My intention for this blog is to explore how a new worldview can overcome the crushing difficulties humans, and especially Americans, face today. Issues in economics, environment, politics and religion threaten our civilization. We can’t continue to do more of the same, hoping for a different result. This week the four top stories put these issues into sharp focus, and demonstrate the interconnections the problems present.
First, you could be forgiven for not realizing that the 2010 United Nations conference on climate change is taking place in Cancun, Mexico. Referred to as COP 16, it is the next step in the process that made huge headlines last year in Copenhagen. Yet, American media has been virtually silent on this year’s meeting; indeed, very few world leaders are participating. The damage that results from the inability to reach agreement on emission curbs in Copenhagen is magnified with each successive year that passes without change. Did we give up ever solving this problem? The main focus of discussion in Cancun seems to be the creation of an offset market for carbon: a way for corporations to buy forests and jungles thousands of miles away and then to pollute at will. Any form of cap-and-trade will fail to stop pollution. The current belief that any solution to climate change must not harm business will doom that solution to failure. It is precisely how business operates that is the problem. The only market-based solution that has a chance of preventing carbon dioxide emissions is a tax placed on carbon at the point of extraction, but opponents of that idea suggest that by adding to the products’ cost we will force prices to increase and thereby hurt the economy. That position ignores the steep costs of inaction, and the fact that we will all pay the price for our inaction. Placing the carbon tax revenues into programs that mitigate the effects of pollution, or to compensate the victims of the extraction process, can help. History shows us that by allowing corporations the ability to buy up large swaths of trees, native people who have lived on the same piece of terra firma for hundreds, if not thousands, of generations will be shoved aside without compensation or legal recourse. After all, we have to do what is best for business, not the people, is a core mantra of today’s paradigm.
And speaking of “just kicking the can down the road”, or of “don’t change what ain’t working, instead let some one else make the hard decisions”, we see that Congress is poised to continue the low tax rates and increased spending policies that have brought the American economy to the brink of collapse in recent years. It is sad that despite the election rhetoric about cutting the deficit, the notion that we have to do what is best for business, not the people, trumps common sense once again. Tax cuts for the richest among us, amounting to 4% per year which most likely will not be spent in ways that boost the economy, will add nearly US$1 trillion to the deficit over the next two years. So much for the idea that we care enough about our future to solve this problem. Forecast: next two years, same as the last several. The poor slobs who win elections in 2012 will get to do the dirty work. At least that is our only hope now, that someone will eventually do what is needed.
“You are what you do in the dark” is one of my favorite sayings. Meaning: the reason I am so passionate about supporting freedom of information and the right of the public to know what its government is doing, is simply that the acts you take when you think you can hide in darkness or behind closed doors, prove what kind of person (or government) you truly are. To stamp everything “secret” and then bemoan the fact that your secret gets out is reprehensible, disingenuous, and certainly morally bankrupt. Who is at fault here? Is it the person who lets the world in on the truth of what is happening, or the person who places supposedly-sensitive information where it can be easily accessed? Is it the person who brings the light of day to the dark recesses where power mongers manipulate and coerce, or the person who believes that lying is the American Way, or that it leads to freedom and equality? You and I have known our government is not to be trusted for decades. Light is the greatest sanitizer. The clichés go on and on. While there are issues with the freedom of the Internet, and of course greedy and lying behavior must always be watched for, transparency is one of its greatest strengths. The Pentagon Papers leak changed history. Hopefully Wikileaks can accomplish as much. The fact that the government is able to lock up people who shine a light on their hypocrisy, and even to strip websites of their url because a politician disagrees with what is being posted, shows us how far our personal liberties have been eroded. A government of the people, for the people, needs to be accessible to the people. The more we allow secrecy to be the modus operandi of government and business, the more at risk we are, and the more we will suffer from decisions made by liars and cheats. The President is more powerful than at any time in America’s history. Our need to know the truth about his motivations and reasons for making decisions is also greater than ever before. It is sad that we now rely on leaks in order to gain access to that information. And it makes me ANGRY when officials and pundits openly and proudly call for the assassination or extra-judicial killing of Julian Assange without legal repercussions. Is this how far we have fallen, that we value security so highly that we allow politicians to incite violence and to take away our freedom of speech and legal rights without a second thought?
And finally, having looked at environmental, economic and political news, lets look at the spiritual news of the week. Dragon, the first-ever spacecraft launched, orbited and recovered by a private enterprise, made its splashdown Wednesday. I try to find the spiritual everywhere I can. As my heart soared upon hearing this news, I asked myself, “Why is space exploration so important, given all the issues we face today?” One of the ways that humans are different from other life forms is our inherent need to question. We are constantly asking, “Who, what, when, where, and the biggest question of all: Why?” “Why am I here?” is the core motivation of exploration. In a very real sense, this question is at the core of religion. And the longer we kick the can down the road on issues of climate change, economy and social justice, the more likely it is that one day soon we will witness the last rocket launch ever. When that day comes, what will replace the exploration of space in our hearts? What will lead us to answers that give purpose and meaning to our lives? What spirituality will replace the tired platitudes and dogma that passes for religion today? And finally, what will be your guiding, moral light? Can you bring that light into our collective consciousness now?