I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
As a high school student, this was one of my favorite poems in my literature book. I’m not sure that today’s student has a literature book, much less the same reverence for English poetry that we had. Nevertheless, this poem stood out for three very good reasons:
- It was short.
- It was easy to understand.
- There was a certain majesty to the language, which, after all, is the point of poetry.
We are at a juncture. We are approaching an Ozymandias moment in our living history. A moment when science and logic give way to emotion, xenophobia, and irrational forces. Facing challenges in every area — health, economy, social, political, environmental, educational — the greatest challenges mankind has ever faced, we seem destined to retreat into a parochial and narrow-minded mindset.
• Are we healthy?
• Are we economical?
• Do we perform our civic duties?
• Do we care for the environment?
• Do we educate our children well?
The Answer Is NO!
So, even in the face of dwindling resources, shrinking markets, and worldwide health and environmental crises, we do not have the will power to turn our lives and our destiny around. Even though in each instance, we have the knowledge and technology to fix these conditions.
First thing we have to do is admit that we have done a bad job and accept that it no longer matters who’s the greatest country in the world. This is a holdover emotion that keeps us tied to the past. We no longer need a greatest country, yet we continue to heap praise on the “greatest generation.” Why? Quite simply, not much has gone right since then. The “greatest generation” and nostalgia for it are devices to keep us rooted in the past instead of preparing for the future. Right now, the future is upon us.
How Do We Prepare For It?
The problem with capitalism is it’s largely based on psychology, on creating an atmosphere where people feel good about investing. If they feel good about investing, they will feel good about accepting and extending credit, and the wheels continue to turn.
Once, however, there’s a psychological meltdown so that those self-same investors no longer feel like investing or extending credit, everything freezes. That’s what we have today. We’re on the brink of an Ozymandias moment.
Try to picture such a moment. Contrary to popular belief, they are not produced by some sort of conflagration, but by slow collapse, the kind of collapse Pulitzer Prize winning author, Jared Diamond, describes in his book of the same name, Collapse. Diamond studied a series of ancient civilizations — the Norse in Greenland, the Easter Islanders — and came up with a set of common causes:
• an insistence on sticking to a way of life that had become no longer viable,
• the man-made destruction of the environment.
In the case of Easter Island, it meant cutting down all the trees on the island in order to have wooden tracks and sleds for transporting monolithic statues of their ancestral Gods (Moai) to other locations on the island. Diamond's UCLA students wondered, “What did the Easter Islander who cut down the last palm tree say as he was doing it?"
He goes on to provide reasons for these types of disastrous decisions:
1. Failure to anticipate the problem because they have no prior experience to refer to
a. Failure to anticipate on account of false analogy
2. Failure to anticipate the problem before it arrives.
a. Some problems are imperceptible
b. Distant managers not aware of problem
c. Slow trend, concealed by up-and-down fluctuations
3. Failure to attempt to solve a problem once it has been perceived
Today we have Easter Island and Greenland on a worldwide scale. Imagine Easter Island after the trees have been chopped down. We still have the Moai. Our way of life is safe. Everything’s the same; those naysayers are bad for bizness. Yes, everything is the same…until it turns to dust. When Captain Cook sailed into Easter Island in 1774, he found the last remnants of a dying civilization.
... Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
When it happens to us on a much larger scale, all the government buildings in Washington will continue to stand upright. Everything will look the same, only it won’t be the same. That’s Day One: the day after the last tree is cut down, after the credit machine goes dry, after the sons of Ozymandias, king of kings, or the generals of Alexander quarrel and divide the empire. You walk outside one day and there’s rampant inflation, currency devaluation, foreign ownership, no credit, no liquidity, no jobs, roaming packs of looters, martial law — the invisible signs of immanent collapse, all of which begin not to matter as the world economy and civil society crumbles.
The important buildings, the monuments, the statues are still there. But after a while, they, too, will begin to crumble. The only difference between us today and the ancient civilization of Shelley’s poem is that there are no new spaces to conquer; we are stretched to the limit — economically and geopolitically.
What’s more, given the perilous state of our environment, we will run out of resources, so it won’t be only a matter of the Chinese Empire replacing the American. Why? Because world empires need resources to maintain their hegemony, and there won’t be any resources left. As soon as we run out of carbon-based energy, we’ll start chopping trees with a vengeance. The entire world will resemble the barren wasteland of Easter Island.
Think I’m exaggerating? Check out the History Channel’s Life After People series. But before you do, I’ll go out on a limb and predict your reaction: You won’t like this series. In fact, you’ll probably agree with the prevailing wisdom on various message boards that "This is a Silly Show." The conventional wisdom says it is, so it must be. Besides, we don’t like the way it makes us feel. Uncomfortable. Inadequate. Irrelevant. Obsolete. Impotent. Helpless. Weak. Incapable. Vulnerable. Well, if we let things get to that point — no trees, nature completely destroyed, economy in ruins — we will be all these things.
To avoid this, we must act — for the Ozymandias moment is avoidable. At least one critic on the message board got it right:
“The show is not about why or how people are gone or have been removed. Degradation of cities and civilizations can be observed directly.
“But this show is fantasy. They don't know any of this will happen. All these buildings could fall and decay long before the last man standing is born. It has happened before to the Egyptians, the Mayans, Carthage, Chernobyl. But it is only interesting because we can see it in the past. It can guide us in the future.
“This show has nothing to do with science or history. This show makes wild speculations. It's only justification is to make us feel guilty for existing, and to look to a brighter, supposedly more natural, future without the species which is most offensive to nature; Humans. You. Everyone you know.”
Well, he/she sorta got it right.
Straightlining in Capitalism is Impossible
Another hallmark of capitalism: there’s no such thing as a “status quo;” there’s only up or down. A company, an economy are either in the black or in the red. Why? Because it’s impossible to hold costs the same from year to year. It’s impossible to maintain sales from year to year. Costs go up or down (usually up). Sales go up or down, and in this economy as markets reach their saturation point and there are fewer new markets to replace them. We will see a dampening in sales and profits, and therefore a continuing slowdown in investment. Declining employment. Lower tax revenues. Fewer social and community services. Yet, with the inevitable rise in paranoia, an increase in military spending.
How were we able to maintain such an advanced, abundant lifestyle? How did it get to the point of near collapse so quickly?
In his book, Confessions of an Economic Hitman, author John Perkins laid out the reasons we have maintained economic hegemony over most of the world for the last 65 years. Using a three-tiered strategy of Economic Hitmen (EHM), CIA subversion, and military power successive postwar governments, Republican and Democrat, were able to create and maintain markets. As he points out, most of the time we never had to use the CIA (jackals) or the military because our economic strangulation techniques totally destabilized the countries we controlled. According to Perkins, “The most common approach for EHMs is to identify a third world country with resources our corporations covet, like oil, water, wood, construction. Then arrange a huge loan to that country from the World Bank or a sister organization. But the money does not go to the people in that country. Instead, the target country’s government uses the loan to hire US corporations to build power plants, industrial parks, and other infrastructure projects that benefit a few wealthy local families, as well as the US corporations, but do not help the majority of the people who are too poor to use electricity, not skilled enough to work in industrial parks, and basically live outside the economic system. The country ends up owing a huge debt that it cannot repay. So we EHM go back to the country and say 'since you can’t pay your debts, give us a pound of flesh: sell your oil real cheap to our oil companies, or vote with us on the next UN vote, or send troops to support ours in someplace like Iraq.'
“On the few occasions when we fail, the jackals are sent in to overthrow the government or assassinate the leaders we EHM were unable to corrupt. This happened with me in Panama and Ecuador where Omar Torrijos and Jaime Roldos were assassinated as a result. If the jackals fail too, then the US military goes in — like in Iraq.”
Preserve the way of life at all costs. Play golf and keep going to the mall. And keep looking backward. The greatest generation. The good old days. Keep repeating the mantra: We’re the greatest country in the world. Keep repeating it, and we won’t be. We’ll have lulled ourselves so completely to sleep, we may never recover. We must start telling the truth; we must start turning things around. Think in terms of: this is the greatest world in the galaxy, and take steps to make it so.
A Cross Section of Pundits Suggests The Following
Paul Krugman, NYT – Jan 24, 2010
If Mr. Bernanke is reappointed, he and his colleagues need to realize that what they consider a policy success is actually a policy failure. We have avoided a second Great Depression, but we are facing mass unemployment — unemployment that will blight the lives of millions of Americans — for years to come. And it’s the Fed’s responsibility to do all it can to end that blight.
Sandy B. Lewis and William D. Cohan, NYT – June 7, 2009
We are in one of those “generational revolutions” that Jefferson said were as important as anything else to the proper functioning of our democracy. We can no longer pretend that our collective behavior as a nation for the past 25 years has been worthy of us as a people. Many of us hoped that Barack Obama’s election would redress the dire decline in our collective ethic. We are 139 days into his presidency, and while there is still plenty of hope that Mr. Obama will fulfill his mandate, his record on searching out the causes of the financial crisis has not been reassuring. He must do what is necessary to restore the American people’s — and the world’s — faith in American capitalism and in our nation. But time is wasting.
Thomas Friedman, NYT – Jan 23, 2010
Obama should make the centerpiece of his presidency mobilizing a million new start-up companies that won’t just give us temporary highway jobs, but lasting good jobs that keep America on the cutting edge. The best way to counter the Tea Party movement, which is all about stopping things, is with an Innovation Movement, which is all about starting things. Without inventing more new products and services that make people more productive, healthier or entertained — that we can sell around the world — we’ll never be able to afford the health care our people need, let alone pay off our debts.
Obama should bring together the country’s leading innovators and ask them: “What legislation, what tax incentives, do we need right now to replicate you all a million times over” — and make that his No. 1 priority. Inspiring, reviving and empowering Start-up America is his moon shot.
Frank Rich, NYT - Jan 23, 2010
There’s a reason why the otherwise antithetical Leno and Conan camps are united in their derision of NBC’s titans. A TV network has become a handy proxy for every mismanaged, greedy, disloyal and unaccountable corporation in our dysfunctional economy. It’s a business culture where the rich and well-connected get richer while the employees, shareholders and customers get the shaft. And the conviction that the game is fixed is nonpartisan. If the tea party right and populist left agree on anything, it’s that big bailed-out banks have and will get away with murder while we pay the bill on credit cards — with ever-rising fees.
Rush Limbaugh doesn’t agree, stating: “This guy from The New York Times, if he really thinks that humanity is destroying the planet, humanity is destroying the climate, that human beings in their natural existence are going to cause the extinction of life on Earth — Andrew Revkin. Mr. Revkin, why don't you just go kill yourself and help the planet by dying?”
Rush believes human beings are living a natural existence? Wouldn’t that be some sort of Jean-Jacques Rousseau existence? A self-sufficient, in tune with nature, consume-only-what-you-need, AVATAR existence?
Funny. I don’t see a generalized espousal of this lifestyle on our planet. I see a beginning. I see interest. I see lip service. But no wholesale rejection of consumerism. No I’m-doing-my-part-to-overhaul the very basis of expansionist capitalism, even as we face the end of expansionism.
There’s Nowhere Left to Establish Markets
South America? Africa? Well, we went through China in a decade. And now look what’s happened. They turned the tables on us. We’re the debtors. And it’s not like when we owed the Arabs. They loaned us oil money to get a foothold in our markets. The Chinese can keep the cash flowing until they own us, our markets, our technology, our resources, our amusement parks, our media — everything.
So how do we remedy our situation? We change the nature of the capitalist model. Money, after all, is energy. We need to refine the way this energy flows. How do we do this?
It's a two-pronged effort. First, we have to implement the suggestions put forth in the September 2005 issue of Scientific American. And second, while there's a lot to do on the scientific and economic fronts, there's even more to do on the humanist front. In other words, we are not capable of making the economic, political, ecological, and social changes detailed in the Scientific American article if we apply the same limiting analyses and negative emotions that got us into this mess in the first place. We see the results of this every day on Cable TV. Deadlock, gridlock, bickering, name calling, stonewalling, obstructionism, double-talk. No common ground in spite of the fact that we are up against Jared Diamond's Rule 3 for Disasterous Decisions: Failure to attempt to solve a problem once it has been perceived. It's not like we can't identify the problems we face; we can. We simply choose to ignore them. Extricating ourselves from this state of being requires a wholesale refashioning of human nature, which can only be induced by a mass change of consciousness.
According to Bruce Lipton these changes involve recreating ourselves as a less needy, more connected species:
“Our planet is facing what scientists are calling the Sixth Great Mass Extinction. The previous five were apparently caused by objects from outer space, such as comets or asteroids, hitting the Earth. This time, the cause comes from 'inner space' — our own invisible beliefs that have spun us outside the web of life. Beginning with monotheistic religion telling us that we humans are superior and apart from other creatures on the planet, exacerbated by scientific materialism insisting human technology has the power to 'conquer' nature, we have focused so heavily on our fitness as individuals, we have failed to recognize that our fitness as a species is up for examination.”
How do we change the negative aspects of our human nature? How do we overthrow the “invisible beliefs” and negative emotions that hold us prisoner? We cannot change human nature by any traditional or orthodox means. Not by prayer, not by good works, not by psychology, education, philosophy, law, medicine, science, politics is human nature changed.
If we could change our nature merely by prayer, or one of the other means cited above, we would have already done so for people have been trying these approaches for thousands of years. We need a new approach, something that’s never been done before. We need to change our consciousness.
How Do we Change our Consciousness?
That’s the role of energy cultivation techniques, such as kundalini — a powerful, yet dormant biological mechanism in the body that allows us to realize our full potential. According to Sri Ramakrishna, “A man's spiritual consciousness is not awakened unless his Kundalini is aroused.” Kundalini stimulates neuroplastic activity in the brain, and consequently, the ability to see and experience life beyond the physical dimension.
Because kundalini effects a complete overhaul of the being, it produces a change in our reasoning and decision making processes, and our nature as a whole. That’s what happens with a change of consciousness. The old individual is reborn in a bio-natural sense, as if his DNA had been modified during his present lifetime…and it has been. We will be able to see and understand, sometimes for the first time, the moral and logical implications of every decision. Gone, one by one, are the old addictions, the old habits, the old beliefs, the old emotional prisons. This new state of consciousness effects an overhaul of human nature. Over time our negative emotions vanish. We are no longer cogs in the machine. We are no longer mere consumers. We are active participants in our own future.
In effect, a mass kundalini awakening can change the very nature of our capitalistic economic system, because, once transformed, we will no longer be a “me first” species. We will be more self-sufficient, more in tune with our resources, more adept in creating new ones, more sharing and more loving.
Be well, be one, be clear!