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Leaving the Age of Disconnect


#1

Leaving the Age of Disconnect

Robert C. Koehler

It’s too easy simply to blame Donald Trump for the void that’s suddenly apparent at the center of American government — or will be on Jan. 20.

In fact, I’m utterly sick of hearing his name, let alone accounts of his latest outrage or trivial impertinence, which is the equivalent of crack cocaine in the news cycle: all Trump, all the time. It’s been that way for a year.


#3

Mr. Koehler’s appeal to our better nature is a necessary counterbalance to the outrage felt by us who rail against injustice. It reminds us of the change that must occur within in order to accomplish change in our institutions.

“The way out of this slowly lethal absurdity is a lot more complex than simply resisting the Trump presidency”

I do no know how we change the mindset of a population. I would suppose that it must start with reminding ourselves each day, and reminding others (proselytize really) and teaching our children, and making it part of our science curriculum, and our history and economic curriculums. The truth is harder to ignore once we’ve been exposed to it, no matter one’s previous ideology.


#4

Saying "leave the age of discontent" is like saying, If you don't like air pollution, only breathe clean air. The entirety of what Jsmes Howard Kunstler calls "our techno-industrial civilization" is infected with causes for discontent -- legitimate ones that can't be simply ignored out of existence.

We used to hear the word "society" as what was to blame for all the troubles that beset us. I am a veteran of that long ago movement that tried to "drop out of society." Turns out this can't be done. Society is an all encompassing environment. With environments, there are only two things to be done: alter it to improve its habitability or move to another one.

Despite all the recent enthusiasm for the planet Mars -- now a major TV. star -- there is no environment next door to move to. Our species is stuck here with no survivable way out, and darn few survivable options as to how to fix this one into one that is can sustain us non destructively.

But trying to find out how it might be possible is the main challenge of the next phase of this benighted species' history. If it can't be done, then in the words of the old Tom Lehrer (there's a voice that was far ahead of his time and is sorely missed) song, "We'll All Go Together When We Go."


#5

We sort of lead several lives simultaneously and probably that will continue. Certainly over the last 40 or 50 years an ecological consciousness has developed. This goes back to studies of ecology and books such as Barry Commoner's The Closing Circle. We realize everything is connected and that we are part of nature. But we also live in a fast-paced world of sound bites and disconnection. Something happened to this celebrity, this sports star did something, this country invaded that country, the president said something, the Senate majority leader said something, etc. While we are often caught up in the latter world of breaking news and hyped this and that we also have to keep in mind that the ecological natural world is very real and we depend on it for survival. The Republican largely ignores the ecological world while the Democratic Party is very concerned about its status. This is one the profound differences between the parties (it wasn't always this way, but the Republicans have moved far right). Certainly the issue of climate change makes us confront the effects of our society on the natural world and how a number of key ecological systems are declining and how civilization is now in peril because of this. Our basic political problem is that only one of the major political parties will acknowledge this brutal reality. The other party chooses to live in world of fantasy which the way things are going will not last long.


#6

I read Kunstler every Monday morning.

I still have his magazine piece ca 1994/96 (can't remember) "Home from Nowhere", about suburban sprawl and its inherent insanity.

I saw a new edition of Victor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning".

I think I will pick it up this am.

I remember the sixties well - so many boomers - so much energy - so much questing for a better way.

Now we're old - and I am unsure what the younger generations think or believe.

I dropped out for real - not in the sixties, in my youth, but for seven years /97 thru 2004 - mountaineering full time on my own dime.

Best thing I ever did, bar none.

It gave me perspective - both feet on the ground.

If we make it, a fifty-fifty proposition I would think, it will be only when we are all poor again, facing the elements, when death and fear are viscerally present.

We are not an intelligent species, by and large - only tough.

And we are tribal - that's our ticket I think and hope - no need to change human nature - just get out of the bubble - which it looks like we will soon - involuntarily.

Luck is going to play its part. One Black Swan could do us in, and any number of other known existential threats.

You have to envy, even a little, the many who think things are just fine.

I'm reading Thomas Friedman's new book, "Thank You for Being Late". Not thru it yet, but so far this is exactly the bubble mentality I am referring to.

The petri dish is half full, and everyone is congratulating themselves on how spectacularly successful it has all been.

Doubling time a few seconds away.


#7

The interconnection among people - the fact that people do not stop at their skins - is generally not recognized in the USA.

That culture teaches individualism; concern for only the individual self, the egotistical me me me attitude that is so prevalent there. Empathy is officially discouraged (because that's socialism).

This individualism tends to produce dumb people (and good capitalist serfs).

Dumb people vote for and elect other dumb people who will do them harm, even when smart people who would help them are on the ballot.

That is, and has been, one of the root political problems in the USA.


#8

The essence of Mr. Koehler's article is spot on. Ranting and railing at what is, accomplishes nothing. Truly, our biggest challenge now is to envision the future we want. If we can truly envision it, we can create it.

Our essential connection to our environment, including all people, animals, plants and the very ground we walk upon was severed (for most) long ago. Only when we begin to realize that every aspect of our environment is as important as our individual selves will we begin the process of healing for ourselves and each other.


#9

The faceless mannequin behind the invisible wall is an appropriate image of precisely how horrific the system is. Each fibre, each cut and each seam was made by a human being. A stunning number by supply chains and labor analogous to slavery - especially in the mass-market brand/ 'chains' manipulating by multi-billion dollar advertising 'campaigns'. I am reminded that the etymological root of advertise is 'to warn'.
The system is intentionally (demonically) designed to divide, impoverish, addict allegiance/brand loyalty, mislead and enslave - anything that does not do these things is "socialism/communism" the penultimate scapegoat for 'capitalism/colonization of all life forms'.


#10

remember the series, persons of interest? i enjoyed the show before the writers abandoned the original premise in which the computer located possible victims. the intended victims were not among the rich and famous. "these are people" the intro voice-over explained, "that your government considers irrelevant."

koehler speaks a deep truth from charles einstein's work. we all are connected to this living earth.

excellent article!


#11

If we can truly envision it ...

That seems to be the crux of the problem. Let's remember that there are 7.5 BILLION people on the planet. Many of us have heard of the idea – “if you can dream it, you will create it” or “change your story, change your life” - or any of the myriad variations on the same theme. And many have dreamed a new reality - I would never suggest that it can't or hasn't been done.

But ... and isn't there always a but ... these people's dreams are often to change their own lives - better health, better family relationships, different loves, etc. etc. etc. And this is important, do not mistake me. Happiness in an individual life means happiness in the world.

How many, do you think, of 7.5 BILLION people dream, not of a different life for themselves or their families, but of a world society where clean oceans for the whales and dolphins is at the top of the list? Or more un-human-inhabited territory for the elephants and tigres? Or pollution-free air for the bees and monarch butterflies?

How many people do you know who ask permission from a tree before they cut it down or a rock before they pound their climbing hooks into it? Or how many ask a fish to willingly give up its life to strengthen the person, or ask a sea shell if it wants to leave the seashore before they simply grab it up and take it home as a souvenir? How many of the 7.5 BILLION people would even understand these questions and why they are important?

The idea of dreaming a different world is a great idea. But in the individualistic world society that we've created, to the vast majority of 7.5 BILLION people, a different world means their own individual day-to-day existence.

The universal energy is creating a new existence for itself. It'll be interesting how many of the 7.5 BILLION people have big enough visions to manage through the transition.


#12

Yes, but in reality many people do not live that way. They ( we) live amongst neighbors, family, friends, co workers, and many others with whom we connect. Also, anthropologically it is the way humans have lived.


#13

Great post. It also is said that tight knit communties ( such as tribal societies) contain some of the happiest people.


#14

I believe he also told us to "go on with your life" in so many words after 911!


#15

People also do not realize how connected we are through interspecies. I really liked the way you have worded this post. I am an over three decades long vegetarian due to ethical reasons. Plus in our society people tend to view everything for their own gain or entertainmnent. What we need is more Humane Education as well as raising of consciousness. Also, it has already been proven that people who eat red meat and discourage veganism are more aggressive. Perhaps there is an association with the macho gun totin' red meat eater?


#16

And remember how disconnected people sound when they report collateral damage ( meaning the death of human beings)? Or how disconnected "we" are when drones are injuring and killing people as well as destroying property?


#17

Thank you for your beautiful and thoughtful response. The anguish behind it is palpable, and something I share on many days, as everything you say is true.

And yet...

Remember the 100th monkey theory? While it will obviously take more than 100 of us, our numbers are not insignificant now. And they are growing. And they will continue to grow, for that is what is called for. My best guess is that it is already too late, that humanity is destined to become a failed experiment. Still, for me, hope and connectedness is what is called for in order to maintain my sense of balance and peace. Those are the qualities that need to be cultivated so they can be spread.

In addition, of course, to as much activism as we can muster.

Again, thank you for your bittersweet post. Peace


#18

I like the suggestion that we deny the troll the satisfaction of seeing people use his name.

Since reading that, I have referred to him as "the troll" and "the loser". Now that we have reason to believe he is massively in debt, perhaps I will try "the debtor".


#19

If i could give you 10 likes, I would.


#20

Religiosity or Anarchistic Cries of "No!" - Neither Hits the Political Target

"...envisioning a different sort of future....'[t]hat my being partakes of your being and that of all beings'.... the miracle of being...we need to expand this awareness "

In another post, I criticized the limitations of 'mass uprising' resistance to the right. A take-to-the-streets protest - an uprising, an anarchist-style rebellion, a mass sit down strike for the 21st century - with no politically geared movement will be weak, I asserted.

Weak because it cannot stop the right wing legislation on the verge of starting; weak because it ignores the shambles of a Democratic Party whose center right politics - vs. Sanders' - lost the election.

Koehler's religious-spiritual-mystical-existentialist politics of inner-purification-as-resistance suffers from the same limitation. As anarchistic resistance may be cathartic while changing little, so Koehler's inward approach may resist the foul world we live in on a personal level - without changing the foul world we live in.

I can work with proponents of either of approach. But - by themselves - neither can succeed.

The Democrats lost and have long been losing for two overarching reasons. The decline of industry and unions and the resultant 'atomized' labor is one; the right liberal politics of the Democratic Party is the other.

Shriek "No!" or retreat into Zen holy calm as you will, nothing will change unless a progressive movement can seize power from the right liberal faction that controls the Democratic Party, and activate enough citizens to win power.

At present there is no such progressive movement.


#21

I just re-read Victor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning".
I can't think of A better time for people to read this truly inspirational book-
Thanks for bringing it to my attention!