Virtual Illusion: Part II

From Hall’s Nanofuture:

So nanotechnology really does have two different meanings. One is the broad, stretched version meaning any technology dealing with something less than 100 nanometeres in size. The other is the original meaning: designing and buildign machines in which every atom and chemical bond is specified precisely. I’ll refer to the former as nanoscale technology…The capabilites and dangers of nanoscale technology are simple and straightforward extensions of current trends in the capabilities and dangers of chemistry, materials science, and microfabrication. The majority of techniques being discovered and trumpeteed as the ‘latest thing in nanotechnology’ today will be obsolete in ten years.

When I use nanotechnology in this book, I mean the original, atomically precise, sense of the word…Where a term is needed to make the distinction the best wrd seems to be eutactic. Eutactic means ‘well ordered’ and has the same import in the context of nanotechnology as the phrases atomically precise or low entropy. –Nanofuture, p.21 (Italics in Original)

And this from Scientific American’s Understanding Nanotechnology

Although nanotechnology is an enterprise of the future, nanoscience is a very much robust field today…Collectively this body of work is laying a solid foundation for future nanotechnology. In fact, over the past two decades we have learned much from science at the mesoscale, at dimensions between the atomic realm and those of the everyday ‘macroworld.’ Mesoscopic science has repeatedly demonstrated spectacular ways in whc our intuition and, more importantly, conventional approaches to extrapolative prediction, can fail as we shrink the sizes of structures to the realm at which their underlying physics is determined….

Despite being ‘nanoscopic’ (that is, of nanometer dimensions), mesoscopic structures comprise fundamental building blocks in numbers that are too large, in general, to allow easy theoretical modeling using conventional approaches of quantum physics or chemistry….

It is precisely upon such complex systems that nanotechnology will be built–nanoscale systems that are too large to be considered molecules, but not yet large enough to transcend the seemingly exotic mesoscopic world back to the ordinary realm of macroscopic. –Foreward, pp.viii-ix

Now, I don’t have the scientific, engineering, and/or mathematical competencies to really approach this topic from the inside. My background is more in history of science/technology, cultural worldview shifts, and so forth.

But as Hall says, this nanotechnology will be the Second Industrial Revolution–he considers computers and information technology to be the most complex development of the 1st Industrial Revolution, and he has a point, given that the primary fuels driving the engine of this Industrialization for the last 200 years has been petroleum and coal-based.

So taking the First Industrial Revolution–sliced into two phases, industrial and informational–and note the corresponding degree of societal change. It is immense.

On the beneficial side of Industrialization-Modernization:
–Increased Lifespans
–Elimination of many diseases
–Overall worldwide rise in per capita economic output
–Freeing up of women to enter the laborforce, either factories or mental workforce, and the consequent rise of Feminism
–Abolition of Slavery: without machine-labor, every agricultural society on the planet had slavery in one form or another.
–Worldwide Communication and Travel
–Flowering of Liberal Constitutional, Rule-of-Law and recognition of Pluralistic Societies.
–The Ennumeration of Basic Human Rights, never to be abrogated by civil society or political entities.

The Dark Sides of Industrialization-Modernization
–Especially in the early phase: ecological destruction, dangerous workplace environments, long hours, child labor in factories
–Massive transplantation of humans from agricultural-countryside environs to urban sectors. In countries without a large enough industrial base to keep up, huge poor sprawls and megalopolises, like Lima, Manila, Lagos, Mexico City
–The ripping of individuals from traditional ways of life, culture.
–Anomie, the vast pervasive sense of loneliness, isolation, and disorientation in the modern urban world, where the pace of life increases proportionally to the degree of industrialization.
–Disparities between rich and poor
–Rise of Fundamenatlist, anti-modern reactionary movements, some open to violence
–Rise of Totalitarian, Collectivist Forms of Governance, i.e. Fascism and Communism with gulags, police states, and concentration camps.
–Military-Industrial Complex and the exponential rise in civilian casualties in mechanized warfare.
–Colonialism.

All from the first industrialization. Without industrialization, the political, philosophical, religious, cultural, scientific advances of modern Western thought would never have made a substantial impact. Technology brings greater power and therefore responsibility vis a vis the natural forces. It is this depth that opens up space for society to express itself in more profound ways–sometimes more profoundly destructive, other times more profoundly empowering.

Nanotech will be bring yet another layer (or more) of depth to technology. I am not someone who sees technology as inherently anti-thetical to creation. I define the human as the Evolving Universe Aware of Itself thinking. And our thinking has been from the beginning about radical change and transformation, transforming even the very environment in which we live. All organisms live in a dialectical relationship with Nature–they both change the landscape and adapt to it.

The human species, in that sense, is no different, just incredibly more powerful in its ability to change. We have mastered the natural world. Nanotech very well could be an even more powerful digging into the very mesoscopic world, allowing us to re-fashion this planet literally atom by atom.

There is no going back. Human beings flock from the fields to the cities because they do not want to spend their lives toiling in back-breaking labor, disconnected, parochial in their vision. Human beings deserve the chance to have their work in life be of more value.

The Industrial Revolution only brought us so far, and the early Industrial phases are brutal. They are deeply undiginifed and in many cases inhumane.

On the other hand, we know from experience, that large numbers of (mainly young male) of unemployed are not beneficial either. If our technologies reach a point at which we no longer need humans to grow food or work in factories, that opens up the possibility (depth-wise) for humans to live their lives based on expression, transcendence, service, communion, and worship. We know, however, that freedom is not exercised by all those in our world who need not work.

The light therefore of Nanotechnology could be even lighter and the shadow more ominous and foreboding.

Hall is an unabashedly in favor of colonization of space. He thinks we have overrun this planet and that our searching transformative species code must send us to space. I’d liike to go on an interstellar vacation, but the idea of permanent settlement off our home frightens me in many ways.

We have spent so much time building consciousness on this planet. Our perspectives are so tuned to our earthly existence. Every creature is born at square one. By moving to space will small groups, re-tribalize? Hall, like many scientists, is very libertarian in his outlook. He sees government and instituttions as almost always part of the problem and not the solution. He is not lacking in proof for the idea that government, institutions, collectives act in irrational, counterproductive, and coercive, explotative ways. Human relations are always messy.

I don’t want the individualist bootstrap American philosophy of pragmatism to be the number one export to space. I’m not sure what the deeper value of largely disconnected nuclear-style families and small communities in space affords, other than a Masculine-desire not to be involved, re-lated, and connected with beings.

Obviously until the biosphere is objectified we will never be able to include it in a healthy way. In other words, until there are strong space settlements, and humans can literally see and envision the entire Earth, then they will not inherently identify themselves as members of Earth, as opposed to more tribal, national, familial, racial, political, and class identities. See the accounts of astronauts like Buzz Aldrin for proof of this assertion.

But to fly off into space and abandon earth is all negation and no preservation. Pathological Eros gone mad.

As this discussion begins to get stronger and stronger, an intellligent discourse will be retarded by the fact that the scientific community (especially in the States) as it approaches political-religious-cultural entities will be unconsciously interpreting the scientific evidence through their own (mostly unquestioned) political-social assumptions. Other groups will correctly pick upon some of the more libertarian (and even misanthropic, in extreme cases) modes of thought, conflicting with their own vision. The science will therefore, as Kuhn rightly argued, be caught up in intra-scientific battles, political-monetary PR campaigns, and social protest. Issues of power, politics, and ideational warfare could ensue.

As Rifkin has said, humans have defined themselves in large measure in relation to their work. But if we do truly produce mass-scale replicators, will humans need to work in the same capacities as they currently do. Replicators are a possible technological breakthrough of nanotechnology. A replicator is a small machine that will literally be able to produce basically anything simply from “scratch”, assembling the product atom-by-atom. Maybe a flying car.

The speed at which mass-produced industrialization brings the price of initially high-cost goods down is itself increasing. Nanotech., on the whole, would likely increase that trend even further. In the short term, however, the question might be: if initially such replicators only exist in the hands of militaries, the wealthy, and governments, would so they produce and amass such wealth so quickly as to put them more or less beyond the pale of the mass of humanity?

And what occurs if such a small segment, basically does detach (and combined with questions of genetic enhacement this gets I think scary fairly quickly), perhaps even into space in a worst case scenario, like a World Economic Forum helicophter off the roof of Hanoi into outspace. What if the populace is left with the ability to live off the products, no longer needing to work, but without strong security, intelligence and social capital, what then occurs?

As horrendously corrupt and inefficient as human collectives are, at least they keep people together.

We have seen with the initial phases of industrialization-modenrization that there exist an extremely small slice of enormously wealthy and powerful individuals. In the United States for example, the amount of wealthy, by our standars, is only 2%. Only 2% of the American populace retires with more than is needed. Most Americans, especially the Middle Class require subsidies, Medicare, Social Security, etc., all of which is leading to the enormous inflationary rise. They are now governmental-sponsored monsters, and at the current rate will not last solvently for my generation. This small segment, through its practice of inter-marriage, business contacts, and political patronage, has power and influence the likes of which, regular Americans like me, have no concept of.

So there are the extremly wealthy, a huge mass, especially throughout the developing world of the poor trying to make the transition to an industrialized-information economy, though mostly caught in a no-man’s-land between agricultural-agararian base and the sought after modern economy. Depending on the location and situation, many of these poor (males) likely organize to take care of their own security and advance their own political agendas. The violence that ensues is mostly local in nature. Like in the United States, most violence perpetrated upon blacks is committed by blacks. The same is true in other developing economies–say large swaths of the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Central-Southeast Asia.

Only a few, a select select few from such parts of the world exist become radicalized for worldwide, ideological terrorism, such as in al-Qaeda. The nubmer of such individuals is always likely to be very small, even if a state of local violence continues in many countries. The real fear of course being that in the first industrial phase, such a small group of dedicated, ideological, zealots could carry out such damage as in the 9/11 attacks, what would such a still small group be able to committ in a nano-tech era?

As Wilber has said, we need a corresponding Human Memome Project to balance the Genome Project. Our mastery-understanding of the physical and biological worlds will increase enormously and quickly in the next few decades, but we still are an ignorant species, ignorant of our own place in the universe, ignorant of our purpose.

We must return to this purpose, this evolutionary unfolding and create institutions that seek to allow people to flow through these waves of development, expressing the best aspects of themselves, allowing them to be defended from both above and below, while preventing any wave from attacking either above or below (unless in legitimate defense).

It is a huge task. Otherwise we may just continue these patterns of increasing disparities of wealth.

The faces of the rich and poor however could change.

What I found the most interesting was Hall’s history of the first industrial revolution. French science in the 18th century was the pinnacle worldwide. Their scientfic endeavors were supported by the government, institutionalized in the colleges, and respected throughout the culture. In England by contrast professors were still bound by Religious Tests (Newton was an Unitarian, a non-Trinitarian Christian but he had to keep this quiet for fear of the authorities).

England’s best and brightest scientifically were sent out of educational-theoretical pursuits, to more small-scale engineering and production. It is for this reason that the British came to control the 1st phase of modernization and industrialization, as opposed to the French who looked to be in the lead position.

Hall then states the US and Europe like the French, focusing on the theoretical aspects. Who then will become the British of the Nanotech Revolution? China, India, or even more interestingly he points to states in the Global South who may desire to leapfrog technologically? Who have the most to gain and the least to lose by going straight to the implementaion and invention, focusing not on the scientific-theoretical understandings.

Who knows, but we have only begun to scratch the surface on these important discussions of the future of meaning and our place in the world as a species.

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Published in: on December 31, 2005 at 1:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

GNR: Use Your Virtual-Illusion

Spent the last week reading up on the future of technology–especially bio and nanotechnology.

A List of the books on this subject I’ve finished:

Understanding Nanotechnology–a series of articles from Scientific American.
Nanofuture Josh Storrs Hall
Life Script by Nicholas Wade , the NYTimes resident expert on issues genomic.
More Than Human by Ramez Naam
Singularity by the (in)famous Ray Kurzweil
Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us long, famous, dire article by Bill Joy
Radical Evolution by Joel Garreau –personally my favorite of the bunch.

Needless to say this is a ginormous topic. I’m going to spend, I think, at least 4 or more posts on different angles of this all–genetic therapy/enhancement leading to the possibility of massively increased life spans; nanotechnology as the 2nd industrial revolution (according to Hall); the possibility of further speciation on the planet (a huge issue), either between humanity and (conscious?) robots or within homo sapien sapiens itself between the genetically enhanced and the “regulars” and the poor to impoverished to afford enhancements whether they want them or not; bioterrorism, nano-terrorism, if speciation warfare between the different species or intra-species warfare (civil war between robots for example); given the nature of this blog, theological issues involved (particularly what incarnation might mean in a scenario with genetically enhanced, mind-machine interface, will robots have consciousness and therefore souls, if so, are humans then the creator? Will the robots perform worship to human engineers, if so would they accept? What does idolatry mean in such a context? What constitutes an idol, if anything, in this future scenario?).

This is wide open territory. So any thoughts here are intrinsically experimental.
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For this entry, I’m going to focus on the Kurzweil-Joy-Garreau triad.

Specifically I want to focus on the Issue of the so-called Singularity.

In math and physics a singularity is a point at which the natural scientific laws that we have discovered cease to make sense. A good example is a black hole. At a black hole, the laws of physics (both Einstenian General Relativity and Quantum Physics) break down.

Or take the reciprocal of fractions less than 1. 1/10=10, 1/100=100, 1/1000=1,000

If you graph that of course you get an exponentially increasing line coming closer and closer to the y axis.

Now, that serves as the metaphor for the Singularity as used in the discussions of technology. This exponential curve represents the soon to come (depending on who you talked to 20-40 yrs.) spike in technological process. This upsurge in technological power will be so fast as to be mind bloggling. The 20th century, from horse and buggy at the start to text messaged power swarming protests, the Internet, flying planes–that degree of technological advance will occur within the first 20 years of the 21st century. The whole of last century will be like 20-25 yrs. And the rate increases faster and faster.

The three most important pieces to this puzzle are Genetics, Nanotech, and Robotics. GNR.

The Singularity it is argued will be so beyond our capacity to imagine it currently, that it will be, as a Singularity is in physics, outside the normal frame of reference. Our current “laws” of imagination are literally incapable of conceiving of this soon-to-appear world.

What Kurzweil and Joy agree on is that the technological change will be exponential. As Kurzweil says, at a recent conference he attended, only he and Bill thought in exponential terms.

So, first off, it may be that the change will not be exponential. Consensus, as in “everybody else thought in linear (non-exponential) terms”, does not necessarily mean anything. The consenseus is just as likely (probably more likely given the history of science) to be wrong as right. But I want to note, that the notion of exponential change is not quite controversial.

I, however, on balance, agree with Kurzweil and Joy. That the rate of technological expansion could in fact hit an exponential curve.

Now, to really simplify things (please read their writings for deeper analysis) once this Singularity hits Kurzweil sees a glorious, almost heavenly outcome: diseases are cured, humans live forever theoretically; pollution is eaten by nanobots. An utopian in other words. With a catch I should note. Kurzweil thinks that the possibilities of evil done through biotech terror will be thwarted by nanotech., and the nanotech terror possibilities thwarted by strong Artifical Intelligence. Then he notes, interestingly, what will guard us against Strong AI? Answer: He doesn’t have one.

Joy, on the other hand, sees the same basic evidence (technologically) and thinks rather of hell. He sees the human race wearing a giant bullseye, just waiting for someone(s) to fire. One of the darker scenarios is the so-called grey-goo scenario, where nanobots (nano-sized robots) are loosed on the atmosphere, self-replicating until they inhabit everything. Everything becomes grey-goo.

Now the largest downside to both these men (as described by Garreau, sees his fascinating conversation with Joran Lanier) is they are technological determinists. That is, in integral-speak, they have reduced everything to technological processes of the Right-Hand Quadrant (mostly Lower Right).

For example Kurzweil speaks of hardware and software. Hardware would be a human body, software being our intelligence. So, we create a robotic form (new hardware) where we simply implant our minds (software). Kurzweil also discusses reverse-engineering the brain. With knowledge comes power, and the knowledge of the most complex structure–that we know of–in creation is bound to be tied up with extremely deep power. The power in fact to re-do the brain (and the body for that matter). His evidence for the brain comes from the field of cognitive neuroscience.

Yet again, in integral terms, we see the reductionism. Both hardware and software “ex-ist” in the Right-Hand, 3rd person perspectives. Software, cognitive neuroscience is describing the brain as if from inside (hence the term intelligence), but is treated in a 3rd person point of view. Does anyone talk to the brain, er person, while scanning? Do you ask this brain how it feels? Of course not, so cognitive neuroscience is the inside of the outside perspective.

Kurzweil also, correctly, shows a graph of human technologies from the earliest stone tools to the most advanced of today, plotted against a timeline. And it is in fact a line of increasing capacities. Now, this graph is simply evidence, in integral terms, of Eros, of a Kosmic Push, through all perspectives, in this case the 3rd person plural ones, each later technology transcending and including the former–the hand-held hoe, to the animal drawn plow, to the steam engine, to the computer, etc.

Kurzweil unfortunately does not understand interiority-consciousness. In fact, just about no one in the field (or about any so-called educated person these days) does. One of the sub-sub-themes of Boomeritis by Wilber is if silicon-based machinery were to become self-conscious–see how more important that question is than whether they will have faster computational software than humanity…which is a given–would they re-tread the evolutionary morphogenetic worldspaces of humanity–going through a robotic form of the Spiral?

Now if bring back a developmentalist point of view to the discussion, I find something very intriguing. In Spiral, for example, there is not just an emergent leap between green and yellow (genuine novelty occurs in the move from any level to another), but what Graves called a “momentuous leap.” 2nd-tier cognition-values-morals whatever. I know I’m conflating lines here, just doing levels/center of gravity, its just a broad sketch.

The cognitive lines, as we know, develops without pathologies. Either you can “see” the answer or not. You can either take three nickels laid out flat, stack them one on the other, and then say you have one stack with three nickels, or you can’t. Children under 3 can not. They can count three, but not make the distinction between a class (stack) and the members (3 nickels). They will be able to do that later. But by the time they reach the cognitive capacity to correctly say 1 group, 3 nickels, they won’t do so in a dis-eased way.

Now technology increases rapidly because it is mostly powered by cognitive experimentation. Politics, self-identities, morals, culture, are all way behind of course because these do develop with innumerable bumps, pathologies, and bruises.

Now we already have “2nd-tier” (used as a shorthand for a general wave of consciousness across lines) science-technology. Things like cybernetics, chaos theory, biofeedback, and all the rest, not to mention the Internet, open-source, and all the rest. We don’t have the corresponding cultural (Lower Left) wave on a wide scale, nor therefore legal-political institutions recognizing such cultures.

Now the technology-science of the 20th century was deeply transformative, and yet sadly human morality-consciousness did not rise to an equally strong level on the whole. These technologies were used for horrific purposes.

We might say, that the 20th century science-technology was “momentous” in its leap, paralleling the degree to which the movement into 2nd-tier lines of development.

The Singularity then represents the fact that the science-technology of the 21st century will be exponential (even greater than momentous by a long shot). In other words, I would argue that the Singularity is the 3rd-person plural name for 3rd-tier existence.

The exponential curve, then, I surmise (this is extremely hypothetical thinking on my part) would parallel–technically tetra-evolve–in the interior perspectives.

Again, piecing together wild things together, Andrew Cohen–once described his vision of a conscious evolutionary portal. Now that is certainly out there, but I strangely got to thinking what might be the relationship between such a “portal” and the Singularity

A consciousness exponential curve in other words.

[Sidenote: I’m going to avoid weighing in on Andrew and the community and all the controversies therein. I’m just developing an idea I find very revealing and for now bracketing from whom this idea sprung. That’s a whole other can of worms that would be posts unto themselves.].

Evolution is currently the context, not a context of other contexts. The entire notion of transcend and include, prehending predecessor, is itself not contextualized, as many have noted. Evolution is the context (from a certain developed point of view) and not a context amongst others because we have not evolved injuctions-worldspaces-communal fact checking for 3rd-tier consciousness. Evolution, I would say, is the meta-truth of the 2nd-tier. Saying it is the context and not a context among others, is like Einstein saying the universe expands. Our minds can only conceive of the universe expanding into some priorly existing empty space. But the expanson is from itself, into itself, as itself. It is Evolution.

As Wilber says, every holon-perspective creates an IOU to the Universe. It can never pay-back this IOU, therefore eventually that level/truth loses its aboslutizing quality, is transcended, neegated, (exclusively) dies, and out of its ashes, arises a newer, fuller meta-paradigm which itself creates another IOU. The IOUs arise from the fact that no relative truth (pre-evolutionary, evolutionary, pre-Singularity, post-Singularity) is the Absolute Truth (Universe in this context).

That evolution is currently the context and not a context among others is its IOU.

Another integral maxim is: The subject of one stage becomes the object of the subject of the next.

Evolution, in the second-tier is the subject, the horizon. Only the third-tier will objectify evolution in some post-evolutionary worldspace. Once evolution is objectified, only then will humans (presumably) be able to effectively handle co-evolution. Once it is no longer absolutized.

Cohen called this an evolutionary portal, and interestingly, he described as like a take-off of conscious development….almost like an exponential curve I’d say.

As ancedotal support of this theory, I point to the practice of Enlightened Communication, the signature spiritual-communal injunction. I’ve been involved in quite a few of these. Basically the injunction is for a group to sit in circular formation and begin to speak about the arising moment-to-moment inter-subjective experience. There are a list of guidelines that support the main injunction. If done properly, that is if all members focus more on the inter-subjective space, inter-interiority, then there own process, then eventually the group will feel themselves having the same communal experience. They enter the same state (not stage) of consciousness.

Excursus: Obviously at this point, people are either free to believe or disbelieve my reflection. I would say, give it a try. I could be wrong, hallucinatory, it could all just be a commuanlly-induced experience where everybody says “We’re all having the same experience.” Fair enough. I would say its an experience neither more nor less open to questioning than any other. We could all be in alien vat made to have this sense of having experience. There is no way to prove or disprove that theory.

What I have never seen-felt occur is that once established in this communal state, there is an ability to take from that state about other issues. Many people like to term this experience “One Mind.” I do not. The quadrants are all the way up, all the way down. And the intersubjective quadrant does not possess a dominant monad. There is no Giant “I” up above all of us. At least in that experience, focusing primarily on the Lower Left in a higher-state. There is only the regnant-nexus agency/communion of the words-actions-consciousness between the members. Calling it One Mind assumes there is someone Mind in addition to the members involved with dominant agency. An “I” with dominant agency over a collective is called totalitarianism–usually fascist or Stalinist, leader-cult. An “I” over a collective in a spiritual context, might just be spiritual totalitarianism (hint to earlier Sidenote).

I would prefer to call the experience One Network, or One Networked Mind. My vision is its more like a series of interconnected but transparent tunnels-synaptic connections-nodes linked up. And moment to moment in the experience, any individual can choose to focus on the Network (the arising inter-subjective space) or their own mind. People fall in and out of the experience constantly, which is another proof of why I think its not made up. There are innumerable times when someone has spoken when I realized they was “dissonance” like the wrong note. I’m not a musician, but I can a wrong note. And at the exact moment, prior to self-reflection or discourse with another I could sense that others had the same immediate reaction–oops, wrong note.

But this Networked Mind has yet to be channeled to say global poverty. I’m more and more of the opinion that this channeling-focusing of that insight to relative issues–i.e. speaking from the state, while holding it, not about it and about how wonderful it is over and over again intersubjective narcissism if you will–until the technology allows for trans self-reflective verbal consciousness. I also think that the human cognitive capacity to handle perspectives and multiple lines of development also will require telepathic-like machine-mind interface dependent technologies.

Someone says something and immediately in an intersubjective space, that action/thought/expression is parsed among 12 lines, levels in each line, states, types, whatever. Its far out I know. All experienced in real-time as fluid perspectives, morphogenetic tendencies.

I’ve always thought that whatever the so-called third-tier is about, it has to about actually being evolutionary. Evoultion in the 2nd-tier is still separate from us. I would say technologically this separation is evidenced by the fact that I am typing with my fingers. Once body-machine interfaces occur, our technology will be united to our biology. If human self-conscious is the universe aware of itself thinking and our technological exploits are products of this same movement, then biology, technology, and Nature must come together.
Now because I am not a technological determinist I am not bound by inexorable visions of heaven (Kurzweil) or Hell (Joy).

Every development has brought greater possibilites for both good and evil. What scares me the most is the increasing rate of cognitive-technological development (since it by definition is not held back by pathologies)–as that rate increases our moral-value-consciousness development is not developing as quickly, causing a bigger and bigger gap between the Left and Right Quadrants.

If we look at the four quadrants, it is already clear, in the second-tier that humans know possess the choice to co-evolve or not. The higher stages of consciousness in both the upper and lower left do not pre-exist. Technology of course (Lower Right) is a matter of human choice.

What then of the Upper Right? This is the most difficult and probably, to my mind, the scariest. This is what all the issues of trans-humanism, biotechnology, and nanotechnology-biology interface is really all about.

If we return to the Great Chain of Being: matter, body (life-force, biology), mind, soul, spirit. What was the mind level in the old scheme roughly calibrates to the 1st and 2nd tiers: beige to turquoise in Spiral color coding. What the 3rd-tier (indigo up) would be then is roughly the beginning of the soul-sphere. Physiosphere, biosphere, noosphere, then….psycho-sphere, theospehre? This Great Chain analogy is not all that spectacular and maybe muddies the waters.

Anyway, if the higher stages and the technologies that open the material possibility for them to be inhabited consciously, are going to be more virtual, then we have to ask about the corresponding, if any, change in the Upper Right.

We have the reptilian brain stem, the paleo-mammalian stem, and the neocortex, each transcending and including the former. Must the 3rd-tier, the Singularity-era, need a fourth brain stem? Will this brain stem be in the form of trans-humans, robots, and/or mind-machine interface?

If such a process takes place, will these four-stem brains be the coming of the Theosphere, an embodied angelic form in a world created more and more by trans-reflective thought and communal meditation? Will the good and evil capable in such a worldspace be that previously described to the angels–both those of the light and the demonic ones?

Will the negating, transcending element of this rise happen so quickly that we will not include: humans merging with machines, living in space or virtual realms?

I’ll explore some of those questions in the next post I think.

Published in: on December 30, 2005 at 11:33 am  Comments (1)  

Year in Review


I began writing in a journal–by hand!!!–when I was in my first year of college. The first entry was on 12/27 [note: originally written on 27th], so ever since, today is the day I perform a year review. This was an extremely down year for me. It began with leaving Canada–against my will–jobless, scared that Chloe and I would break up, and not particuarly looking forward to moving back to Cincinnati.

I’ve spent a month in a monastery waking up at 3 am, praying, following the monastic schedule, including working in the egg farm. Then I returned home to spend many an hour working on my Grandpa’s garden, his yard, his basement. My regular job was as a janitor at the airport.

I left that in July. Chloe came to visit for a week. I then went on a two week Dzogchen Meditation Retreat, where I experienced the first real sustained “bite” of One Taste, which has stayed semi-permanently ever since.

I returned here to work now at UPS, after a miserable attempt to start some at-home entrepreneurial type enterprises. But amidst all that, other the month of July, the monastery in Februrary, I spend my days working, mostly alone in Cincy. Not much happening. Looking back on the posts from around March-April, it was clear that I was in a fairly serious state of depression. I have had return bouts, nothing as serious as then, during the last few months.

I’ve been very lonely and disconnected from any sense of being alive, being united to my purpose in life.

The reason I have read and written so much this year–mostly of a more academic nature–is in part to avoid the thoughts of the pain and suffering.

My entire life was mostly built around my identity as a spiritual seeker. But now that is gone. What I had built up in my mind as the eventual pinnacle (Enlightenment) turned out to be a joke…I struggle betweeen laughing at it (the right way) and seeing it as a sick, twisted, play.

Without that identity and drive as seeker, many of the blinders have been taken off. I feel so much more pain now that I ever did before. And given that circumstances have mostly forced me away from my Soul’s Purpose–marriage and priesthood–I’ve been left only with my ego, my frontal personality.

This was the year I had to take stock of how seriously I have neglected my own psychological growth. There are seemingly never-ending layers of shame and guilt that “I” have towards myself. How that works, who is “I’, the subject and the object is a little fuzzy, but we’ll just run with it for now.

Its part of a deeper struggle–that I don’t naturally love process, life as its happening. I’m so very goal and directionally-oriented, that I often do not leave anytime for embracing space, embracing moments. Its either go-go-go, meditate (from time to time) and drop out of it all temporarily, and/or sleep (same result as meditation, less effort).

My “Feminine”, if you will, the part of me that can embrace and be okay with life as it arises, only ever came through in my devotional practice and my embrace of the pain of the world. I lack a similiar acceptance in day to day social life–how often do I run into starving African children orphaned from AIDS?

Nor do I possess the same love-acceptance for myself. I can spend 20 minutes relaxing into a state of learning to embrace my vehicle, if people like that term–my ego, my body, my personality, my personal history, strong points, foibles, mistakes, obsessions, addictions, blin spots and all the rest–but it doesn’t seem to last.

We all have to make compromises–another lesson I’ve learned this year. Life is simply too hard to live with it as it arises moment to moment, without eventually, on some levels, resting in fixed perspectives. Of whatever sort. It is impossible not to screen out certain aspects of life because we would never be able to make any decisions, do anything, stick with any project, any choice, any set of relationships.

And yet that recognition mostly remains in my mind, not as of yet having truly sunk in emotionally, in a way that is relatively okay. I know ultimately that is everything is well, but that means shit when it comes to life. I can just as easily look in an observer mode at the history of the universe and see that there is a movement, a trajectory, but that doesn’t make this individual life any better. 97+% of all species in history have gone extinct to bring us where we are today. Those great technological advances in the human species have each been use to destroy fellow members of our species.

While the Universe is beautiful and ordered when seen from afar, it does not really seem to care much about the individuals involved. As soon as you enter the first person spaces, that vision will wear off, the vision of the observer, the detached aesthetic, in awe and wonder. Its wonderful no doubt, but it doesn’t teach me one thing about learning to love my life, this existence, this very minute slice of it all that I occupy.

In my most dejected moments, I wish I hadn’t seen what I’ve seen. I almost envy those with self-projects, of whatever variety. I wish I had one sometimes. This is not what I expected and part of me stubbornly clinges to what I wanted, as I deserved something.

But as Da says, “There are no winners with God.” “There is no victory.”

There is no victory in any of this awakening. I must take my part amongst the losers. Take up my cross every day.

That I know, but the Master also said that the burden was easy and the yoke light, and that we would take up our daily cross with joy.

This I don’t really know.

That is why I have placed the picture of Chloe and I. She is the only great light in my life currently. She is home. She teaches me what I myself do not understand. I wonder though how well she can teach me, when this joy comes so naturally to her. How can she teach me what she does almost accidentally, not very consciously, if at all?

Those who know me typically think of me more as a light-hearted, good natured guy. They might be surprised to hear me say I am one of the saddest of all men. But naturally I am more accustomed to the rain, to the hidden away places, to barren trees, as I cry with the heavens, mourning for all the ones who have no one to remember them, no one to grieve their ends. A soul-gatherer, hoping that his small actions, may let them complete their journey to the spirit world, to the light. If I am ever joyful, it is usually because so much else for me is grey and sad. Life for me is filled with great toil, so I can be joyful in public, bc “eat and drink for tomorrow we die.” It is my deep and natural sadness, my connection to the underside, the forgotten side of life that allows me to act happy. Why not have a laugh, everything is suffering around us?

Some see me as a leader, full of charisma, and want me to rise up. I want to disappear into the lonely places. I would rather be assigned the task that others do not desire–to re-collect the destroyed, disappeared of the universes.

That is my compromise. My ego seeks its escape, its defense, through this otherwise holy desire.

As Virgil said, there are “tears in everything”. Not everyone, I surmise, sees these tears. Or maybe only on certain occassions. But I do all the time. The only repsonse I know is to separate from the maddening crowd and cry along with all things, to sing the mournful song in unison. I don’t know how to touch, how to lead, how to call forth a different order. I can only paint pictures, vast grand pictures, replete with evidence from the underside. But with the living, I am often so confused and lost.

I know there is no ultimate karma in any of these struggles. I know it is all empty, shunya. I know there is nothing to utlimately worry about or fear in this. Still, I desire to heal, to make, however slight, a difference. I just don’t know how. I’ve lost those bearings, if I ever had them.
And without any sense then that I do make a difference, with having felt as if the Atman Project has run its course, my body, my mind, and my soul (at times) seek only the great rest beyond. The Final Sleep. To give room to some other child, some other more brilliant and loving than me, to have space for his/her vision. Paradoxically, I feel like I’ve already done everything I was here to do. My heart’s deepest desire has been the Vow to remain. But what happens if you don’t know how to fulfill the Vow, while still remaining? What if I have no one to show me the way?

Published in: on December 28, 2005 at 11:12 am  Comments (1)  

The Ecology of the Incarnation

Check this out

Our collective thinking is just not where it needs to be yet. Very well intentioned, especially in the more green Euro crowds. But too much pop-culture, chic-eco consciousness involved in many of these campaigns–CO2 reduction, GMOs, Kyoto.

Its one thing for the extremely well off, who don’t have to focus on national security issues (thanks to the “evil” American empire), to spend their money in ways with which I may not totally jive.

But I get very upset and nervous when individuals, communities, and interest groups seek to force rich governments to impose such thinking on the poor around the world. See: Zimmerman on the Green Wing of the Nazi Party

That criticism is of the hard core eco-crowd, which obviously most well-meaning individuals in green Euro groups are not. But the specter of Empire, of trans-national forms of governance that seek to limit modernization, republican forms of government (classical liberalism), free expresion, economic choice, political-cultural debate, and consutltative democratic procedures, always lies in the shadows of all this.

We don’t have a political voice for being neither naively pro-industrial (see America) or eco-green (as the movement currently exists), but seriously desiring both human development and biospheric flowering. There are individual voices of truth and sanity (Amory Lovins, Bjorn Lomborg, William McDonough).

That would be the greatest gift, I feel, for our world on this blessed Christmas.

O Little Town of Bethlehem,
How Still we See Thee Lie,
Above They Deep and Dreamless Sleep,
The Silent Stars go By,
Yet in thy Dark Streets Shines the Everlasting Light,
The Hopes and Fears of All Men’s Years are Met in Thee Tonight.
O Little Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to Us We Pray,
Cast Out our Sin and Enter In,
Be Born in Us Today.

AMEN.

Published in: on December 25, 2005 at 2:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Further thoughts on Rule of Law versus Democracy

I originally had written the following piece (see below) as a long comment to a thread on my buddy Vince Horn’s site. But I never quite got around to posting it. The thread dealt with the question of leapfrogging–whether societies/individuals who enter a modernizing process later benefit bringing in the latest technologies and thereby skipping earlier ones. An oft-cited example is cell phones, say in parts of Africa, Latin America, and/or Asia. Societies that are modernizing in these parts of the world are by and large skipping land line technologies and going straight to cellular.

In integral terms, the argument boils down to whether these technological advances are holonic–does the cell phone transcend and include the land-line? And if so, to what degree does the higher degree of technological advance, accelerate the holonic evolution of the Interior Quadrants in a society, particularly the Communal Lower Left? If you read the comments, they focused mostly on the more technical issues of the technology, precise about language involved, and so on.

Its a very interesting discussion, one that is in some ways beyond my techincal understanding–I don’t have all the context technically speaking of people like Coolmel, Vince, or Matthew.

Anyway, the post below was aimed in a slightly tangential direction: the absence, as I saw it, of intelligent discourse on the way in which culture actually is manifesting in many parts of the world and the deeper structural-evolutionary pressures inhibiting/advancing those movements.

Then I saw David Brooks’ piece in today’s NY Times (Note: Have you to be a member to read the article). So for those who don’t have the chance to read it, I’ll give a brief summary. Brooks discusses the recent presidential election of Evo Morales, an AmeriIndian–a member of the country’s ethinc majority-market minority–the first such individual to hold the office in the country. As noted elsewhere, Morales is part of a rising leftist, socialist-leaning movement in Latin America: e.g. Lula in Brazil and of course Hugo Chavez in Venezeula.

Brooks explicitly identifies what I consider to be the most misunderstood aspect in American discussions of world events–that democracy does not inherently bring rule of law and market-integrated economics. This “belief” that democracy=freedom (see George Bush’s) 2005 Inaugural Address is, as I have mentioned in multiple comments, a tenet of neo-conservatism (Think: Paul Wolfowitz & Bill Kristol, not Rumsfield, Cheney, Bush 43, and Condi who basically bought into it). As mentioned elsewhere, neo-conservatism has within its fold, a raging naive utopian liberalism. Democracy brings freedom is a mythic belief that does not stand up to reality.

[For a related discussion, see Matthew Dallman’s intelligent discussion of integral as a new form of: conservatism. He unfortunately, I think, is still not making the distinction between an integral conservatism and neo-conservatism Here he discusses Robert Kaplan, one of the more neo-conservative writers of the day. In Integral terms, Kaplan uses a vision-logic cognitive injunction, to promote a discussion of the world in terms of red-meme tribal-egocentric warfare, which must be countered by imperial blue-meme (mythic) American power. Now Kaplan’s discussion of the tribal state of the world are not inaccurate, just not the full story. Also Matthew cites (rightly) the heroism of the Iraqis in voting. The problem however is who are people voting for? Are they voting for a national Iraq, with rule of law, separation of judiciary-legistlative-executive functions, and a protection for minority rights? I have writen extensively about Thomas Barnett as a much more intelligent geopolitical thinker, who specifically critiques Kaplan for example]

So the US exports a naive version of democracy around the world, thinking that it will bring rule of law and integrated globalized markets. Brooks cites Amy Chua (who I discuss below) to correctly counter this ludicrous notion. What occurs in most instances is that a makert minority, and ethic minority–e.g. whites in Bolivia, who make up 3% of the population and own almost the entire economy–are voted out of office by demagogues who inflame the populace (Chavez is the master of this) and then go about overturning market economics. Now, I’m no fan of the mythic view of capitalism as solving all ills and bringing peace, wealth, and prosperity to the world. But state-run economics are even worse. To slightly amend Churchill’s quotation: globalization is not a great form of economics, until you study all the alternatives. And from an environmental point of view, it was state-run communist regimes who causd the most ecological disaster on earth. Liberal democracies with integrated market economics go through an initial phase of modernization that causes ecological damage, but then if they make it through the transition period, decrease the population and clean up their environments.

Brooks talks about how the World Bank-IMF movements in Bolivia were only macroeconomic and therefore came to be controlled by the already established, connected, and educated white elites of Bolivia. Brooks correctly says that the problem was not the macroeconomics per se, but the lack of microeconomics. Microeconomics would meet the AmerIndian population on their own terms and actually give help in ways they need, instead of creating more wealth-infomration divisions as did the flawed IMF-World Bank policies. Microloans, MicroBanks, small business coaching, these have been very succesful around the world.

Vis a vis Iraq and the Middle East more generally the issue is not that Southwest Asians (Middle Easterners if you like) are inherently opposed to economic liberalization and/or democracy. What they do not want is American social, cultural norms. That is why the Muslim Brotherhood, who is wildly popular with the Egyptian populace, its leader recently supported the Iranian president’s assertion that the Holocaust is a myth perpetrated by Western imperalists. That is, sad to say, a common view throughout the Arab world. Even among people with college educations.

Bush has put the US in a very difficult position. What he should be saying is we want rule of law (classical liberalism), instead he has opted (moronically in my view) for democracy promotion. Rule of law (even if harshly enforced at first) brings economic development, which creates a middle class who then clamors for more political freedom, and is the only sector in society who has the capacity to intelligently use democracy for worldcentric ends. Its, exactly how our country got to the position it has today.

The US supports Ayad Allawi, the secular Shi’ite with Sunni connections, for prime ministery. Exit polls show he will only gain somewhere in the range of 15% of the vote. If you took a demographic survey of that 15%, you would find, I almost guarantee it, that they would represent roughly the same socio-economic sector in society that the so-called Founding Fathers represented in the early US society. Recall the first we had a constitution that protected rights and only a slim minority voted (white, land-owning, upper class males). Or on the order of 15% of the colonial US population. Probably less, but you get the point.

So now, our government is stuck promoting democracy in regions where the individuals elected, if truly more democratic, would not represent US strategic interests…i.e. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan.

So the pro-Bush republicans think that Iraq will somehow be different than every other society in the history of the world–basically because we are there I guess. It took us basically 200 years to get adjusted to the transition, and still we have major problems in our country. And we expect Iraq to pull it off within 2-5 yrs.!!! The Republicans say it’ll happen, the Democrats say it won’t, therefore eject. But meanwhile, they all miss the point. It isn’t democracy stupid. Its rule of law. And for Iraq, I’m very frightened of the possibilities. The issue, at this juncture, is whether the Shite-Sunnis will form together. The Kurds are going have Kurdistan, and they deserve it. Its just a matter of time. They are further proof of security first (the No-Fly-Zone), economic liberalization–>middle class who wants political establishment to be based in more rationalistic, pragmatic policies and not religiously-inspired idelogies. They’ve handled democracy well because they have the bedrock upon which to build.

The real question is the Sunni-Shi’ite link. Will the Shi’ite ever see the Sunni as anything other than Saddamists, the tormenters and murders of their families? Will the Sunnni ever see the Shi’ite as anything other than the collaborators with the Americans, as the face of their own political-social-cultural demise and backwardness? As the emblem of their own shame, projected outward?

Are they just building on the sand?

Anyway, here is the original comment that sparked some of these thoughts. In terms of the leapfrogging-LR issue, Wilber has said that the level of technology is the single most important determinent in the average mode of consciousness (LL) in a society (sub-society for that matter). Single most important factor, not only. And in average mode, not sub-average or above average. But again the technology will cause a communal-cultural shift only after a time lapse, however long. And only IF, there is security and the rule of law. The rule of law does not exist very much for the poor around the world, so legitimate economics can not proceed. Latin America has received a dis-eased version of globalization and rather than heal it and get a healthy version, there are elements that seek to simply thrown the whole thing out. In Asia, the trend is towards revived nationalisms (Japan, Taiwan, China) and tribal mentalities, all of which could threaten the economic advances made over the last couple decades.

————-
I think we haven’t delved far enough into the dark side(s) of this issue. Vince you referenced possible negative outcomes, in fairly vague terms–things like chaos, and so forth. I’d like to see if we can flesh that out a bit.

The thread so far has centered around the more technical issue of in fact leapfrogging is a helpful category, and to what, if any, extent it would be transformative as opposed to merely translative.

I’d like to explore that technical discussion more in concrete terms, particularly in the context of the globalized economy and political-cultural scene. Now I’m not the techno-wiz that most of you are, but I agree with Coolmel that the concept of leapfrogging, when defined as cultures-nations who enter a technological phase later than others reap the benefits of getting the latest and best of the technology. Certainly this is historically accurate. The United States and Germany for example entered industrialization later England, and as a result, started off with the best equipment available at the time (2nd half 19th century) and for awhile outcompeted the British, who were locked into the older machinery. HOWEVER, and this is a big HOWEVER, in my book, England still overall won out economically because techno-economic progress is not simply a matter of creating more stuff faster than everybody else. There are so many other factors involved. Those other factors include business connections, military might, a capital-generating ethos (what Marx negatively called a fetish), and probably most importantly domestic rule of law.

To shift gears then to the world economic scene, as much as we can discuss that, given how enormous a topic it is, but some general comments anyway. The best book I’ve read on the subject is End of the Line: The Rise and Future Fall of Global Capitalism by Barry Lynn (editor at New America Foundation). Now this guy is not some wacko left-wing anti-globalizer. He used to be the Latin American bureau chief for the Economist—you can’t get more establishment than that I would say!!! Anyway, the core thesis is that with the dismantling of the Ford-era vertical industrial model, the world economy has gone into a dangerous phase, putting its faith and resources into an unsustainable model of outsourcing and offshoring.

I mention this argument because of Open Source tech and Peer-to-Peer as a model for spiritual development. The theory behind all these different paradigms, including the global economic structure, as far as I grasp them, is that by de-verticalizing and “flattening” discourse, economic transfer, technology, etc. more opportunities will be created worldwide, it will allow for greater competition, faster delivery of information, and allow greater collaboration worldwide. Why re-invent the wheel the worldover?

Now in certain limited cases, this theory has been proved (somewhat) accurate.

HOWEVER, and this is another big however, in many cases these models have resulted in massive negative unintended consequences. Take for example academia, where peer-to-peer, et.al, should be most conducive. Has this much dreamed about cross-fertilization taken place? Not very much. Mostly what occurs is that groups/individuals become so specialized in their research-knowledge they cease to be able to converse with one another or at least don’t have the time or desire to do so. We call this balkanization. And we know from experience, how much internecine warfare there is in academic, peace&justice, non-profit circles there are. Once someone finds a way to the scare economic-cultural resources of the postmodern, particularly in the United States, they almost always become instantaneously conservative and cliquish.

And in economics this process is even more dangerous. What has occurred Lynn argues is that firms so over specialize that economics is being balkanized. And what is worst, larger organizations, like Dell for example, who basically cobble together the products of other specialized firms, often exclusively contract with only one firm. So a firm in Taiwan specializes a sub-component piece of a microconductor, itself a sub-compenent of the computer. So what happens, if that firms facilities are burned down? Dell can’t make that piece.

Now the assumption, it seems to me, behind the more horizontal open-source, P2P vision, is that by spreading the net as wide as possible the entire structure will be much stronger. Leapfrogging allowing for the most up-to-date healthiest version of technologies to be installed as the medium for this transfer.

But what has happened, as in the example with developing markets and academia is that it creates more and more isolated sub-niches and neo-monopolization—or these technologies can be used that way it seems.

And from a socio-cultural point of view, take Amy Chua’s World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability. [Coolmel you’d like this one she’s Chinese Filipina, the Philippines is one of her prime examples]. She argues that the version of economics-politics being promoted by the United States (since at least Clinton, accelerated with Bush II) leads to ethnic minorities becoming market majorities all over the developed world. The poor ethnic masses then often rise up and seek to overthrow the ethnic minority rich cliques, leading both to ethnic cleaning and eventually to overthrowing market practice. Jewish oligarchs in post-Soviet Russia, Chinese throughout Southeast Asia, and Lebanese in parts of South America. She makes a very interesting argument that the West is itself an ethnic minority-market majority in terms of the rest of the world.

These ethnic minorities are balkanized, separated, often opaque and jealously inter-tribal, marrying only their own, keeping their economic wisdom and business contacts close to the chest. Of course as anyone who has ever been to the developing world and met such individuals they travel around with armed guards, have attack dogs on their roof, and so on.

Or The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else by Hernando DeSoto. Again these are not anti-globalization leftist tracts. These are middle-of-the-road people on the inside of globalization, who simply do not fall into pro-market ideologies. His argument overstretches at times, but the basic point is dead on. There is all sorts of capital—human, monetary, proprietary, cultural—in the developing world. But the majority have no means for legalizing this capital. DeSoto digs into some obscure legal maneuvers in the common law tradition of England to show how these legal precedents allow for the freeing up of capital to become itself both means and end. So leapfrogging in terms of cell phones or whatever can definitely occur in say Egypt, but those individuals have no legal means, no great job market, what are they going to talk on their cellphones about all day? As DeSoto notes, without legalization of the market, the poor/semi-poor of the world simply resort, as they always have done to shadow markets…black markets, Mafia, local wink-wink payoffs etc. (in integral terms “orange” market in red-meme tribal context). What are they going to do with all these “leapfrogged” means at their disposal when they can’t even insure their house or sell it on a market for God’s sakes?

DeSoto’s argument about how the poor/semi-poor simply revert to shadow markets for survival is a strong criticism of the view that there is automatically going to be revolution with increased technological capacity. The single greatest determinant of the average mode of consciousness in a Lower Left Quadrant certainly is the techno-economic base. The question Matthew raised is a good one, how much of leapfrogging technology is actually touching the base and how much is cosmetic? And even if such technology is striking the base, the Lower Right moves faster than the Lower Left. Any Right-hand technology can be used for any Left Hand motivation.

As I was saying earlier, with the British industrialization example, there is so much more unaccounted for capital (in all quadrants) that goes into real stability-transformation, that there is, in my mind, a helluva lot naivety in assuming cheaper more efficient technology=accelerating of global consciousness. It to me represents a bunch of undigested, unexamined, liberal postmodern hooey.

The argument about the Singularity could theoretically go in reverse. Taking into account balkanized-processes and unexamined-undocumented modes of capital, with ever-increasing speed of technological innovation, the poor could be further and further left behind. With all of the quadratic factors that must go hand-in-hand so the technological can stabilize, the amount of investment-education needed for these other quadratic factors might begin to totally outstrip the ability of any developing society to keep up. The technologies themselves might get incredibly cheap and can be sold to the Global South, but so what? If the technologies are maximized when used by the level of consciousness that created them (or higher), then the maximization process in the West may begin to exponentially explode.

We know that without governmental oversight, capitalism leads to massive gaps between the rich and poor. As the techno-economic base becomes more and more information-based, this knowledge resource in the West (and pockets of “modernity” throughout the rest of the world) may go way beyond our means.

Not to mention that the technology is being fused more and more with biology, then there are serious ethical questions about the future of our species.

The difficulty as all of the books cited point out is that the West had 300 years to modernize—modernized on its own schedule, depending on its own context. There was not real universal suffrage in West Europe and US until after World War II. And we go around spreading the ludicrous notion that democracy is inherently liberating. We assume democracies automatically vote in liberal constitutional rule-of-law governments (for the insanity of that notion see Fareed Zakaria: Illiberal Democracies., especially his thesis that the Western notion of secularism grew out of the experience of the rise of the Papacy as an institution separate from the governing structures of the day). In the same way our marketization was mostly controlled and taken in steps. And the version of markets we promote in the developing nations is the Wild f’ing West.

There are deep resentments and historical grievances from nations-societies being forced into modernization and all its discontents against their choice.

So, from my perspective, the main questions are not about this or that technology, new mode of communication, and so on, however important those may be, and they certainly are. The question is how can we come to a balanced appreciation-healthy criticism of our own road to modernity, and also actually be of service to others around the world. How do we balance giving expertise where in fact individuals have such expertise, but in a way that actually strengthens the local populace and ultimately entrusts their own development to them? Add to that the thorny question of while such countries undergo the tumult of advance, outside countries are rightly allowed to defend themselves from attack—in integral terms, the higher can not destroy the lower, nor allow the lower to destroy it. All that bracketed by the question of whether the “West” will allow non-Western forms of modernity to grow. Chinese modernity is not going to be atomized, individualized Western modernity. There will be deep structural affinities but not perfect deep structure 1:1 match, nor certainly in terms of surface manifestation.

I mention those books because I feel there is still a lot of unexamined assumptions in this so-called integral group. Mostly, it seems, people kinda carp and snipe on this one, instead of facing some healthy self-criticism head on. I think, and I’m as guilty of this as anyone, that we are still not acting like big boys and girls. Wilber’s integral philosophical system, to me, is like a set of keys that are supposed to open doors to intellectual and moral understanding. But instead of using the keys to unlock the doors and participate-learn about our world(s), we incessantly argue about the size, colors, shapes, make-model of the keys themselves.

Just to give an example, the book references are all validations of Ken’s writings of the dignity-disaster of modernity. He mentions there that the number one source of suffering in the world currently is what he calls the pressure-cooker shift from blue-orange (in Spiral language). Because the West forfeited its spiritual element, leaving only arts-moral-science, then eventually just science (infected with the lost spiritual element becoming scientism) plus its market-ideology, it is seriously messed up the deep perspectival grooves of the manifest world. The entire moment-to-moment patterned existence is structurally dis-eased. All of the other references above are variations upon that theme—I think they are required reading. That is, they give much more detailed information as to how that process is actually playing out in the world. Ken has given the overall vision of the fracture point that has led to these multiple later breaks. Without the overall panoramic vision, each of the aforementioned authors falls prey to absolutizing their own relative insights. Without the concrete display of this working, integral becomes (mis-used) wildly dis-embodied, de-politicized, and mostly translative.

I believe that integral is actually out to heal that fundamental structural dis-ease. That is what I think we have to daily remind ourselves of. From the Absolute nothing is wrong—dis-ease is only the shadow of the light. There will always be the poor, no doubt. But only relative praxis is actually going to heal that wound. That wound is the issue…without getting at that, at the source of the pain, then all others innovations however brilliant will be manipulated for profoundly questionable aims.

And if that all seems a bit dark on my part, I said at the beginning we should examine the shadow. I am simply saying that there are always unintended consequences to everything, no matter how well intentioned, and the key is to be vigilant, humble, and have a sense of humor-seriousness about the whole thing. Otherwise what the hell are we doing?

Published in: on December 25, 2005 at 7:04 am  Comments (2)  

Humorous Interlude

Ecce Snowzilla

That is genius. I’m totally jealous. Wish I did something that solid-gold. My favorite piece of the story is how dude had to use a power drill to make holes for the arms bc the thing is pure ice.

Published in: on December 23, 2005 at 11:21 am  Leave a Comment  

Saintly Departure

Just finished reading Leaving the Saintsby Martha Beck. She is the daughter of one of the greatest apologists in the LDS (Latter Day Saints–Mormons) Church. In the book she recounts the story of being sexually abused by her father, her life long struggle to come to grips with her own spiritual journey, and eventually leaving the Mormon Church. It is a really powerful read in many ways–touching and humorous at times, deeply disturbing in others.

Her story, prima facie, seems grounded, although it is entirely possible that she has either invented the thing for publicity or is simply being honest about memories she has that may in fact not be historically-based.

Beck has a very strong spiritual life, and recounts numerous spiritual experiences common throughout the spiritual legacy of the human race, especially of the subtle-soul level nature. She is a great example of a modernist spiritual seeker. A sociologist by training, she explicitly discusses her theory that mystics are scientists of the soul. She studies all the spiritual traditions of the world and begins to practice. She seeks evidence and undertakes spiritual practice like an experiment. Her empiricism, is best described as “experientialism”. She follows in the footsteps of great spiritual experientialists like William James (The Varieties of Religious Experience), Aldous Huxley (Doors of Perception), and the like.

She shows in other words that as Wilber has pointed out, it is not modern epistemology that has destroyed spiritual practice and religious belief, it is postmodernism, especially Continental European philosophy. Postmodernism is based on the notion that all truth is context-dependent and socially co-constructed. The contemplative path, experientially understood, typically involves a solitary quest that seeks to experience transcendent, sometimes seemingly non-embodied states of consciousnses and realization.

As a totally unscientific proof of Wilber’s thesis that postmodernism (not modernism) is the real negater of contemplative spiritual worldview, I would point to my year of philosopy studies at Fordham U., part of my training to be a Jesuit priest. Fordham is probably (along with maybe Villanova, also Catholic by the way–European, Catholic, shouldn’t be a surprise) the strongest philosophy department in the US devoted to Continental postmodern currents of thought. North American, especially US departments, are so analytical, logically postivistic, lingustically, and pragmatically oriented, that the European tradition is relegated to a minor staus. The point being the graduate students in the program, wonderful people mind you, were by and large, influenced as they were by postmodern constructivist currents, that religion was simply a social force or lubricant. It wasn’t outright atheism, at least not combatively so (that would be too modernist see), it was more just neglect, irony, and indifference. A much tougher nut to crack.

But in essence they were right. None of the great traditions have managed to answer the terms of postmodernism.

Beck does often mention her Mormon cultural upbringing but it is never really tied more profoundly, I think, to her religious quest. It has at times given her wise insights, at other times violated her inner sanctity, but ultimately the balance lies in her own individual choice as to what to keep, what to forgive, and what to jettison. She promotes a more spiritual libertarian point of view, I would say, with each individual best able to choose for him/herself their own spiritual path (including her children).

She also delves into some telling issues relating to Mormon theology. I’m not some world expert on Mormonism, but the basic facts are fairly well known. Mormonism–which is for many reasons not the preferred term but it is the one most people recognize–began with Joseph Smith, a 19th cenutry American. He claimed to have received a vision from the angel Gabriel (who also it is reputed came to Mary announcing the virgin birth and Muhammad commanding him to recite the Qu’ran). Smith is said to have been directed by the angel to a series of stones on which were recorded The Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is considered a third testament–Old, New, and Mormon–superseding the prior two which, though not incorrect, had been corrupted by Jews and so-called Christians (again like Muhammad).

There are actually multiple groups within the so-called Mormon family, the largest and most famous being The Latter Day Saints. The LDS are part of a larger movement of Christian-like groups known as Restoratiionists. The Restorationists Churches include Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, among others. Restorationists, as the name implies, seek a Restoration. What was “lost” they feel was the Faith, from early on. According to these different creeds, the Church (meaning the Catholic-Orthodox Church) feel into what they call the Great Apostasy–a Church-wide total loss of the true-faith. This occurred by different calculatinos somewhere around 100 A.D.

So for 1700+ years between 100 AD and the mid 1800s when Smith received his vision, there was no true Church, no true believers, and no true prophets on earth. Smith was the new prophet to “restore” the true faith.

Smith apparently, so goes the story, translated the tablets by placing his head in his hat (to induce a darkened visual field no doubt) and then emerging having conversed with the angel and completed the work–note: many official Mormon accounts doubt this version of events.

Either way, Smith translated these “texts” or so he claimed. Smith was known to have practiced traditional diviniation techniques with his father and most likely had ties to Masonic thought. [That connection might explain Mormon practice of secretive rituals involving special handshakes and the like].

The Book of Mormon reports to tell the story of a group of Israelites who flee the Holy Land prior to the fall of the Southern Kingdom in 600 BC only to arrive in the New World. These ancient Israelites become the basis for the Native American Tribes of the Americas. After the Resurrection Jesus comes to visit these long lost “Jews” and tell the great news–this event is not recorded in the Bible, only the Book of Mormon, for those wondering how you missed out on that story in Bible School. The two “tribes” of the Jews of the New World eventually begin to fight one another and Mormon and his son Moroni are the last prophets of this tribe. Moroni writes the tablets in an ancient Semitic script prior to his death and the total annihilation of his tribe, to record the events for future generations.

Mormon theology holds many beliefs that put it at odds with traditional forms of Christianity–Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and mainline Protestant. For example:

1. The existence of a Third Testament that supersedes the New Testament
2. Non-Trinitarian Theology. This is probably the biggest. Mormons, unlike all traditional Nicene Christians, do not believe in a Trinity (Father, Son, and Spirit as One God). There is only one Creator and Jesus is his son, in an almost literal sense. They are separate nontheless. Again, with its strict monotheism, not the relation to Islam.
3. The Leader of the LDS is considered to be a Living Prophet (from Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, down the line to today’s prophet Gordon Hinckley.
4. Reference to a Divine Feminine, co-equal (?) with the Creator. A Divine Mother Figure, not much spoken about.
5. The teaching of exaltation. Very unique to Mormon theology-spirituality. Exaltation is the belief that upon death, those Mormons (and only Mormons are able to receive this privilege) who are especially sanctified–and male, and most likely married to multiple women–will become gods. No problem here, this is the basic teaching of deification. Here’s the twist though. They will become creators of other worlds, in other universes it seems. THEREFORE
6. The Creator-God our universe was a man on another planet in some other lifetime. God, is not, therefore, as in traditional monotheism (Jewish, Christian, or Muslim) a transcendent unconditional Spirit, no bound by time-space, incorporeal in nature.
7. Only Mormon baptism will bring one to the heavenly realms. Mormons can and do, consequently, perform baptismal services in the name of the dead. Every wonder why Mormons are so interested and helpful when it comes to genealogies? Thought it was just down-home curiosity? Think again sucker. There is no mainline Christian equivalent. You can not baptize someone, in Christianity, without them being present bodily and alive.

What is probably the most interesting facet of Mormon theology and revelation is that it is a mythic level narrative that arose in the modern rationalistic post-mythic world. In other words its mythic faith claims can actually be tested. As opposed to every other great world religion–where is the proof or disproof that Krishna ran with all the milkmaidens, that Jesus of Nazareth rose out of a grave, that Muhammad did perfectly recite the angelic voice, that those tablets Moses got up on the mountain were inscribed by God’s finger, or that the Buddha was born out the side of his mother’s womb?

Mormonism exists then in the no-mans-land between the mythic (blue meme) and the rational (orange meme). Mormonism, mythically, tries to connect the Biblical Abrahamic tradition with the American notion of Manifest Destiny. Remember the American revolution was instigated by some self-serving yet truly visionary group of East Coast Deists and Masons. But that vision would never totally seep into the otherwise very religious culture, especially that growing in the Westernly expanding US. I discussed in an earlier post (The Two Truths of Christianity) the relevance of the First and Second Great Awakenings–particularly the Second–in terms of inculcating the American vision into the less educated, more religious-traditional masses. Mormonism is definitely part of that trend in 19th century America–prior the large scale immigration of Europeans and Asians in the later half of the 19th century.

Mormonism is the most explicit in its linking of the Abrahamic narrative with the American vision, which explains why Mormons have typically been so patriotic, have even been recruited (specifically) by the CIA.

[Aside George W. Bush could be viewed then as the first president to explicitly play the card of uniting the power-consitutional authorities of the Deists with the Biblical faith of the masses. Most presidents have been Baptists who seek to strongly separate the two, and while most Presidents have been believers-church goers none has made a platform and an evangelical voting block as has Bush the Younger].

Joseph Smith, I would surmise, was a party to some deeply profound spiritual insights, but his “frontal personality” may have suffered from some excessive narcissistic attributes–his taking of multiple wives, speculations on becoming a god-creator of another universe, viewing himself as the Last Prophet since Jesus…all those might be interpreted quite interestingly by an ego.

Insofar as Mormonism exists in the Blue/orange sphere, I would identify it as (mostly) fundamentalist. Fundamentalism, I can not stress enough, is a thoroughly modern phenomena. It is not a premodern phenoman. It is a modern attempt to re-assert the pre-modern. Hence Beck’s father is an apologist. He tries to use to the resources-tools of modern thought to proof what is essentially mythic. Hence he always fails.

In the 1960s a scholar (though not himself a Mormon believer) recognized a papryus at the Met, as the translation by Joseph Smith of the Book of Abraham–again not recorded in the Bible, part of the Mormon extra-biblical canon.

The papyrii were Egyptian in origin. The original Mormon community purchased them from a local traveling exhibit. In the meantime, thanks to the Rosetta Stone, Egyptian hierogylphs were de-coded. So experts translated the Egyptian documents and compared their translations to those of Smith. The results were not so good, if you a Mormon that is. A Mormon apologist argues that the document that is now translated as the source for the so-called Book of Abraham is not the real document Smith used. That document must have perished in the Chicago Fire of 1871, as was originally believed by everyone, until the discovery in 1966 of the papyrus. Yikes. Rational-level attempts to save myth are quite tortured]. See overview here: Wikepedia is obviously not the most sound of sources, but on this one topic anyway, this is the basic story. Does a good job of listing traditional Mormon arguments against the claim of Smith’s bad translation and scholarly counterclaims].

According to Smith, the Book of Abraham tells of Abraham being laid on a sacrifical altar by an Eygptian priest, like Abraham was later to have (almost) sacrificed his son Isaac (Book of Genesis) or his son Ishmael (Qu’ran). Beck claims that her father basically re-enacted in some sense the supposed story. She has flashback memories of him binding her, as a sacrificial victim, and performing Egyptian encantations. That’s quick sick, if true. Her father (the Hugh Nibley referenced in the Wikepedia article) correctly identified the papryus as the Egyptian Book of Breathings, related to the Book of the Dead, concerning the proper religious rites over a mummified body.

Also the Mormon belief that the Native American and Pacific Islander tribes are the descendent of ancient Hebrews has been put to the test with genetic testing. Unfortunately, as modern anthropology-forensic studies have shown, the indigenous tribes of the Americas came across the land-bridge of Alaska from Siberia, making them Asiatic in origin.

Beck’s difficulties with the Mormon establishment–she was for a time professor at BYU during a spate of scholars being accused of heresy, others being silenced-admonished-strong armed-threatened–during the ’90s. This period apparently was a time of Church crackdown. Those crackdowns, it seems, have more or less run their course. In this sense, the Mormon establihsment is following a pretty traditional pattern–although in quite an accelerated fashion: 1. mythic 2. questions to the core of the theology led to some pioneering theologians and a brutal backlash by the religious establishment 3. apologists of the Church in elite, academic circles basically accept the original criticisms of #2 pioneers, but not to describe this church-wide. Leads to a massive disparity between the intelligentsia and the “masses” of the Church, with the leadership in an unenviable position. 4. some reconciliation of these forces, a modernist turn finally seeps down to the common level. The more conservative-reactionary elements may split at this point.

The Mormons are currently in #3. The scholars causing this injunction-shift are known as the FARMS (Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies).

So to parse it memetically.

Smith’s diviniation practices: purple
The Tribal in-group sense: red
The mytheme: blue
Fundamentalist-apologetic/official Church theological reflection: blue-orange
FARMS: orange (Orange/blue?).

Beck and her husband both left the Mormon church officially. According to the dogmatic-mythic interpretation, they will spend everlasting days in the outer darknesss-worse than hell. Hell at least has fire and torments. The outer darkness is cold, dark nothingness, total despair. But Kant was right, ultimately, not religious institution-dogmatic theology can invade the sanctity of the inner world. We all have to become responsible for ourselves, especially in terms of our spiritual journeys.

Beck rightly points out that most of the Mormons she knows are kind people, flawed but simply trying to live out their lives the best they can. Their opinions are probably in many ways unexamined, but generally they are willing to steep outside their boundaries, to interact with others in concrete situations. And they certainly leave room within the community for many to develop. It is as Beck says, usually, the religious establishment whose sins are the most damaging. Their livelihoods, their standing in the community are based on power, often abuse of it. To keep the imbalance, fear and shame-based tactics are often employed. Meanwhile the average church-goer loves his/her church deeply and yet doesn’t understand why there have been such evil deeds done by their leaders. Why the scapegoating, the secrecy, and the legal-hardballing expected of corporations but not churhces?

As someone who spent four years of his life in a Roman Catholic seminary, during the height of the clerical sexual abuse scandal (and bishops scandals of protecting the insitution and attacking the victims), I agree (mostly) with her assessment. There was certainly a lot of ignorance and unquestioned assumptions around amongst the regular church-goer, but there sins, at least religiously, never seemed as nefarious as those in responsiblity-authority. Most of the sins of the pew-warmers are just ignorant. The leaders, in some cases, know better, on some deep level they know better, and yet they continue on locked into their fear and guilt. People like Martha Beck’s father.

Published in: on December 22, 2005 at 1:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

Barnettization III: Christian Theology and American Empire

This is an extremely difficult topic, so any thoughts are of an exploratory nature.

There is an old saying in the tradition, that we should be in the world, but not of it. It’s a fine line, one I have tried to tread in life, at times falling down to both sides–disconnected from the world or too immeshed in it.

That teaching becomes even more complicated in an evolutionary framework. And evolution itself struggles. Spirit has clearly moved into the modern-rational sphere–therefore globalization is part of a divine desire. There is plenty of evidence that can cited in its favor: absolute decreases in utter poverty in the last 20 years, decreased mortality rates, increased longevity. Plenty of negative evidence though of course: greater disparities in wealth, environmental destruction, transnational forms of violence-oppression-criminality.

The morphogenetic patterns are themselves dis-eased, particularly since the rise of the so-called orange wave of modernity and the later so-called green wave of postmodernity.

The forms of globalization argued for in a Barnett is the only viable future political vision, as I see it, and yet it itself is still caught in the dis-eased warp–referred to sometimes as Flatland/MOM (Mean Orange Meme).

An example. In Germany there are large chunks of un-incorporated (I use that word purposefully–coporate=body) Turkish populations who still practice tribal social structure. Women are furtively brought in from the Turkish countryside and forced to marry a man in their early teens. If such a girl is raped or seeks to flee this forced marriage, she faces persecution and possible death, usually from the hands of her own family, who have been “shamed”–according to their worldview–by her insubordination. Now for a long time now, the German populace has turned a blind eye to this phenomenon, mostly, it appears, out of guilt. Think when the last time the German state started ordering around non-German populace within its borders, even “enforcing” their rules upon them….hint: Treblinka. Add to that deconstructionist postmodern thought–which in Continental Europe has always (rightly) been seen as social-political and not a literary art criticism (and not philosophy) as in the US–and you have a major problem. You have a government ostensibly promoting “tolerance”, which however well intentioned, is being manipulated (unconsciously in large measure) to contiue oppressive social-familil structures.

And yet on the other hand, to wholesale “enforce” secularization-modernization on a population would cause innumerable harm as well. It is violence, psychic violence pure and simple, in most cases. Again well intentioned no doubt.

That is the world we live in regarding the modern globalization project. It is so massive, so earth-shattering, so revolutionary, that it can not be cause massive chaos. It does lead to a better future, which itself has its own sicknessess. We live longer and have greater access to food, only to suffer cancer, heart disease, obseity, and diabetes in numbers unheard of in human history.

Barnett mentions towards the end of Blueprint for the Future that he was surprised how much of a response he received from clergy-theologians. In this case, then, I’m just part of that gathering. He said his parish priest, why mostly a liberal-pacifistic type could not allow himself to be morally “relative” on the question of injustice. In fact, there never is a moral neutrality. Omission and comission are sins. Neither, is there ever a perfect moral act. Acting, in any way, involves light-and-shadow, but inaction, is in many cases far more evil.

It reminded me of a similar passage in Friedman’s Lexus and the Olive Tree, where after laying out his pro-globalization picture, he asks, “What room if any is left for God?” He mentions a Rabbi friend of his who said it was like the Internet. God will be involved to the degree that we bring God into the picture. Its our choice in other words.

Those are helpful but still pretty shallow, I think, takes on the subject. Friedman defines himself as a “compassionate flatist”, and Barnett seems mostly the same. He is a flatist–no real transcendence there–and yet compassionate. But how many “flatists” are really going to be compassionate? What’s the moral high ground to make such a claim, if the process itself is seen as so inherently flat-neutral and so forth?

Yet I can only make these musings because I’m not dying a slow gruelling life-death on a German field. Or condemned to the misery of the pueblos jovenes-favelas-shanty towns of the Global South….megalopolis of death, despair, and misery.

Even more so, the thought of contemplating such a worldview vis a vis Christianity brings up all the old ghosts of the lurid marriage of imperialism and religion. In Globalization 0.0, if you like, (Discovery of the New World), it was Catholic missionaries riding on Spanish-Portuguse man-of-wars. In Globlalization 1.0 (1870-1919, European) it involved mostly mainline Protestant missionaries, especially from Great Britain (Presbyterians, Methodists, Anglicans, Baptists). In Globalization 3.0 and 4.0 (3.0=1989-2001, 4.0=2001+) it involves many American forms of religion: Evangelicals, Non-Denominational Megachurches, Pentecostals, Mormons, etc. Each religious form allied with the nation-state(s) setting the pace of globalization.

With China rising to a co-lead status with the US, it will be interesting to see how this plays out, given as I said, that if China were to open itself up to religious practice, more modern forms of Christianity (witness South Korea) would be in a position to sweep wildly across the country. A Neo-Protestant ethic.

The first great phase of the as-yet-to-be-modernized world involves of course The Near East/Central Asia. The second phase will involves Sub-Saharan Africa–particulary if modern economic-political structures arise in the Middle East, terrorists will be forced to wage the Global Jihad from places like Ethopia, Somalia, Sudan (for Bin laden, that is a return to those places).

All this taken into account, this flattening process is horrifically brutal. It tears up so many customs and habits that have accured over centuries, that, while in many cases corrupted, are also based on a great deal of acquired wisdom-truth. The transition process is so painful. I’ve seen it first hand. Of course technology is going to increase at a faster rate, but the transition is never going to be smooth.

And what of the warfare, is pre-emption ever a moral necessity? When war itself is nothing other than hell? All the soldiers who will be vicitims of post-traumatic stress unable to readjust to “normal” life. The drugs, divorces, spousal-child abuse, suicide, loneliness, and general insanity.

In integral psychology, we discuss how an individual has to temporarily regress to serve transformation-healing. Blocked out memories have to be unleashed and eventually faced for one to come to eventual healing. This vision, outlined in Barnett, is like a social version of regression in service of transcendence. It is one thing to see the chaos-pain of, say a woman, coming to admit that she was sexually abused as a child. For a society, for a nation-state to temporarily undergo the suspension of the enforcing rule-structure (repression in psychological terms) is total madness. See Iraq. People got to vote, without any serious conflict. For a day. That day was beautiful, the images haunting, but now the populace will return to be haunting only be the sound of sirens, car explosions, disappearances, gun-fire, and midnight raids.

During the Clinton years will lived in naive, splendid isolation and ignorance. The Old West (minus the US–W. Europe, Canada, Japan, Australia) still cling to the illusion that such a blissful uknowing state of self-centered irresponsiblity is possible.

Now for the US, the cloud of naivety is no longer self-centered withdraw, but excessively out of touch, imperial, unbalaced optimism. The dark sides of such zealotry and unshakeable self-belief are well known to all–except those esconsced in the bubble.

Western Christianity has dealt with this, mostly, by focusing on doctrine-individual ethics/politics, usually involving sexuality-gender. This set of foci keeps the believers disconnected from asking these larger social-political-economic questions, allowing them either to manipulate such a system, profit from it, and/or be fodder for the ever-hungry beast.

There are hopeful countermovements, especially in Evangelical circles. They are leading the fight to bring awarness in US political circles to issues of religious freedom, poverty, etc. Some of these groups, however, as I mentioned are de-legitimized by their cozy connection to US full spectrum dominance. The more liberal traditions have typically not sent out as many missionaries–they don’t have the numbers, energy for one–and have lost touch with their core values, I feel, leaving a vacuum filled by others, whose motives and worldviews are not always as developed.

If we cast a long term view, there is an arrow to the universe–technologically, biologically, culturally, politically, spiritually, psychologically–there is a direction, a purpose to the entire created/creating process. But it can only be “seen” in a 3rd person point of view, which by definition, is a non-participatory, observer, perspective. That arrow gives me hope.

Even it though is a sign of so much pain, suffering, and waste. Billions of years of evolution. Nature red in tooth and claw. Yet the beauty of the vastness of space, the solar systems, the mountains peaks of Earth, the flora and the fauna. All the endless cycle of creation and destruction. Birth and death.

The human instantiation is so much more gruesome, to watch us inflict that pain–consciously,unconsciously, semi-consciously–and to watch us flinch from the blow in terror, is the most terrifying scene of it all.

The arrow is now self-conscious and will not simply continue a pace. The beauty of the recogntiion is equally as horrible as the recognition of the responsibility and consequences involved.

There are not many asking these questions in the Churches I fear. Beyond the endless conservative-liberal non-debates. And for those with a more integral pull, the integral vision is so far ahead now of our time, that its translation downward is becoming weaker and weaker by the day. More and more, I think, relegated to academic circles and 1-2-3 easy step-by-step light spirituality.

Because for those of us who have truly let the integral paradigm sink in, it reveals a worldspace that has no room to speak anywhere in our sad broken worlds. It only increases the beauty-pain of seeing more yet being able to do less than what one sees is possible. And I mostly feel guilt for the few who seek a guide, a deeper reading, I feel like telling them to run, to forget any of these notions. They are going down a rabbit hole, and it will be excrutiatingly full of pain and peace, suffering and beauty, empowering and disabling, ever after.

And there is no real support system when you enter this world. You will be incomprehensible to friends, family, yourselves. The world becomes liquid, cascading into percentages of solidity before your eyes, mindspaces thrust outward, coagulated into existence. But no words will come out your mouth as this display displays before you. As you. Through you.

In the subtle we experience a profound embrace from the Divine. In the Causal, the peace of the Great Beyond. But beyond all those relativities, what is left? What is left when you realize even the peace is relative and no more absolutely better/worse than the chaos? When the feelign of love and being accepted by God, amazingly profound, is itself still a bit too serious? Too needy, too affirming, too boxed in, conditioned, and patterned? What then? What therapy is there for that?

What if the realization of Godhead is itself the source of my sickness? What then? What if I can’t forget? And what if could, temporarily, but its even worse than living in remembrance?

And this question of the globalization ethic fades into near nothingness. I haven’t answered the question I set out to explore. Its simply dissovling like all else in this nameless expanse. The expanse who sometimes leads me to laugh at other times to a state beyond boredom (I can’t even name it let alone describe it), but lately leaves me more stunned, incapacitated, shrugging my shoulders, wanting simply to sleep a long sleep, to simply have it all go away without yet coondemning it or finding myself superior (Gnostic-like). Just feeling like I’ve already done everything I came to do, questioning whether I’ve renigged on my Vow, and having only a Heart that opens up, without any real sense that it means anything to anyone.

Published in: on December 16, 2005 at 7:32 am  Comments (3)  

Barnettization II

Just about finished with Pentagon’s New Map: Blueprint for the Future–I mistakenly read the second volume before the first. I’ll go get the other one from the library tomorrow.

There are a couple of minor policy recommendations I take issue with, but overall I see the vision as, in its essentials, correct.

If we had honest political debate in this country each party would have to admit the following.

The Democrats: The UN does not work. It does not have the means to do much more than pass resolutions and, in essence, voluntarily ask dictators to stop being dictators. It also leaves elements, both within the institution and in the larger “West” (think France) using the situation to their own financial ends, usually through black market-like means.

When it came to Saddam, only a US military venture would have thrown him from power. Another round of nuclear inspections, UN resolutions, and crippling (to the populace but not al-Tikriti himself) sanctions would have done nothing to bring him down and ultimately bring the people out of poverty, disconnctedness, oppression, and despair.

We made a promise, whether rightly or wrongly, after the Holocaust that our country would never allow this type of thing again. But we did in Iraq, we did in Rwanda, we continue to in North Korea. What happens when these modern-day Hitlers don’t invade Poland or aren’t aligned with the Emperor bombing Pearl Harbor? What happens when there is no Soviet Union to war coldly with? What do we do with these failed realities? Is pre-emption ever a moral necessity? These are questions the Democrats have not sufficiently asked or answered. That is why they continue to be vulnerable to attack from the Republicans on weakness vis a vis defense/the war on terrorism.

The Republicans: The war effort and the coalition forces have been undermined by Americans back home. The war effort has been undermined by the following:

1. No post-war planning
2. Leaving the Defense Department and not the State Dept. in charge of winning the peace (see #1)
3. Originally having no political vision for the country beyond a short-term holding period ending in Ahmed Chalabi, an exile, becoming king (see 1,2).
4. Creating an ambiguous legal atmosphere that created the strong likelihood, if not inevitably, of Abu Ghraib, rendition, and other related torture-abuse issues.
5. De-Baathification, especially dissolving the military–largely Sunni–who make up large elements of the insurgency.
6. Not believing the British that an insurgency was bound to occur the longer we stay (recall the British were the last Western occupiers of Iraq)
7. Having no Sunni Strategy (see number 1-6)
8. Allowing Moqtada al-Sadr to threaten the Ayatollah ali-al Sistani leading to the more moderate Shi’ite religious factions having to side with the Iranian-backed SCIRI
9. Not having any sense of the religious-cultural-political-historical situation of Iraq (see numbers 1-8)
10. Not ever having the proper number of troops to deal with the post-Saddam era (again 1-9)
11. As per 10, not being able to control the border with Syria, leading to the influx of salafi jihadists inspired by al-Qadea’s “theology”
12. By setting an unnecessary quick assault deadline, the administration left us with no substantial allies to help shoulder the cost/manpower issue.
13. As a result of 12, the administration had to base the case for going to war on Weapons of Mass Destruction and supposed al-Qaeda/Saddam links.
14. No WMDs ever found, intelligence found to be faulty–and probably cherrypicked by forces within the VP’s office–nor any links from Saddam (a secular Stalinist who employed Arab tribal customs to his advantage) with al-Qaeda (a transnational Sunni Salafi terrorist network, seeking a violent return to the Medieval Sunni Islamic caliphate, at its height centered in Bagdhad).
15. The administration never asked for the participation of the civilian-industrial-economic powers domestically.
16. First president ever to cut taxes while at war.
17. Leading (without support) to the biggest budgetary and trade deficit in the history of our country.
18. Without proper troops levels (see #10) rioting ensued after the takedown of Saddam. American troops guarded Oil Fields and (to this DAY!!!) are stationed in Saddam’s former palace while they lift no finger to stop looting of the Iraqi National Museum. How’s that for a messgae sent to the people–are we liberators or imperialists?
19. While hyped currently as a positive for the prez, the administration spent the last two years doing zilch in terms of training Iraqi military. The military is untrained and the police forces have been inflitrated by Iranian-backed militas who are carrying out revenge killings and terror-campaigns on Sunni populace. (See James Fallows’ recent article in the Atlantic).
20. Without sufficient funds and manpower, Army not properly equipped, losing morale, forced to re-deploy many times over, recruitment numbers not reaching necessary minimum levels, Reservists have been essentially turned into full time soldiers, etc.

If I’ve forgotten anything, others can fill in the details. Point being on 1-20, there is not one Democrat involved in any of that. That is all the civilian command of our military, the President and the Secretary of Defense being the two most important decision makers in the process. Obviously compared to all those basically criminal mistakes–at least negligence–Cindy Sheehan, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, and Howard Dean look like the political midgets they are. Sure some of their actions/inactions have undermined morale, let’s say, but nothing on the scale of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfield cabal. Period. End of sentence. That’s not comparing apples and oranges, that’s comparing 5 apples versus 10,000 Orchards. [FYI: Just to be fair, John Kerry currently has with Gen. Clark the most comprehensive plan for Iraq it is just that due to his own arrogance-stupidity, it won’t get a hearing].

If both sides could peform a massive mea culpa and public penitential rite, we could perhaps get down to the issues raised in Barnett and Garrison. But sadly that doesn’t sem to be the case anytime soon. Although, as of this writing, Iraqis voted, relatively safely, and there is word that the President will not veto McCain’s Amendment on Torture. As I’ve said before, it is going to take a moderate Republican(s) to make any positive movement. That would be Sens. Graham, McCain, Hagel, and Warner. And perhaps the Hawkish-voting Dem Sens. Lieberman and Clinton.

Look’s like the Barnett futuristic globalization piece vis a vis Christian theology will be next (for real this time–sorry didn’t know I was going to get on a rant there, but now that’s out of my system, I’ll get to the other topic at hand).

Published in: on December 15, 2005 at 1:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

Barnettization

Been reading Thomas Barnettthis week. Written two incredibly important books: Pentagon’s New Map and Blueprint for Action. The guy has caused a massive intellectual shakeup in the Pentagon. [I’ve actually taken the hitherto unheard of step of actually requesting I-Naked to interview the man].

Its the best book on politics I’ve read since Jim Garrison’s America as Empire. It just so happens, in my opinion, that those books are the only two international policy 2nd-tier works to come out at least since the War in Iraq. I use 2nd-tier, from Spiral, to avoid the (in my view) unbalanced arguments about “integral”. On both sides (see next paragraph).

Now, as all visionaries tend to be, he is giving you the grand strategy, panoramic vision, so the nuts and bolts are de-emphasized, but so be it. He is, as are all visionaries, optimistic. In this day and age, reasoned optimism is very hard to come by. The books almost singlehandedly restored my faith in the power of human reason.

Anyway, back to Barnett. The Pentagon’s New Map is a vision for the 21st century, and angry liberals be warned, it actually comes down to America (and others) aggressively promoting markets and security measures (i.e. regime change where necessary) in what he terms the non-integrating gap.

The non-integrating gap consists of parts of the Carribean, Andean South America (I’ve been to Peru, so I can vouch for this one), Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East (aka Southwest Asia), Central Asia, and (parts of) Southeast Asia.

The non-integrating gap, as the name suggests, is countries who are not linking up to the global economy. Barnett reviewed all the American military incursions in the post-Cold War world, and found that 95% of them occurred in this non-integrating gap.

The Core (opposite of the Gap) consists of (most of) The Americas, Europe, Australia, Japan, China, India, Israel, with Russia with a foot in both camps, but leaning in his estimation to the Core.

The Core’ s mission is to shrink the Gap.

My biggest argument since day one with the entire Bush’s administration’s policies in Iraq, is that it would destroy the American people’s willingness to involve ourselves overseas and that a renewed wave of isolationism would occur. Sadly, this is happening. That is why I have never participated and will never participate in anti-Iraq war demonstrations because I think, as well meaning such individuals are and as I sympathetically disposed to such views for a number of reasons, the criticism has never been based on the world we are living in. It has been based on an unexamined assumption that we should not be involved in the affairs of others. One man’s meddling might be another’s responsibility.

The Iraq War was a most dismal occassion for me, as I could neither support the naive pro-American position–I mean just at look at the people making the decisions…George Bush, Donald Rumsfield, Paul Wolfowitz, and the VP. I mean enough said. Tommy Franks once referred to Douglas Feith (NeoCon, #3 man at the DOD, 1st administration) as the dumbest f’ing person I’ve ever met. Tommy Franks–Gen. Tommy Franks, not exactly the Clausewitz of the American Army mind you. Feith believed that Israel was just waiting for us to ask them to invade Iran, and once they did, the students would all rise up to embrace Isreal-US. And you wonder why Colin Powell almost went into apopletic shock around these bozos.

On the other side, to simplify matters, war protesters in the street. Who would I imagine have been in favor of the continued UN-sanctioned embargo of Iraq, which managed to make some money on the slide for UNsy folk, Saddam, the French&Russians, and allowed, by their own count, half a million Iraqi children to die. Wasn’t exactly successful that one.

But scratch the surface and things get very interesting.

Derrida wrote that Marx was the future of political thought. That statement, prima facie, seems ridiculous given the fall of communism and the total loss of the socialist vision. Derrida, following his philosophical premises, believes the primary is that of absence. The forgotten, the marginalized–the feminine for example. The underside in facts grounds the “overside”–without women no men. So Marx in facts grounds all capitalistic thinking.

Now, as I written before in this blog, neoconservatism traces its roots to Trotsky. Perpetual socialistic revolution is translated to perpetual democratic revolution.

And Barnett, in that sense, is a Marxist. He is, as he admits, a economic-historical determinist. Hello, who is the father of techno-economic-historical determinism (EHD)? Karl M. of course. Robert Wright, father of the Zero-Sum theory, is himself also a EHD.

So Marx is inherently tied to the future of capitalism and world economy, not by “Marxists” yelling in the streets of Rome and San Francisco simultaneously, but to the very core.

And the EHD argument, based on the evidence of world history, is that you first have to have an authoritarian regime which creates order in society, allowing for the opening of economic markeets, which eventually creates a middle class which will call for the opening up of the political structure. Only a significantly strong middle class, aligned with the rule of law (independent judiciary, no fear of a military junta takeover) is able to responsibly handle democratic procedures in a republican form of government. (Again–the US is not a democracy, and thank God for that–it is a republic with certain democratic features). For the request “color-coding” of that, only an amber wave (blue meme) governmental structure that opens up economically (orange) in the Right-Hand, eventually changing the techno-economic base which will bring a concomitant transformation in the Lower-Left (also to a modern-orange wave of development) that can handle the means of electing rule of law worldcentric governments. Otherwise democracy is opened up too early and the people vote in a dictator. History always shows that if the military-economic-technological development outpaces the political-social development, a military dictatorship is inevitable.

This stuff is amazing. So, with the initial tacit approval of political-social authoritarianism plus economic freedom (China anyone?), the current parties in the US are stymied. You would think the liberals should be the ones against the tyrants, but typically they are only against the US tyrant. So the liberals (consciously or otherwise) condone Saddam Hussein-like figures. The conservatives are now the ones with (formerly) liberal impatience. They balk at this vision of things because it requires long term strategic thinking, playing realpolitick (Barnett mentions that it is time George Bush play Richard Nixon and go to Iran and let them have a nuke–and he says that to the Pentagon!!! Talk about some nuts).

So the liberals are not “liberal” enough in a way, and Bush is actually too liberal, in all the wrong ways–at least the Dems taxed and spent, he just spends.

Barnett’s injunction gives him such a widescope that he can clarify so much. Here is a typical move he pulls on the pre-war argument between Donald Rumsfield and Gen. Eric Shinseki, on the number of troops needed in the War.

Rumsfield (in)famously argued for a small fighting force. The lowst estimates were in the range of 50,000!!! Shinseki, being the old military brass, argued for 200,000. The final number ended up right in between, satisfying neither party.

Barnett says that both were right, er half-right. Rumsfield was right that a smaller invasion force could topple Saddam–it happened. What Shinseki was right about was that 200,000+ were required to secure the peace. We didn’t have them, the rioting-insurgency, lack of reconstruction, and now we have New Orleans post-Katrina on a scall of 22 million. Won the war, lost the peace.

Barnett argues for a separation between The Network-Centric Military of Rumsfield (mostly Air Force, Special Ops, and Navy) and the Army as winners of the peace…Barnett terms this SysAdmin (Systems Administrators). SysAdmin consists of peacekeeeping forces, reconstruction efforts, linguists, political consultants–the State Dept. with teeth in other words.

The point at which America can re-connect with our allies is precisely this point. We are no good, to put it mildly, at SysAdmin. We are the Leviathan of militaries. There is no need to argue otherwise. Does Norway need to involve itself in War operations? No, but they are sure as hell are involved in everything afterwards.

More importantly will we be wise enough to involve China in the stabilization post-conflict process of say a country in the African Union? Will we have the foresight to have the Chinese train the African Union soldiers to protect their own citizenry? If you think that’s a bit out there, check out his argument that the US will not transform the Middle East until we have a mutually-coherent military alliance with the People’s Republic. Turns out most of the oil from the Middle East (2/3 of it currently) goes to East Asia. We (currently) get only about 10% of ours from our sanded brethren. That likely to change after it starts to run out in other places and 90% of what is left is over there (so says Matt Damon in Syriana, very good film by the way).

China, as I said before, is the great example of this EHD plus interiority vision. Certain liberal voices will not stomach that because of censorship and violation of human rights (certain conservative, especially Christian voices as well…doesn’t get much press but if China freed everything religiously, Christianity, in different forms from Roman Catholic to Protestant Evangelical would quickly ascend to the primary faith of the country. Just like South Korea.). And the conservative foreign policy people are too hyped up about China overtaking us and being our enemy to talk strategic alliance.

So neoconservatism, in other words, was correct in that failed states and kleptocracies (usually made rich by oil) either aid and abet terrorism (Iran) and/or create breeding grounds for internecine/inter-tribal civil strife and transnational terrorism (Egypt, Saudi Arabia). Further correct, to the degree that this occurred, is the EHD-element of neoconservatism, replacing socialist proletriat future for rule of law-democracies a la Francis Fukuyama.

Where neoconservatism went haywire was in uniting with the unilateralist American empire crew–Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfield. Neoconservatism 1.0 (Wolfy, Feith, Bolton, Perle) failed in its mythic belief structure in America empire-mania. And in its total lack of perspective on the degree of difficulty involved in post-war stabilization-reconstruction.

The SysAdmin is the future for those interested in post-liberal, post-conservative political-social work.

I’m going to compose the next post on how this futuring relates in the context of post-metaphysical Christianity. As best as I can that is.

Published in: on December 13, 2005 at 10:33 am  Leave a Comment