There are many rewards in the future; there are many dangers too. One is called ‘crisis cults’. Chris Hedges (L.A. Press Club’s Journalist of the Year) interviewed Massey lecturer Ronald Wright, who said, “Societies in collapse often fall prey to the belief [called ‘crisis cults’] that if certain rituals are performed all the bad stuff will go away…. Crisis cults spread rapidly among Native American societies in the 19th century, when the buffalo and the Indians were being slaughtered.” image of hedges from truthdig.com.
A crisis cult is a social phenomenon, but responding to–or preventing–a crisis is a personal action that requires self-knowledge. I have always prided myself on being introspective–my Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is INFJ–but introspection may only be half the story. Philosopher Roman Krznaric makes a case for ‘outrospection’ or empathy in this video. image of carl jung from wikipedia.
In Canada, this crisis cult is seen in the annual budget ritual, which pretends that it’s business as usual. It might be good for business, but sometimes is not good for society nor the environment nor democracy. David Suzuki writes, ‘The federal government is crunching numbers for the 2013 budget. Now is your chance to tell the government you want your tax dollars to support programs that protect nature. Recent omnibus budget bills gutted environmental regulations.[<===click here!] But we’re not giving up on democracy. It’s more important than ever to speak out now. Let’s make sure Canada meets our most basic international commitments to safeguard endangered species, protect ocean habitat and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.’ image from wikipedia.
Though there’s a crisis going on, our curiosity is insatiable. For example, when is the tiny mouse neuronal structure like the universe’s galactic structure? Is this the pattern for everything, big or small? Maybe we’re just the wrong scale, maybe we’re blind to other scales of consciousness, or maybe we’re just a stepping stone. Maybe this is the best advice ever: ‘stay curious.‘
More maybes: Must’ve heard this song several hundred times, but I never clued in to what he was saying. Never too late, though:
Those words will be heard
By future generations
Ridin’ on the highways that we built
Maybe they’ll have a better understanding
Check it out’–John Mellancamp. image from wikipedia.
I’m curious. Where do I live? Turns out I was born and live in what is called the Upper Canada Land Surrender, a series of treaties between the Crown and various First Nations from 1764 to 1836. ‘During this period, however, … the pragmatism that had prompted the British Crown to protect Aboriginal interests in the Royal Proclamation  gave way to British paternalism.’ However, that paternalism is giving way to a better ‘understanding and interpretation of Aboriginal treaties.’ (Read here or here. Although this concerns a specific treaty [Treaty Nine] it’s told from a Native perspective.) image from nrcan.gc.ca.
One way of trying to understand what’s happened, what’s going on, and what might happen is to consider the evolution of our understanding of connection of the basic stuff in the universe. Light, for example. Before 1900, we thought of it as discrete, individual particles. From 1900 to 1950, roughly, we also considered it as interconnected waves. But now there’s evidence of oneness, of unity. Light, the sun, you, me are all part of a field. This isn’t airy-fairy New Age mysticism but cold, hard physics. Stay tuned, stay curious. Our understanding of the all-encompassing natural world often precedes our understanding of, indeed our shaping of, the human world. image of darwin from wikipedia.
Darwin had one illustration in his On the Origin of Species (published in 1859), a Tree Of Life, which ends in discrete, individual species. We now think of it as an interconnected web of life. What’s next? image of darwin’s tree of life from connectedness.blogspot.ca.
There’s a crisis cult in Canada, a longing for yesterday, a desire for this to remain fixed while all else is changing, a panic to cling to a rock in the rapids. But it’s a brave new world, and it calls for a brave new us. I used to be opposed, but I’ve changed my mind, because before anything else happens–whether it’s environmental reform or taxation reform or social reform–we need electoral reform badly. Last century we enlarged the vote, a huge gain in democracy. But without electoral reform, that huge gain will be lost. Democracy, our precious, fragile, noble achievement, will be lost. By doing something today you can vote tomorrow. image by tim fraser from the national post.
As long as the minority government (Harper’s) with the majority of seats benefits from playing an antiquarian game (first past the post), it won’t change things. As Andrew Coyne puts it, ‘Let me put it plainly: They aren’t going to beat the Conservatives until they change the electoral system. They aren’t going to change the electoral system until they beat the Conservatives.’ He isn’t suggesting a two-party system, nor a formal coalition, but ‘a one-time electoral pact. Party riding associations would agree to run a single candidate against the Conservatives, on a platform with essentially one plank: electoral reform. Were they to win they would govern just long enough to reform the electoral system, then dissolve Parliament and call fresh elections.’ image of coyne from wikipedia.
Only the Green Party currently supports electoral reform.
Elizabeth May examines the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) for undemocratic provisions. She writes that the business-friendly provisions in it ‘fundamentally erode a government’s ability to … protect its environment or the health of its citizens’ and quotes Barry Appleton: “It wouldn’t matter if you were adding liquid plutonium to children’s breakfast cereal. If you ban it and a US corporation loses its expectation of profit, you will owe money under Chapter 11 [of NAFTA]” Her solution? ‘Include clearly stated exceptions.’ However, ‘as explained by investment law expert Gus Van Harten, “The catch is that these exceptions are always uncertain and, ultimately, in the arbitrators’ hands.” … [There is] potential environmental impact of this degree of power being vested in an unelected and unaccountable body’. image by karen fox.
May notes that ‘Australia “will not support [investor-state] provisions in trade agreements that constrain [its] ability to regulate legitimately on social, environmental or other similar important public policy matters.” … When it comes to our domestic ability to enact environmental laws or regulations, Canada would do well to heed Australia.’
WE ARE IN A CRISIS but this is no cult–
In fact, to ignore it, to pretend it doesn’t exist, only heightens the crisis.
Here are five things you can do immediately:
- Laugh and dance
- Eat less meat
- Walk more and drive less
- Read labels and buy local and organic
- Turn off the lights, turn down the thermostat
First Nations tried to help us ignorant settlers, and are still trying. Many individuals and organizations are alarmed, including the David Suzuki Foundation, Leadnow, and the Sierra Club. For example, for the first time in its history, the Sierra Club Canada is considering civil disobedience. John Bennett, Executive Director of the Sierra Club Canada, writes this is ‘the campaign of our lives…. Democracy is more than just voting once every four years. When elected governments ignore the will — and rights — of its people, real democracy requires us to do more. Governments, no matter how many votes they garner, have a responsibility to respect the natural rights of its all citizens and, in Canada, that means our sovereign First Nations too. But shouldn’t there also be a right to protect future generations (or “seven generations”)?
‘In response to the climate crisis, the current government (elected by less than 40% of those who even voted) has chosen to back Big Oil and ignore science and public opinion. Instead of a seven generations approach they responded with a massive public relations campaign (paid for by taxpayers), and changing laws to bar future public participation in decisions that impact the environment (e.g. pipelines). It’s worth noting that recently revealed documents show that each and every one of the changes to environmental law contained in recent omnibus legislation were dictated by the energy industry while the voices of every environmental organization in the country (representing millions of Canadians) were simply ignored…. The Harper government has made its intention loud and clear: public opinion is meaningless and good policy is out the window; Ideology trumps all.
‘Repeatedly throughout the 20th century, people were forced to stand up to ideologues – often at great peril to themselves. People like Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. stood up to duly elected governments and demanded action using civil disobedience – it’s not a novel, or radical, idea. Nelson Mandela spent 28 years in prison for opposing government policy. These are the people who come to mind when the discussion turns to civil disobedience. Do we keep doing the same thing over and over – do we just go sit at the back of the bus [unlike Rosa Parks]? Or would civil disobedience make a difference? I really don’t know…. We’ve created a short and simple survey and are hoping you will (PLEASE!) fill it out today! It will only take two minutes and would really mean a lot to us!’