01.03.2012

Seeking Truth

We need life affirming actions and truth and fairness to reconnect us to each other and our planet
Around the world, from Occupy Rio to the Greek Indignant Citizens Movement, from the Arab Spring and Tehrir Square, to the recent Moscow protests of 485,000 ridiculing Putin's stolen election, this truth may seem selfevident: globally, people are yearning for something better, more real, shrugging off spin and the political falsehood, the corporate greenwash and the disappearing promises of economists and the poisonous cures for debt-after-the-night-before.  In different places, it's the same core yearning.  In Beijing, they want the skies to be blue and clear. In Lhasa, they want China's People's Liberation Army to stop pretending they're rescuing Tibet.  In Karachi, they want the government to stop harbouring the kind of people who killed Bhutto.  In Fukishima prefecture, they want the cascade of radioactive failures to end.  In the Torres Straits, they want the issue of high king tides breaking down the old sea walls to be dealt with by more than fresh concrete.

This is not a movement of cynicism, ennui, or opposition.  It is a worldwide movement that simply yearns for the truth.  It shows a love for truth and fairness.

Financially, for example, people ask how do banks increase their interest rates for loans, but the banks don't reflect this increasing tendency for interest rates for the money we leave with them in savings accounts. Beyond the individual, many people can't grasp how the same private ratings agencies who overvalued dodgey mortgages and junk bonds now punish governments for letting them do that and cost them by lowering their ratings if they don't bring in harsher austerity measures. In some debt-ridden countries, those measures include the closing of schools and the slashing of pensions and hospital services. 

In protest, many people trust in peace and nonviolence and common decency, but cannot explain why their own governments turn on them.  Old forms are wearing thin.  In failed states, people are tired of corruption and tyrants, kleptocrats taking billions and children not getting primary education. In newly emerging states, people are tired of ballot rigging and vote buying and schoolteachers not being paid; and in the more established democracies, people doubt major parties, recoiling at the numbers game.

People could have grown cynical, but just as often people have settled for being disconnected. For example, 10 years ago opinion polls around the world showed that people everywhere, including the US and Australia, were overwhelmingly against the US and Australia going to war in Iraq in 2003. But these "democratic" governments ignored this sentiment and a terrible war happened anyway.  Instead of pressing home the need for democracy, people across the world retreated.  With oil, food and resource prices now at a premium, the world at large is paying significantly for the economic and human devastation that came out from that twin-headed monumental folly.  Not just Iraq, but the American economy has paid a price. And now the US is inching towards Iran.  Stop already!

We understand there is poverty in the world, but start to see that the early rules of the economic road, written by the Europeans and the Americans after 1945, helped aggravate the poverty of Africa and the less developed nations, to keep them in arrested development.  Our cheap rice, tea and coffee arose at the expense of others' misery, far away.  Even when many richer countries gave aid to these poorer countries, they often paid their own First World companies and services to do the development work, so that much of the money stayed within the "giving" country.  And still countries like India and Pakistan are given guns or aircraft as "aid".

New schemes like damming one of the largest rivers in Asia, the Mekong, in 11 places, seem to have learned nothing from the giant engineering mistakes elsewhere.  The huge Chinese Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze, for example, has led to 80% of the land in the area to experience erosion, with downstream riverbanks silting up, and Shanghai, 1600 km away, becoming more vulnerable to inundation, not to mention the million and a half without a home.  The Narmada Dam in India is another example of millions of people being dislocated, as Indian writer Arundhati Roy once warned:

"Big Dams started well, but have ended badly…they're a guaranteed way of taking a farmer's wisdom away from him.  They're a brazen means of taking water, land and irrigation away from the poor and gifting it to the rich.  Their reservoirs displace huge populations of people, leaving them homeless and destitute.  Ecologically, they're in the doghouse.  They lay the earth to waste.  They cause floods, waterlogging, salinity, they spread disease….Big Dams are to a Nation's 'Development' what Nuclear Bombs are to its Military Arsenal.  They're both weapons of mass destruction. They're both weapons Governments use to control their own people…they represent the severing of the link, not just the link – the understanding – between human beings and the planet they live on."

Together, we have too often severed the understanding between what it is to be human, and think well, and love well, celebrate the beauty of our planet - and in letting this happen, our existence has been reduced to something far less.  The mistake is not just located in economics, or aid, or engineering; it is the skewed way of thinking that is common to much of them, the silencing of the heart, the dissolution of will, the closing of joy for some less worthy but shiny gain.

We may observe the phenomenon globally.  We can guess easily there is something wrong, for example, when Latin America has a documented rate of 80-90% births being caesarian for white, insured women in private hospitals. More than the logic of insurance and control have put us into a crazy place.   It is a severing of the understanding of what it means to be alive, to be human, to be connected to each other and the natural world; for people to say No

This move for change is not about returning to old-style ideologies, or protests like Paris, May 1968, (although we can expect people on the street in Greece, expressing their frustration.)  We must find a new way forward, when the way forward is not clear.  No one has come up with a book of answers, or a blueprint. Simple solutions seem almost untrustworthy, at this early point in the discernment process.

Something feels wrong, and it isn't fixed in the usual ways, or the customary places.  The answer is variegated, like a leaf with many colours.

The new epoch now needs positive, life-affirming actions, and reconnecting policies and practices and economics and the environment.  No one of us can say what it will all come to.  Just this: that the yearning won't go away.

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