Dystopia, Utopia, or some other opia?

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http://politicalhumor.about.com/od/globalwarming/ig/ Global-Warming-Cartoons/Dithering-on-Climate-Change.0ys1.htm

According to the Oxford Dictionary online, dystopia is:

An imagined state or society in which there is great suffering or injustice, typically one that is totalitarian or post-apocalyptic.

I imagine that nearly everyone is familiar with this term, since it seems to be the basis for pop culture’s fascination with all things dark, frightening, and otherwise unpleasant. The fact is, fear, ugliness and horror are extremely popular commodities in our society, as the market clearly shows. I find this fact exceedingly sad, and what’s even sadder is the thought that it will probably only get worse before it gets better.

Thing is, we currently live in a society that is not imagined, in which there exists great suffering and injustice, and is halfway to totalitarian right now. The arguably added dimension to all of this is the utter confusion which swirls around us all like some sort of vortex of doom that no one can fully name or explain. I am currently in a bad habit of reading the New York times online daily (and I admit some days several times), in an effort to understand what actually is happening here on Earth. It feels like we are in a collective reality show that is badly written, badly acted, and has falling ratings. Can’t we just fire these clowns and hire some folks to write us a better collective story, with some humor and nuanced acting?

I read a great essay by Shaun Chamberlin, posted in Resilience.org this week that struck a deep chord within my soul. (https://www.resilience.org/stories/2019-01-29/realists-of-a-larger-reality/)

He wrote,

“What is necessary, that we might have a future? First, let us consider what we face.

An economy so violently contrary to our human instincts and desires that it leaves epidemics of depression, loneliness and suicide everywhere it goes. That uses mass media and financial stress to hollow our souls and seize control of both our days and our hearts, sparking not only economic and environmental devastation, but cultural and spiritual annihilation. Like villagers glancing fearfully up at the castle of some dauntingly powerful vampire, we live our lives under the shadow of the economy of undeath.

We owe this reality no allegiance. But we owe it respect. It is a worthy adversary, no doubt.

Yet its weak point is obvious. People straight up hate it. They hate their jobs and the materialist hollowness imposed on their lives. Nonetheless, as I grew up inside it the corporate media kept us blind to other possibilities, made it seem patently obvious – only common sense – that continuing to participate in this grim reality is the only realistic option.

But it’s a lie. And while a lie may take care of the present, it has no future. The truth is that it takes immense energy (of all kinds) to keep a population suppressed – to fight all our contrary impulses; to quieten our profound inner misgivings, our spark of creativity and rebellion.”

It seems that the times we are living through now have been foretold by science fiction writers of the 20th century, such as those classics some of us had to read in the name of literature back in high school English classes. Which begs the question: Did we create our current dystopian state of affairs because too many of us read those awful novels and the images went so far into our unconscious minds that we ended up creating them in physical reality fifty years later? Or what?

But, alas, it makes no difference how we got to the chaotic mess we are now in. The real question, as Chamberlin points out in his essay, is What can we do about it? The Beast of the apocalypse is alive, and every bit as hideously evil and grotesque as was described in the Book of Revelation. The zombies are here too, and the living dead, all walking around with their headphones or ear buds in, glued to their electronic devices, and hardly any of them dare to speak aloud while moving through the world any longer. The world has simultaneously become deafening and eerily silent. Humans are listening, but no longer to one another live and face-to-face. The hypnotizers have done such an excellent job of hypnotizing the masses that people can hardly function in society anymore. It’s an apocalypse of social structure, of common language, of basic humanity that we are now facing. Too many have taken the wrong pill, and those who haven’t, whose eyes and ears and voices are open, can see what’s happening and yet are helpless to change it. The world grows more confusing, anxiety-ridden and frightening by the day. Joy becomes narrower and more elusive to touch on the daily.

Towards the middle of his essay, Chamberlin advocates for a complete alternative to being in mainstream society. He gives a picture of hippies sitting on green grass, blissed out, probably high on substances of some kind or other, stating

“I am writing this article from my dear compañero Mark Boyle’s small community in Ireland, An Teach Saor (The Free House). It is a home from home for me, and one of many, many places around the world where the residents are making the logic of money and the market obsolete – abandoning it, before it abandons us. For example, the ‘free pub’ and bunkhouse here – The Happy Pig – is a place where anyone can stay, free of charge, and remember what it is to not have to find money simply to have a place to exist.

You may not have heard much about such places, because that suits the corporate media just fine. But awareness of their agenda brings an emboldening thought. Doubtless, for every bastion of hope and joy you hear of or encounter, there are a hundred more that you haven’t. It is a heartening multiplication that I regularly remind myself of; a counterweight to the mainstream media’s narrow, oppressive ‘realism’.”

It sounds lovely, indeed. In fact, lately I’ve also been pondering the merits of finding myself a bubble world to go inhabit for a while (the rest of my life?) where people are joyful, money and greed aren’t present or necessary, and nature is plentiful. Chamberlain assures us that these utopian places actually do exist, and it is possible to live very well within them. Still, I can’t help but wonder if that is really the best choice for helping the collective world to create a more positive future beyond capitalism. Shall the enlightened simply move out of the rat race that are global cities, and go find some hideaway in the mountains where we can simply be free, smoke marijuana, live off the grid, go vegan, have polyamorous relationships, and do our best to forget all the misery of the rest of humanity? It sounds pretty great in theory…but somehow I don’t think it will quite work out in reality.

It’s 2019, and things are crumbling. We know, deep down, that the world will not, literally CANNOT continue the way it’s been. Capitalism has destroyed the world with a continual, never-ending appetite for consumption. We have collectively bought into the model of greed and endless competition for the bottom line: Money is the world’s god now, no matter how nicely the marketing teams choose to phrase it. The world’s scientists told us last autumn that we, the people of Earth, have roughly 12 years to get it together and seriously change the way we operate, or life as we have known it will be over moving into the future.

It doesn’t get any plainer that this. And yet—Who is listening? Who is changing? I don’t mean light bulbs. Which major governments and corporations are actually making the kind of drastic changes needed to turn this apocalyptic submarine carrier around? 2030 is an eye-blink away.

If you would like a taste of Dark Optimism, watch this Youtube. It’s excerpts from a talk given by Jonathon Porritt and Shaun Chamberlin, describing David Fleming’s views on the world economy and its inevitable collapse.

 

 

 

 

The New Faces of Power

The New York Times digital edition of January 14th carries a photo essay of all the women who are members of the 116th Congress. There are 131 women representatives between the House and Senate. As is often the case, the images carry a profundity and nobility that cannot be captured in words alone.

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Representative Deb Haaland, N.M. (from NY Times photo essay, Jan. 14, 2019)
Redefining Representation: The Women of the 116th CongressPhotographs by Elizabeth D. Herman and Celeste Sloman

Despite the chaos ensuing in Washington D.C. currently around the federal government shutdown, seeing these women leaders’ portraits all together gives me powerful hope for America’s future. The women who have taken the mantle of power come from diverse ethnic backgrounds, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, socio-economic classes, and political ideology. Nevertheless, in this auspicious moment of this country’s history, women have stepped into their power like never before. The gender tide has turned, finally, and the United States can now begin to claim its hard-earned place among the rest of the world’s governments for gender equity. No, there is still not an equal number of men and women leaders. Yet this new Congress is a watershed moment.

“These photographs evoke the imagery we are used to seeing in the halls of power, but place people not previously seen as powerful starkly in the frames.”

“Many of these women, spanning generations, serve as firsts in Congress: the first women representing their states, the first female combat veteran, the first Native American women, the first Muslim women, the first openly gay member of the Senate, the first woman Speaker of the House — the list goes on.”

“More women holding elected office is significant not only in that it brings Congress closer to looking like the American population. It also expands the collective imagination about what power can and should look like.”— Elizabeth D. Herman

I hope you will take the time to click on the link and gaze at the new faces of power in Washington D.C. It’s been a long time coming, but feminine power is now unstoppable. Hallelujah!

The Wild Ride of November

 

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Art by @jrbrook, #GoVote

What a wild ride we are on! It’s unimaginable to me that anyone in the United States wasn’t paying attention to the midterm elections held last week. However, I know that plenty of folks really could care less what happens in Washington D.C., or in their state or local governments.

In these times, I am continually reminded that what’s important to one person is not important to the next. The reasons for this phenomenon are complex—I’m not even going to pretend to be able to answer that one intelligently. I notice it all the time, from news reports to overheard conversations, from classmates’ observations to professors’ lectures, and of course, via the dreaded social media. Our differences are becoming ever more etched in relief, and it’s a constant practice to remember, and also focus on, our similarities. How can one species called homo sapiens be at such incredible odds with itself? And, even more importantly, how can we reconcile all our seemingly vast differences in order to create the new world that so many of us long for?

Last week. Last week and the preceding weeks leading up to the midterm elections were, in a word, frenetic. They were also anxiety-producing and crazy. Candidates’ campaigns reached unprecedented levels of delirium, with a slight edge of hysteria over the weekend before Tuesday’s polls opened.  By late Monday, I was deleting emails hourly; on Tuesday morning I received dozens of emails imploring me to GO VOTE!! Did I have a plan for voting? Did I have or need a ride to get to the polling place? I wasn’t going to forget to vote, was I? Forget?? How would that even be a thing in 2018? I wondered, as I hit delete, delete, delete. Then there were text messages—Support! Go do it! Knock on people’s doors! Text! Above all, Show UP, for Goodness Sake!! Our democracy depends on YOU. The Blue Wave is coming, if you show up and Do The Right Thing.

A super-sized dose of responsibility was heaped upon each and all of us on November 6th. We were hammered by hundreds of organizations to do our citizen’s duty and exercise our RIGHT to vote for the candidates and ballot measures and amendments of our choice. The thing is, it’s not so easy to get a handle on just what exactly we’re for and what we’re against. Watching mainstream media ads certainly won’t help anyone understand the issues or get to the truth of what the candidates stand for. We need a different system, and a whole lot more civic education, period.

Americans know we are collectively living through an age of disinformation, misinformation, false information, and just plain too much information. Some days I feel like everybody and their brother and sister are jumping on the bandwagon and standing up shouting at the crowd. Only by now, the crowd is made up of hundreds of millions in America alone, not to mention the billions of other people around the world who are also watching and listening to the craziness. Metaphors become meaningless against the sheer tsunami of voices competing for our attention on a 24/7 basis.

About that Blue Wave? Megan Garber wrote in The Atlantic, “A “blue wave” that is widely decided, in the course of a day, to be neither blue nor a wave: Here is one challenge of reporting in metaphor. And here is a reminder as well that, at this particular moment in American life, metaphor might be all we have.”

Words matter. Or do they? It depends on whose words, at what moment they’re uttered or written, and also, on who’s listening. As a writer, I struggle with making meaning and sense, with writing thoughts that have substance, with choosing words that cause people to reflect, ponder, and consider things that they hadn’t before. Any serious writer acknowledges that it’s difficult, tedious work. Writers attempt to convey, through small symbols on the page (either physical or virtual) what is inside their mind and  heart, then offers it to the world in hopes of gifting the others with something inspiring, humorous, moral, ethical, or otherwise “important.” Yet, at least as often as not, the writer will fail. He will fail to reach people for any one of a thousand reasons. She will be unable to touch people’s hearts through her words. He will not inspire those he most wants to affect. The game ends in stalemate far too often.

But we writers don’t easily give up. As absurd as it may be, we continue to offer our words, our thoughts, our black symbols on the page out to the world. I recently heard a story of a young man who put out his writing to publisher after publisher, receiving nothing but rejection letters back. This went on for months; after a while he began pasting them up in his apartment as a kind of testimony to his willingness to endure rejection. More than one hundred letters later, his luck changed when a publisher decided to accept his manuscript. Sometimes patience pays off.

Back to the midterms. It hasn’t even been a week since Americans went to the polls, and it’s already feeling a bit like old news. Today is Sunday, 11-11-18, a significant day for many, depending on your perspective. It marks the hundred-year anniversary of the end of World War I. For others, 11-11 is a spiritually important day, signifying a greater influx of light onto our world from the cosmos. For still others, it’s just another Sunday to hang out, drink beer, and watch a football game. Meaning lies in the significance an individual attaches to the object of one’s attention. Cosmic forces coming to awaken humanity, the end of the Great War, or the winners of the football match—you decide.

Here’s an interesting article from New Republic, on how the Blue Wave was built ahead of the Midterms.  https://newrepublic.com/article/152130/outsider-democrats-built-blue-wave.  You can be sure that last week’s wave was only the beginning of a greater storm building between now and 2020, and metaphor will continue as a useful tool for writers in describing the chaotic times ahead.