"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Maladaptive Behaviors’

Materialism And Misery

In Uncategorized on June 10, 2014 at 4:47 pm

https://i1.wp.com/splendidmarbles.com/the_abyss.jpg

Oldspeak:Focus on the material, on self-fulfillment and success places us in competition with one another and strengthens feelings of distrust, alienation and division, all of which run contrary to, and move us away from, our underlying nature, resulting in the inculcation of fear and insecurity.  Mental illness, including anxiety and depression – a worldwide epidemic claiming 5% of the global population – are further consequences of this dysfunctional social model…Those who love material objects are less inclined to love other people and the natural environment…Love of objects strengthens the desire principle, causing fear and dissatisfaction, giving rise to anxiety, stress and unhappiness. Desire entraps: insatiable, it breeds fear and is the underlying cause of discontent and all manner of associated sufferings….The neo-liberal model promotes such short-term artificial goals: goals that strengthen desire, greed and dissatisfaction, pre-requisites for encouraging consumerism and materialism and the perpetual expansion of the ubiquitous ‘market’… Self-centered behavior, motivated by reward, not only erodes any sense of community and social responsibility, it breeds unhappiness…With its focus on the material – including the physical aspect of our-selves – the ‘monetised’ system encourages vanity, selfishness and narcissistic behavior, further strengthening division, separation and aloneness, feelings that are in opposition to the underlying truth of human unity…A materialistic value system with its focus on the individual as opposed to the group, inevitably feeds a consciousness of separation, strengthening what Esotericism calls ‘The Great Illusion.’…rewards don’t make anyone happy and something very fundamental is lost when we reward for certain behaviors…With reward and punishment come desire and fear, desire for the reward and fear or anxiety over possible punishment if we fail. The effect is individual discontent and collective disharmony. Selfishness is strengthened, and, in opposition to the underlying impulse to be helpful, kindness is sacrificed, creating the conditions for depression and stress….Reward and punishment are major weapons of neoliberalism, which has infiltrated almost every area of contemporary society. The destructive duality is a methodology common in many areas of education, and, of course, it saturates corporate life. Goals, bonuses, commission, perks: these are the language of business, the motivating force for, and of, activity….The present unjust economic model has fostered a value system rooted in materiality that is a major cause of unhappiness, anxiety and depression. Change is urgently needed; change rooted in justice and the well being of the group and not the individual.” -Graham Peebles

“Behold! The fruits of globalized Inverted Corptalitarian Kleptocracy. Destroyer of  World. Begetting a whole universe of maladaptive thoughts, behaviours and policies which run completely counter to our natural state of being and literally making us and our ecology  terminally ill. Change is coming whether we’re aware of it or not. All the systems and ways of being that we believe to be immutable & sacrosanct will change. Make a concerted effort to prepare. Not materially. (Though it would be wise to practice consuming and doing with less of everything, as we are depleting and destroying most natural material  our species is dependent on at rates faster than it can be replenished.) But spiritually and emotionally. Practice ‘Creative Maladjustment’.  No amount of material wealth, well-being and security will be sufficient to insulate you from the madness to come. Let go of you attachments to objects & things, you’ll feel so much better that you did.” –OSJ
You have an inclination: In the flash of one second, you feel what needs to be done. It is not a product of your education; it is not scientific or logical; you simply pick up on the message. And then you just act: You just do it. That basic human quality of suddenly opening up is the best part of human instinct.” –Chögyam Trungpa Rimpoche

 

By Graham Peebles @ Dissident Voice:

We live under the omnipresent shadow of a political/economic system, which promotes materiality, selfishness and individual success over group wellbeing. It is a model of civilisation that is making us miserable and ill. Dependent on continuous consumption, everything and everyone is seen as a commodity, and competition and ambition are extolled as virtues. Together with reward and punishment this trinity of division has infiltrated and polluted all areas of contemporary life, including health care and education.

It is a system that denies compassion and social unity.  Unhappiness and mental illness, as well as extreme levels of inequality (income and wealth) flow from the unjust root, causing social tensions, eroding trust and community. Over half the world’s population (3.5 billion people) live in suffocating poverty on under $2 a day (the World Bank’s official poverty line), whilst the wealthiest 10% owns 85% of global household wealth. This level of inequality is growing, is unjust and shameful, and has far reaching consequences. Materialistically obsessed societies such as America (where income and wealth inequality is the highest of any industrialised nation), have higher levels of drug and alcohol dependency, mental illness, crime and incarceration, as well as child pregnancies and homicides, than more equal nations. People in unequal societies are suspicious of ‘the other’ – that’s anyone who looks thinks, and/or acts differently – and generally speaking don’t trust one another. A mere 15% of people in America confessed to trusting their fellow citizens, compared to 60% in less unequal parts of the world. The resulting divisions aggravate social tensions, fueling criminality and a cycle of mistrust and paranoia is set in motion.

Focus on the material, on self-fulfillment and success places us in competition with one another and strengthens feelings of distrust, alienation and division, all of which run contrary to, and move us away from, our underlying nature, resulting in the inculcation of fear and insecurity.  Mental illness, including anxiety and depression – a worldwide epidemic claiming 5% of the global population – are further consequences of this dysfunctional social model. Millions are hooked on pharmaceuticals (legal and illegal), much to the delight of the multi-national drug companies whose yearly profits in America alone nestle comfortably in the trillions of US $. Suicide, according to a major report by the World Health Organisation (WHO), is the third highest cause of death amongst adolescents (road accidents and HIV are one and two), and the primary cause is depression.

Desire division discontent

Over 2,500 years ago, the Buddha taught that desire and attachment to the object(s) of desire is the root of all suffering. His message of moderation and balance is more relevant today than perhaps at any other time.

Those who love material objects are less inclined to love other people and the natural environment. So says Tim Kasser of Knox University, Illinois in The High Price of Materialism after various studies. Love of objects strengthens the desire principle, causing fear and dissatisfaction, giving rise to anxiety, stress and unhappiness. Desire entraps: insatiable, it breeds fear and is the underlying cause of discontent and all manner of associated sufferings. “Abandoning all desire and acting free from longing, without any sense of mineness or sense of ego one attains to peace.” [Bhagavad Gita 11, verse 71] Such perennial truths expressed by the Buddha, Christ and other visionary teachers as well as Krishna are ignored in the search for immediate happiness derived from sensory pleasure.

The neo-liberal model promotes such short-term artificial goals: goals that strengthen desire, greed and dissatisfaction, pre-requisites for encouraging consumerism and materialism and the perpetual expansion of the ubiquitous ‘market’. In a detailed study by Baylor University associate professor of psychology and neuroscience Jo-Ann Tsang found that materialistic people “are more likely to focus on what they do not have and are unable to be grateful for what they do have, whether it is their family, a nice house or a good job.” Contentment is the natural enemy of the system; discontent is it’s life-blood, serving well the ‘Masters of Mankind’ as Adam Smith famously tagged the ruling elite and their ‘vile maxim’ – “all for ourselves and nothing for other people.”

In The Good Life: Wellbeing and the New Science of Altruism, Selfishness and Immorality, Graham Music refers to a study at Berkeley University that seems to demonstrate Smith’s truism. “The higher up the social-class ranking people are, the less pro-social, charitable and empathetically they behaved … consistently those who were less rich showed more empathy and more of a wish to help others.” [The Guardian] Self-centered behavior, motivated by reward, not only erodes any sense of community and social responsibility, it breeds unhappiness. Music, a consultant child and adolescent psychotherapist at The Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust in London, makes the point that our “monetised western world is going to make us more and more lose touch with our social obligations.”

With its focus on the material – including the physical aspect of our-selves – the ‘monetised’ system encourages vanity, selfishness and narcissistic behavior, further strengthening division, separation and aloneness, feelings that are in opposition to the underlying truth of human unity. “All differences in this world are of degree, and not of kind, because oneness is the secret of everything.” [Swami Vivekenanda] This is the view repeatedly enunciated by those great men – divine men some would say – who have freed themselves of all limitations and have shared their wisdom with us.

We are one, brothers and sisters of One Humanity. As Mahatma Gandhi famously declared:  “all humanity is one undivided and indivisible family.” Separation from one another, from the natural environment and from that which we call God is an illusion. This is the perennial lesson proclaimed loud and clear by an army of Teachers of the Race, who have sought to guide us.

A materialistic value system with its focus on the individual as opposed to the group, inevitably feeds a consciousness of separation, strengthening what Esotericism calls ‘The Great Illusion.’ If humanity is, in fact, one, it follows that our nature is to be unselfish, socially responsible and helpful. In a series of fascinating behavioral studies The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology observed that 14-month-old babies spontaneously acted with kindness when an adult in the room needed help. Children love helping, and they do not need a reward. Actions, which are inherently selfless, offer an intrinsic reward because they facilitate relationship with our true nature. In fact, when material rewards were introduced the children’s focus shifted, they lost interest in the act of kindness and became fixated on the object of reward. Their action became conditioned and, in a very real sense, polluted. Observing this fact, Graham Music concludes that, “rewards don’t make anyone happy and something very fundamental is lost when we reward for certain behaviors.” And he adds that, “other studies have shown that toddlers feel happier giving treats than receiving them”. [Mercator Net]

With reward and punishment come desire and fear, desire for the reward and fear or anxiety over possible punishment if we fail. The effect is individual discontent and collective disharmony. Selfishness is strengthened, and, in opposition to the underlying impulse to be helpful, kindness is sacrificed, creating the conditions for depression and stress. Studies undertaken in San Francisco found that those members of the community who “volunteered and engaged in other forms of giving when they were adolescents were much less likely to become depressed, even as they got older. New research suggests there may be a biochemical explanation for the positive emotions associated with doing good.” [Healthy Living] Serving the needs of others is de-centralising.  It shifts one’s focus away from the self, with its petty, albeit painful anxieties.

Reward and punishment are major weapons of neoliberalism, which has infiltrated almost every area of contemporary society. The destructive duality is a methodology common in many areas of education, and, of course, it saturates corporate life. Goals, bonuses, commission, perks: these are the language of business, the motivating force for, and of, activity.

The present unjust economic model has fostered a value system rooted in materiality that is a major cause of unhappiness, anxiety and depression. Change is urgently needed; change rooted in justice and the well being of the group and not the individual; change imaginatively designed, which sees the economy as a way of meeting human rights and addressing human need, not one that plays on and inflames human desire.

The materialist may hold that mankind is naturally selfish, and that competition, reward and ambition are necessary and good. Without them we would do nothing and society would grind to a dysfunctional halt, goes the narrow reactionary argument. This conveniently cynical view of man’s nature (usually one held by those who are more or less economically and socially comfortable) is fundamentally wrong and is used to perpetuate the divisive model. The damaging effects of this model are being revealed by a range of studies, which substantiate the ancient message that human kindness, selflessness and community service are not only positive attributes to aspire to, they are the healthy, natural and peaceful way for humanity to live.

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Graham is Director of The Create Trust, a UK registered charity supporting fundamental social change and the human rights of individuals in acute need. He can be reached at: graham@thecreatetrust.org. Read other articles by Graham.

Survival Of The Nicest? : A New Theory Of Human Origins Says Cooperation—Not Competition—Is Instinctive

In Uncategorized on July 26, 2013 at 7:51 pm
Hugging Salt Shakers photo by Harlan Harris

Oldspeak: “Breaking news from the department of “Duh”:  How bout that. Capitalism, the system that fosters competition, separation, inequality, vertical hierarchy, uniformity, conditional profit driven cooperation, alienation, and a variety of other maladaptive behaviors, is actually not the best system ever devised, has Dubuya famously asserted. In fact, the sacred precepts of Capitalism “aren’t in sync with our evolutionary roots and may not be good for our long-term success as humans.” Meanwhile we literally train our young to act in ways that are contrary to our naturally beneficial predispositions.  To serve capitalism. Interesting, isn’t it that currently we’re experiences a whole range of threats to our long-term success as humans. Irreversible environmental destruction, rapid non-replenishable resource  depletion, mass extinctions, global drought, and accelerated decline of food and water production, etc, etc, etc… Until we change this counter productive extraction based system, the threats will continue to grow.” –OSJ

By Eric Michael Johnson @ YES Magazine:

A century ago, industrialists like Andrew Carnegie believed that Darwin’s theories justified an economy of vicious competition and inequality. They left us with an ideological legacy that says the corporate economy, in which wealth concentrates in the hands of a few, produces the best for humanity. This was always a distortion of Darwin’s ideas. His 1871 book The Descent of Man argued that the human species had succeeded because of traits like sharing and compassion. “Those communities,” he wrote, “which included the greatest number of the most sympathetic members would flourish best, and rear the greatest number of offspring.” Darwin was no economist, but wealth-sharing and cooperation have always looked more consistent with his observations about human survival than the elitism and hierarchy that dominates contemporary corporate life.

Nearly 150 years later, modern science has verified Darwin’s early insights with direct implications for how we do business in our society. New peer-reviewed research by Michael Tomasello, an American psychologist and co-director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, has synthesized three decades of research to develop a comprehensive evolutionary theory of human cooperation. What can we learn about sharing as a result?

Tomasello holds that there were two key steps that led to humans’ unique form of interdependence. The first was all about who was coming to dinner. Approximately two million years ago, a fledgling species known as Homo habilis emerged on the great plains of Africa. At the same time that these four-foot-tall, bipedal apes appeared, a period of global cooling produced vast, open environments. This climate change event ultimately forced our hominid ancestors to adapt to a new way of life or perish entirely. Since they lacked the ability to take down large game, like the ferocious carnivores of the early Pleistocene, the solution they hit upon was scavenging the carcasses of recently killed large mammals. The analysis of fossil bones from this period has revealed evidence of stone-tool cut marks overlaid on top of carnivore teeth marks. The precursors of modern humans had a habit of arriving late to the feast.

However, this survival strategy brought an entirely new set of challenges: Individuals now had to coordinate their behaviors, work together, and learn how to share. For apes living in the dense rainforest, the search for ripe fruit and nuts was largely an individual activity. But on the plains, our ancestors needed to travel in groups to survive, and the act of scavenging from a single animal carcass forced proto-humans to learn to tolerate each other and allow each other a fair share. This resulted in a form of social selection that favored cooperation: “Individuals who attempted to hog all of the food at a scavenged carcass would be actively repelled by others,” writes Tomasello, “and perhaps shunned in other ways as well.”

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This evolutionary legacy can be seen in our behavior today, particularly among children who are too young to have been taught such notions of fairness. For example, in a 2011 study published in the journal Nature, anthropologist Katharina Hamann and her colleagues found that 3-year-old children share food more equitably if they gain it through cooperative effort rather than via individual labor or no work at all. In contrast, chimpanzees showed no difference in how they shared food under these different scenarios; they wouldn’t necessarily hoard the food individually, but they placed no value on cooperative efforts either. The implication, according to Tomasello, is that human evolution has predisposed us to work collaboratively and given us an intuitive sense that cooperation deserves equal rewards.

The second step in Tomasello’s theory leads directly into what kinds of businesses and economies are more in line with human evolution. Humans have, of course, uniquely large population sizes—much larger than those of other primates. It was the human penchant for cooperation that allowed groups to grow in number and eventually become tribal societies.

Humans, more than any other primate, developed psychological adaptations that allowed them to quickly recognize members of their own group (through unique behaviors, traditions, or forms of language) and develop a shared cultural identity in the pursuit of a common goal.
“The result,” says Tomasello, “was a new kind of interdependence and group-mindedness that went well beyond the joint intentionality of small-scale cooperation to a kind of collective intentionality at the level of the entire society.”

What does this mean for the different forms of business today? Corporate workplaces probably aren’t in sync with our evolutionary roots and may not be good for our long-term success as humans. Corporate culture imposes uniformity, mandated from the top down, throughout the organization. But the cooperative—the financial model in which a group of members owns a business and makes the rules about how to run it—is a modern institution that has much in common with the collective tribal heritage of our species. Worker-owned cooperatives are regionally distinct and organized around their constituent members. As a result, worker co-ops develop unique cultures that, following Tomasello’s theory, would be expected to better promote a shared identity among all members of the group. This shared identity would give rise to greater trust and collaboration without the need for centralized control.

Moreover, the structure of corporations is a recipe for worker alienation and dissatisfaction. Humans have evolved the ability to quickly form collective intentionality that motivates group members to pursue a shared goal. “Once they have formed a joint goal,” Tomasello says, “humans are committed to it.” Corporations, by law, are required to maximize profits for their investors. The shared goal among corporate employees is not to benefit their own community but rather a distant population of financiers who have no personal connection to their lives or labor.

However, because worker-owned cooperatives focus on maximizing value for their members, the cooperative is operated by and for the local community—a goal much more consistent with our evolutionary heritage. As Darwin concluded in The Descent of Man, “The more enduring social instincts conquer the less persistent instincts.” As worker-owned cooperatives continue to gain prominence around the world, we may ultimately witness the downfall of Carnegie’s “law of competition” and a return to the collaborative environments that the human species has long called home.


Eric Michael Johnson wrote this article for How Cooperatives Are Driving the New Economy, the Spring 2013 issue of YES! Magazine. Eric is a doctoral student in the history of science at the University of British Columbia. His research examines the interplay between evolutionary biology and politics.

Ecocide And The Soul Of A Nation

In Uncategorized on June 11, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Oldspeak: “To turn a blind eye to the natural world, as we have done, translates into psychical ecocide. Perception is degraded. Language truncated. Life becomes dispossessed of purpose and meaning. Apropos, the rise and banal persistence of: The United States of Whatever. Under these circumstances “whatever” translates into, inner and extant, deadly super storms, ecocide and desertification (including and related to the desertification of language). As we decimate the earth’s biodiversity, we diminish our lexicon. Our thoughts cannot take wing; our imaginings cannot take root and flower; our passions cannot flow; our putrefying pathologies cannot be composted.  Divested of an eloquence of thought, expression and action — devoid of a deep connection to and denied of constant dialog with earth, sky, wind and water — we cannot retain enough humanity to remain viable as a species. By evincing a state of mind that is indifferent to the wanton destruction of our planet’s interdependent web of biodiversity, we lay waste, on a personal and collective basis, to the evolving, vital ecosystem of the psyche, thereby creating a bland, dismal, corporate monoculture, that is both manifest and internalized…  The emptiness of life in the neoliberal corporate/consumer state has grown increasingly unbearable; the carnage inflicted on our planet is indefensible; and its present trajectory is tragically untenable….  The catastrophic consequences that the demise of the public commons has on the human personality, in combination with the societal repercussions of a populace that receives the vast majority of information from within the bubble of an enveloping media hologram attendant to a grid of authoritarianism that determines and degrades the criteria of almost all experience in the corporate state. Yet these unhinged conventionalities do not create a catalyst to action, but inflict angst, ennui and anomie. How can this be? By what means does passivity before and complicity in one’s own debasement become normalized? By small bribes as reward for compliance and severe consequences for attempts at defiance … that is how. This state of affairs serves as the sine qua non for any reign of oppression and cultural track towards catastrophe.” – Phil Rockstroh

By what means does passivity before and complicity in one’s own debasement become normalized?” That is the key question for me. Phil is on the right track when he identifies the profit motive and brutal punishment for non-compliance. We’re being socialized to further disconnect from our environment and each other via the seductive ubiquity of our ever dazzling and all-encompassing “convenience” technology. And in truly Orwellian fashion being sold on it by being told that it will connect us in a myriad of new, cool and exciting ways. Our children are being taught that Really Existing Democratic Capitalism is the greatest economic system in the world, that the market knows best, and that the way to success and good standing in the society is to be educated in the best schools and institutions then sell one’s self to the denizens of the market and our richest and most powerful “citizens”: corporations. We’ve internalized the cold, calculating, empathy-devoid, data-driven, metrics based worldview of these “citizens”.  I see it every time  I walk down the street in New York. The aggressive, hurried, oblivious, unfriendly, narcissistic, ill-feeling, actively indifferent and ignorant states that most live their lives in.  Morality, openness, transparency, fairness, honesty, equity, selfless cooperation, are constantly invoked as the democratic ideals they are. But these ideals are but subject to gross and disfiguring interpretation depending on how much profit or power stands to be gained. We cannot continue to act as if our ecosystem will continue to support us indefinitely if we continue on this ecocidal path. ” –OSJ

By Phil Rockstroh @ Consortium News:

The reality of and the outward toll inflicted by greenhouse-gas engendered Climate Change is clearly evident (to all but the corrupt and devoutly ignorant) e.g. increasingly destructive and deadly tornadoes and hurricanes, destruction of marine life, severe droughts and rapacious wild fires — landscapes of death, scattered debris and shattered lives.

But what are the psychical effects of chronic denial, noxious indifference and compulsive prevarication as related to a matter as all-encompassing and crucial as our relationship with the climate of our planet?

A tornado touching down in central Oklahoma on May 3, 1999. (U.S. government photo)

Our current catastrophe of estrangement, termed “our way of life,” we experience as a denuding of resonance, meaning and purpose, as a prevailing sense of emptiness and unease, as a craving for distraction, as an inchoate longing for change and transformation, yet a diffidence to the point of paralysis insofar as any means to expedite longing and libido into societal-altering action.

Estrangement from nature is estrangement from the landscape of the soul. The cosmos and the soul carry the same blueprint; the forces were forged in the same fires of infinity. In matters, galactic and quotidian, there is not a form that rises, waxes and wanes in nature that does not have an analog in our human physicality, faculties and endeavors.

To turn a blind eye to the natural world, as we have done, translates into psychical ecocide. Perception is degraded. Language truncated. Life becomes dispossessed of purpose and meaning. Apropos, the rise and banal persistence of: The United States of Whatever.

Under these circumstances “whatever” translates into, inner and extant, deadly super storms, ecocide and desertification (including and related to the desertification of language). As we decimate the earth’s biodiversity, we diminish our lexicon. Our thoughts cannot take wing; our imaginings cannot take root and flower; our passions cannot flow; our putrefying pathologies cannot be composted.

Divested of an eloquence of thought, expression and action — devoid of a deep connection to and denied of constant dialog with earth, sky, wind and water — we cannot retain enough humanity to remain viable as a species.

By evincing a state of mind that is indifferent to the wanton destruction of our planet’s interdependent web of biodiversity, we lay waste, on a personal and collective basis, to the evolving, vital ecosystem of the psyche, thereby creating a bland, dismal, corporate monoculture, that is both manifest and internalized.

The emptiness of life in the neoliberal corporate/consumer state has grown increasingly unbearable; the carnage inflicted on our planet is indefensible; and its present trajectory is tragically untenable.

Our last, best option is a top-to-bottom re-visioning. In diametric opposition, at paradigm’s end, we are witness to the deranged marriage of the profligate and the parsimonious. The covert offshore bank accounts of the greed-maddened hyper-wealthy and the teeming landfill are dismal emblems of late-capitalist madness.

The moribund mythos (manic in the face of its undoing) of “productivity” exists at the core of the capitalist delusion. Discussing the matter with a capitalist true-believer is like talking to an obsessive lunatic about his vast collection of string and his compulsive hoarding of rubber bands and bread ties.

Behind the situation is the crackpot pragmatism of state capitalism, e.g., that all things must have a practical purpose in order that they be exploited for maximum productivity as a means of generating obscene sums of wealth for a tiny (loose knit) cabal of global economic elite. (Yet the motives driving the mania of a system geared to perpetual growth, conveniently, are omitted from almost all mainstream discussions of the matter.)

One’s humanity is restored by tears and laughter … by the marriage of eros and empathy. We must grieve for the harm we have wrought and guffaw at our egoist folly; we must shed copious tears and be seized by outright, sustained laughter. Self-awareness is tantamount to salvation, and an experience akin to rebirth is bestowed by the apprehension of the ridiculous nature of vanity and empty striving.

Then and only then, do conditions become favorable for restoration and re-visioning. Thus, grace falls as a forgiving rain.

In May of last year, my family laid my father to rest. Shortly after my return to New York City from Georgia, we received the news that my wife, Angela, was pregnant. Thus, fate fitted me with the garments of fatherhood. The clothing of the son sent to the consignment shop, I stood in awe, and with more than a little trepidation, before unfolding circumstance.

Grief and longing mingled and merged within me. At night, I dreamed of friends from my youth who have died over the passing years. With increasing frequency, during this past year, I have had reoccurring dreams involving one post-adolescent friendship, in particular, the period surrounding the dawning of our awkward and painful puberty.

Chuck was redheaded, freckled, bespectacled, bully-bedeviled — a bright, sensitive, wounded soul, who would later succumb to the ravages of alcoholism. We shared an enthusiasm for books. We read Tolkien, of course, but also Camus, Celine, even Cervantes (having an ardor for books was a quixotic propensity in those days in the Deep South, and I suspect it still is).

We collected tropical fish — their bright, color-emblazoned markings stood in vivid contrast to the desolate, laboring-class milieu that was foisted as our fate.

“You two, heads-in-the-clouds, noses-in-books losers will have to face the real world one day, and, I’ll tell you what, that will be one sorry-ass sight,” some figure of grim authority would bandy at us.

“Do you understand what I’m saying, boy?”

“Yes.”

“Yes, what?”

“Yes, I understand.”

“You, show some respect for your elders, by answering, ‘Yes, sir.’ Do you understand me?”

“Yes,” I replied, earnestly … having grown obtuse by the anxiety inflicted by attempting to appear submissive to the demands of unreasonable power.

“Look here, smart-ass. I’ve about had my fill of your insolence.”

Nonplussed. I would have said anything to end the encounter. But some life-bestowing daemon would stir within … most likely, it was the same inner, trickster entity responsible for occluding my ability to comprehend what this authoritarian jerk-rocket was demanding of me.

“What is your problem, boy? Just what kind of a stupid animal are you?” — an inquiry that provided an opening for the daemon.

“I was raised by raccoons, sir.”

“You … what?”

“My parents were killed by your Klansman relatives. I escaped into the woods. And I was adopted by nocturnal, fur-bearing mammals. I’m untrainable. I scurry through the darkness. I bite when cornered. My destiny has been forged by fate. I am Raccoon Boy, enemy of racists and power mad freaks.

“I have to confess, it is my reverence for my poor, slain parents that will not allow me to address you with deference nor grant you respect, as you have demanded. In short, I can either submit to calling you sir or I can betray my destiny. But I cannot do both.

“Therefore, do with me what you will. But you will never again sleep easy … for my raccoon brothers and sisters will track you down and you will wish we had never met. You will never again hear a rustling in the underbrush and not be stricken with the knowledge that you are in the presence of your doom.”

These sorts of responses would often end such encounters. In the South, in those days, crazy people were given a great deal of latitude.

At present, in my nighttime dreams of the time, I often find myself in the company of Chuck at the intersection of two major streets that cut through the area near our school, North Decatur and Clairmont Road. In waking life, Chuck and I, in order to avoid confrontations with neighborhood boys who viewed us as “hippie faggots” did not venture beyond this demarcation point. The landscape beyond was fraught with peril.

Even in adult life, Chuck never ventured far from home, and when he did, he was fortified with drink. Many times, at transition points in my life, my soul summons dreams of Chuck and me, our hearts … filled with yearning — yet we stand diffident, to the point of paralysis, at the intersection of North Decatur and Clairmont Road.

The world outside of the boundaries decreed by outward circumstance and imposed by one’s fears is fraught with uncertainty to the degree that it is veiled in mystery. There are legions of authoritarian bastards and mindless bullies about. Regardless, one must venture forth. One does have allies — the spirit of departed friends and inner daemons with quicksilver wit et al.

The future is always uncertain. But Raccoon Boy will be there to meet what comes.

Climate Change denial. Political duopoly. The corrosive effect of empire, maintained by militarism, on a foundering republic. The noxious food manufactured and consumed under corporate state oligarchy.

The catastrophic consequences that the demise of the public commons has on the human personality, in combination with the societal repercussions of a populace that receives the vast majority of information from within the bubble of an enveloping media hologram attendant to a grid of authoritarianism that determines and degrades the criteria of almost all experience in the corporate state.

Yet these unhinged conventionalities do not create a catalyst to action, but inflict angst, ennui and anomie. How can this be? By what means does passivity before and complicity in one’s own debasement become normalized? By small bribes as reward for compliance and severe consequences for attempts at defiance … that is how. This state of affairs serves as the sine qua non for any reign of oppression and cultural track towards catastrophe.

If an individual is coerced into conformity by his/her livelihood being threatened, even by implicit means, angst will be experienced. As a result, one will attempt to find a means of relieving the incurred sense of unease. And this is where the small bribes, that serve as palliatives to ease angst, come in.

If challenging (seemingly) implacable power results in a termination of employment or a stint of incarceration, of which, a record will follow one through life, most will find the repercussions of defying authority unbearable. One’s image of oneself would be endangered, or so it seems, by such a circumstance.

Yet what are the consequences of submission, in regard to one’s sense of self? Because, in order to submit, an individual must shunt from consciousness the painful implications of one’s predicament, a general diminution of perception occurs. Thus, for example, Climate Change denial is but part and parcel of a larger, enforced cosmology of deception, both personal and societal in origin.

At our present rate, the oceans and seas of the world will be dead in less than half a century. Humankind has become a mindless, devouring leviathan. Slice open our collective belly and the ill-gotten bounty of our besieged earth will be disgorged.

What is the music of the spheres? asked Schopenhauer. “Munch. Munch. Munch.”

Yet, tone-deaf, and rapacious, we are devouring the world in a manner that is closer in form to a banal pop song; a pestilence of ditties, resonant of the landfill, is descending in the form of consumerist locust.

When our days are denuded of depth, meaning and inspired purpose, we gorge our bellies in an attempt to alleviate the ache of emptiness. The operatives of the corporate/commercial hologram have induced us to devour the planet like a serving of Hot Pockets. Yet the emptiness within only grows.

We have been enticed to believe that remedy will be found in more of what caused our misery in the first place. Relief, even redemption, will be found in yet MORE. Thus, we come upon the insatiable leviathan that glides within. We are lodged in the monster’s belly, wherein we mistake his impersonal appetite for our own. In this way, the consumer is consumed by the collective.

How does one sate a force that is insatiable? By seizing back one’s unique identity. The angel whose name is Enough arrives within one’s reclaimed human voice. It comes down to this: ecology or catastrophe.

Because one’s humanity is formed and rounded by one’s limits, we must be open to the infinity of forms that is the ecosystem of the soul but not allow vanity to attempt to claim dominion over what is ungovernable. Thus, one regains one’s soul by speaking in a human voice.

Yes, it is tinged with universal fire, but, to we human beings, its home is the hearth of the human heart, within which empty appetite is transmuted into the yearnings of the heart; thereby, empty motion becomes emotion; passion deepens into compassion.

The matter does not involve searching for redemption nor striving for perfection; instead, it involves awakening … an awakening to the vast multiverse of the dreaming heart. Therein, the oceans are teeming with vivid life.

And where there exists the implicate order of the soul there exists the wherewithal to rise up and resist the forces that lay siege to one’s innate humanity.

Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at: phil@philrockstroh.com/ And at FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/phil.rockstroh