the participatory ‘Conscious Anthropocene’?

The Great Acceleration of cosmic, planetary and human evolution is also that of my own little life, both autobiographically and historically as a member of the so-called ‘baby boomer’ generation of the accelerating post-war Anthropocene. Like everyone else’s, my own life has been subjectively speeding up ever more as I get older: while childhood seemed to stretch on for ever, now every week speeds by ever faster towards the ultimate ‘gravitational singularity’ or ‘big crunch’ of my personal death or transformation as a transient, apparently individual organism-mind, a tiny fluctuation within the Great Waves, yet one that includes all other previous waves in body and mind.

Collectively, during my lifespan, that of the so-called ‘baby boomer’ generation in the west, the world has experienced unprecedented, exponential and accelerating growth rates on almost every level: of technological innovation and socio-cultural change, of global population and of ecologically unsustainable levels of extraction, production, consumption and waste production too long to list. As a species, humanity has, within the Anthropocene, long overshot the Earth’s ecological carrying capacity. Some estimates put the threshold of this overshoot in the 1970s-80s. Earth’s evolved life support systems or Ecosphere, the sixth Great Wave incorporating the fourth and fifth Great Waves of Cell and Organism, are thus being increasingly undermined and destroyed by the eighth and ninth Great Waves of modern and postmodern humanity, a process that – barring human transformation into a both grand and humble, ‘conscious Anthropocene’ or ‘symbiocene’‒ will destroy all the human Great Waves of Mind.

These trends seem now to be culminating in ‘peak everything’, in climate chaos and a generalised ecocide or ‘sixth great extinction event’ on planet earth, i.e. the radical transformation and regression of the evolved Ecosphere and its organisms into something much less complex and diversified, less beautiful and conducive to human dignity and well-being , or at least to human dignity and well-being as they have evolved in the Holocene and as we have so far defined them. In a further ecological great simplification and impoverishment, tough ecological generalists (like ourselves) will mostly replace vulnerable ecological specialists: weeds, rodents, insect plagues, acidified jellyfish oceans will replace an exquisitely diverse world of hummingbirds, tigers, gorillas, coral reefs.

Increasing climate disruption and chaos is perhaps the ultimate expression of all these trends, one that, unchecked, is likely to cause immense suffering, displacement and billions of deaths over time and the probable breakdown of urban civilisation itself. Massive wars and nuclear self-annihilation are, as always since 1945, also a continuing possibility. As humanity moves to increasingly design evolution, humanity may be moving, unconsciously, into some self-engineered, cyborg, ‘augmented’ or AI form of post-humanity and a concomitant post-biospherical geo-engineering of the planet. We would then be post-humans living in post-nature.

Many welcome this prospect: creator of the Gaia hypothesis James Lovelock calls it the ‘age of hyperintelligence’ or ‘Novacene’ and opines that ‘the chemical-physical type of humanity has had its time’. Our lives are already in many ways only partly biological, watching screens for ten or more hours while exercising only seventeen minutes a day, cars our feet, Google our memory, many regularly taking all kinds of drugs, many with implanted devices, and increasingly with no clear split between organic and technological, ‘we may not know yet where we’re going, but we’ve already left where we’ve been.’ The Pentagon (DARPA) is working on various ways of ‘augmenting’ soldiers and directly connecting the human brain to a machine, and prominent capitalists like Elon Musk are already working on cyborgs such as mind-controlled gadgets for the masses using electrodes surgically implanted by a robot to read people’s brainwaves.

This is the dark face of the uncontrolled, undemocratic, unconscious Anthropocene: the very real and increasingly likely possibility of global collapse, suffering and brutal societal regression and/or a technocratic, cyber-totalitarian dystopia of post-humans. Making this probable trajectory conscious is the first step to avoiding it.

The logic of all this is that as a species we now seem to be confronted with a unique moment in human history. For the first time we face an existential choice, a choice between a continuing business-as-usual, unconscious Anthropocene which is taking the Earth and humanity towards the abyss, or a movement towards a conscious, liberated and participatory Anthropocene. The key general feature of the latter would be the globally democratic debate about and control of our own co-evolution within a regenerated planet. This would necessarily include democratic debate and control of economic production, distribution and technological innovation.

If the probability of such a widespread consciousness-raising or -widening seems quite small at this point, the alternative question would then seem to simply be: will humanity somehow ‘muddle its way through’ all this with some sort of technological fixes and minor reforms, with totalitarian states of cyborgs and ‘posthumans’, or simply muddle its way to collapse, regression, chaos?

Global Climate Strike 20-27 September: Towards a General Strike for Life?

•August 10, 2019 • 3 Comments

[There will be a Global Climate Strike in over 150 countries September 20 and 27, initiated by Greta Thumberg, the global student climate strike movement, Trying to do something locally where I am, maybe getting our local council to declare a climate emergency and call for a citizens’ town meeting to discuss what can be done. Hope everybody reading this may consider doing something in their workplace or community given the urgency of our global climate and extinction emergency. Help can be found at the Global Climate Strike website. Below I am reblogging, unchanged, my 2015 piece pushing for a General Strike for Life and Great Palaver. I know we are collectively not that far yet, but no harm in trying again. The photo is of climate strike students in London last May.]

A Strike for Life and a Great Palaver. A Call to Freedom.
– For all those who cannot take it anymore, yet feel another world is possible

Deep Down

Deep down we know it all.

At that level, down there beyond our fears and rationalisations, no one need tell us what the case is.

At that level, we are wiser and wider than our narrow everyday selves. This is the level we are at when we deeply respond to a work of art, music, a poem, a child, the ocean, the silence of a forest or an empty room, a quietened body-mind.

At that level, no one need preach and tell us what deep trouble the world is in.

No one need tell us that things cannot go on like this without some total, cataclysmic breakdown, one that has already begun and will cause further immense and lasting death and suffering.

At that level, we know that no one is an island and the world is one. That endless growth is not possible on a finite planet. That climate chaos or nuclear war could destroy civilisation for centuries. That the Sixth Mass Extinction of plant and animal species is upon us because of global deforestation, over-industrialisation, over-consumption, over-development.

At that level we know that our freedoms are being increasingly eroded as liberal societies become authoritarian police and total surveillance states. That true social and global peace and security are not possible without greater equality and social justice within and among nations, without a massive popular rejection of imperial interventions, militarism and jingoistic nationalism.

This sense of the existential threats to the common good is just common sense. Any child, any wise old person knows that.

The General Solution

No professors or activists’ megaphones need tell us that our ways of interacting with each other and the planet, our ways of organising our societies and economies, are utterly unjust, undemocratic and unsustainable.

At that deep level, we even know what the general solution is, whatever the debatable specifics of that solution: we know we have to fairly share wealth, resources and the global commons (water, air, oceans, land and soils, forests, internet…).

We know we have to make democratic decisions about how we organise things, how and what we produce, distribute and consume not for the benefit and unsustainable, luxurious wants of a global few but for the benefit and real, sustainable needs of all beings, human and non-human, present and future.

These social solutions are the same as the general means of achieving them: direct democratic debate, self-organisation and self-management, mutual aid, free collective action, civil disobedience, non-violence.

Yes, But…

However, at this point our narrow everyday selves often say: no, we are powerless. No, it’s all too complex and overwhelming to face, and we aren’t competent enough to understand it all. No, we should leave it to the government, leaders, the experts, the CEOs, the scientists and technologists, the international conferences. No, we should just vote for someone who will ‘fix’ it all for us.

We would prefer to delegate our own thinking and responsibilities to others, and then complain when they fail to ‘fix’ things for us, and then go and vote for the next lot who necessarily must do the same, over and over again.

As voters marking a piece of paper and then going home and abdicating our own sovereignty to so-called representatives for another three or four years, we prefer to remain passive consumers of ‘democratic’ political spectacles created by others. We prefer to remain dependent, obedient, voluntary slaves, as it seems much more comfortable than thinking our own real thoughts, than being our real, wider self, than acting independently, for ourselves, in free interaction with others. We prefer to ignore our inner freedom, to drown out our niggling conscience with noise and ceaseless busyness. Sometimes we even do this in noisy political activism making demands to the state authorities like children to parents, often enough mouthing mind-numbing clichés or narrow, dead slogans printed out on standardised placards and t-shirts that move no one.

We are not used to, we have no practice in, democratically debating public issues within our communities with a view to doing things together ourselves. We are not used to seeing beyond our own narrow and immediate personal interests, our work and families, our daily issues, even as the world slides into chaos around us precisely because we don’t want to face the larger issues and our own consciences that are the inner expressions of those existential wider issues. At an emotional level, we don’t really feel an emphatic part of, and thus responsible for, a social and natural community or world, except as rate- and tax-payers, voters, tourists, and, occasionally, anxiously frenetic flag-wavers.

Our everyday unfree self cannot respond to anything beyond itself and its perceived narrow interests, thus feel no responsibility for the wider world. In our true, free selves we respond to conscience and world, we are respons-ible. Freedom is not opposed to, but the same as responsibility.

This narrow self and this wider self, this fearful unfreedom and this fearless freedom, are in constant tension or conflict within us all. We all oscillate between them. Social movements and nations oscillate between them.

The political and corporate powers-that-be are, in all their varied mediocracy, usually living embodiments of the former and do all they can to keep us all there. Their opportunistic careerism, their media narcissism and entitled trough-hogging, their rigid and Machiavellian mindsets, so-called public relations communications and psy-ops constantly spin out nothing but fear-mongering, divide-and-rule, scapegoating, power maintenance, denial, short-termism, adolescent games of ‘wedging’ of opponents. It is so seldom that an authentic person, a person of wide empathy and intelligence, a real ‘statesman’ or –woman, happens to wander through the power-ridden jungle of some party machine, and even when they do, they are always totally ineffectual without the force of grassroots social movements and public opinion.

The Great Strike for Life and Great Palaver

So, what to do? Perhaps to even have to ask that question is already an indication of how bad things are.

In a healthy community confronted by imminent, life-threatening danger, the natural human response would be to down tools, stop work, get together to talk about the issue and what to do about it.

This is exactly what the world crises are indicating that all communities large and small, what humanity as a whole, should be doing: downing tools, going on strike, stopping the destruction machine, taking time out, coming together and conferring about the world’s deep and mounting crises and what to do about them.

Some of course are already doing this, not in striking but in a global mosaic of local resistance or constructive endeavours, cooperatives and social experiments outside the main turbo-charged system or work itself. It is time for the latter to be included. This can only be done by stopping the ever faster and more intensive exploitation within the main system itself for a period of resting, deep breathing, regaining clarity and sanity, conferring together. A kind of active holiday from the work- and consumption machine, a ‘holy’ day of whole-ness, of being whole and hale.

A possible initial name for this natural response and process could be: the Great Strike for Life and the Great Palaver. As it develops, the process will in time probably find its own name, or names.

Because it would be a directly democratic process, the outcomes of this process cannot be predicted or ordained. All that can be said about it is that, like the wider self we all have within us, it is necessary, needed, and must freely follow its own course according to its own internal dynamic.

The first steps: critically think all this through for yourself. Listen inside, ask your gut intelligence and intuition, your conscience and wider self, for a response. If you find you agree with it, circulate this Call to Freedom to colleagues, friends, neighbours, fellow citizens. Perhaps a simple start could be made just by agreeing to stop work or activities for five minutes at work or in various grassroots interest groups, clubs, churches etc. and silently meditate together on the world crises. The next step might be to discuss preparing small, temporary strikes and palavers at work or in the community. Once these happen sufficiently and repeatedly, they may start to communicate with each other, link up, start preparing larger regional, national and international strikes and palavers.

The Identity of Means and Ends

Is this just another clever ‘political strategy’ to achieve some distant ‘goal’ as defined by some armchair theory or other? The purpose of stopping work in the destruction machine and conferring is to stop work in the destruction machine and confer. The purpose or goal of the Great Strike and Palaver is not outside itself.

Nevertheless, such a lively, vital process, like the previous alter-globalisation, World Social Forum, Arab Spring and Occupy movements, could become contagious across localities, regions and borders as it impresses and directly speaks to the suppressed feelings and longings of others with its vital democratic energy and meaningfulness.

The purpose of the process is not to look ‘up’ or out and influence our ruling oligarchies, the usual form of what passes for ‘politics’. Rather, it is to become the ‘rulers’ ourselves, i.e. the active subjects of a meaningful, direct democracy, subjects who are stopping work and conferring together about life-threatening dangers, the declining quality of life on all levels, the common good.

Some within the state and corporate oligarchies, their consciences touched, might be moved to join us, others will try to manipulate, intimidate, co-opt or, as usual, suppress us with violence. Often the violence will also come from state undercover operatives, criminal thugs or sections of the people themselves who identify with the state and system or who feel threatened in their authoritarian beliefs.

However, there is no point in trying to prophecise what may or may not happen. Those are the speculative games of the armchair spectators and know-alls who enjoy spectating and almost never get active. Whatever does happen simply becomes the subject of the people’s Great Palaver.

The Choice to Be, the Choice to be Free

Deep down under our various social masks and insecurely rigid identities we know we are free, intelligent, responsible beings with a conscience. We know we are humans with souls and vital organic needs, not machines.

So, can we let this inner freedom, this freedom-to-think-and-act-for-ourselves without worrying what others may think or do, this freedom to be our true, wider selves, can we let this true self emerge like a bright butterfly from the tired old cocoon of narrow and false identity, from daily distraction and habit, from the self-oppression of our deep knowledge and longing?

Can we let our basic, intuitive understanding well up from within and break through into our clear, conscious minds and inform our actions? Can we let ourselves be the free beings we really are to save the world and all beings, i.e. ourselves? Je suis nous, ich bin wir, I am we. Ubuntu (I am because we are).

Another world is possible, if we but let it. It is already inside us, as potential, as reality. Its name is: freedom.

(September 2015)

[Note. This Call to Freedom has been strongly influenced by an essay in German by mystic anarchist Gustav Landauer written in 1911, the title of which translates as ‘The Abolition of War by means of the Self-determination of the People’. During the so-called inter-imperial ‘Morocco Crisis’, a catastrophic world war looming three years before its actual outbreak, Landauer was making a despairing, last-ditch attempt to awaken the people by calling for general strikes and worker conferences to prevent war and start building the social alternative: self-determination, self-organisation, self-management. He failed of course. Countless millions died and suffered in the resulting two world wars and dictatorships. All one can do is pass on the flame, try again, perhaps: fail better.]

Ode of the Unknown Man

•July 26, 2019 • 3 Comments

[Recent poem. Took the shot of the great street-poem poster last year in Paddington, Sydney. The poster uses a famous, ‘iconic’, Australian photograph of a sunbather by Max Dupain.]

Ode of the Unknown Man

Unknown to himself,
he relished his many modes & masks,
the joys of acting:

a small child in trains singing Row Row Row Your Boat Life is But a Dream
a butcher letting the sheep’s entrails plop out into the bin
a nursing mother in moon-deep daze at 3 am
a pilot on automode helplessly flailing against an algorithm
a conflicted girl hiding behind her hair
a monk staring at a wall for nine years for nothing
a cloud imagining itself
a teacher, unprepared, knowing she has nothing to teach
a rolling stone gathering memories and moss
a priest overcome by his lusting pain during mass
an oak tree laughing down its rain of sparrows & acorns
a soldier dancing with his enemy along the fake front
a brooding rock of ages under which sat an iridescent toad …

Then one day, while walking, the landscape
was where he thought his head was,
moving by in a stillness lucid as a window
a vast emptiness as real as his boots,
normal as nothing. Again, smiling,
he took down the next mask