I was surprised and touched by this lovely tribute from my brother Craig in his April column for the Natural Product News. We were just a couple of hippies trying to change the world and I’m still coming to grips with the realization that we did, and still are.
Photo from bottom up: Gregory, Craig, Jay Landesman, Joe Dickens.
I was recently alerted by Graham Hancock to this excellent article from a Norwegian philosopher maintaining that matter itself is conscious, a conclusion she came to through logical thought process.
If you have read my book, Sun of gOd, you will know that I reached this same conclusion, as one of the inevitable consequences of recognizing consciousness in our Sun and other stars. The chapter was titled: Inanimate intelligence – perhaps stuff is smarter than we think.
As I put it “For all we know, the tree might be tickled by the ripple of a breeze; the volcano excited by its own eruption; the thundercloud proud of its lightning; the mountain sublime in its majesty.”
Seneca put it like this 2000 years ago…
“Life is the fire that burns and the sun that gives light. Life is the wind and the rain and the thunder in the sky. Life is matter and is earth, what is and what is not, and what beyond is in Eternity.”
This is Hedda Hassel Mørch’s approach to the classic hard problem of consciousness.
The nature of consciousness seems to be unique among scientific puzzles. Not only do neuroscientists have no fundamental explanation for how it arises from physical states of the brain, we are not even sure whether we ever will. Astronomers wonder what dark matter is, geologists seek the origins of life, and biologists try to understand cancer—all difficult problems, of course, yet at least we have some idea of how to go about investigating them and rough conceptions of what their solutions could look like. Our first-person experience, on the other hand, lies beyond the traditional methods of science. Following the philosopher David Chalmers, we call it the hard problem of consciousness.
But perhaps consciousness is not uniquely troublesome. Going back to Gottfried Leibniz and Immanuel Kant, philosophers of science have struggled with a lesser known, but equally hard, problem of matter. What is physical matter in and of itself, behind the mathematical structure described by physics? This problem, too, seems to lie beyond the traditional methods of science, because all we can observe is what matter does, not what it is in itself—the “software” of the universe but not its ultimate “hardware.” On the surface, these problems seem entirely separate. But a closer look reveals that they might be deeply connected. Continue reading
It’s the same old game. A state we don’t like is doing wrong by its people so we must go in and wage war on their nation to bring democracy, then exit as dozens of armed fundamentalist factions fight over what’s left. Don’t think for a moment that the warmongers care about injured children, any more than they do about the thousands abused by church officials and pedophiles in high positions. These are the same liars who brought us WMD and other popular deceptions and they are getting better at what they do, which is stirring up conflict. Will their next step be to brandish as fake, and ban, any news that differs from the official account?
This excellent overview from Antimedia succinctly tells us all we need to know to about chemical weapons use in Syria.
“On Tuesday, yet another chemical weapons attack occurred in Syria. This particular attack took place in the Idlib province, and dozens have reportedly died as a result.
Syria is no stranger to chemical weapons attacks. In 2013, there were two notably devastating attacks, both of which the Obama administration used to try to justify a direct strike on the Assad government.
The U.N. thoroughly investigated the first 2013 attack. The U.N Commission of Inquiry’s Carla Del Ponte ultimately said the evidence indicated the attack was carried out by the Syrian rebels — not the Syrian government. Despite this, support for the Syrian rebels from the U.S. and its allies only increased, raising serious questions about Obama’s sincerity when condemning chemical attacks.
Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh found the second major attack was committed in a similar manner. Hersh found that the U.S. quite deliberately attempted to frame the evidence to justify a strike on Assad without even considering al-Nusra, a terror group with access to nerve agents that should have been a prime suspect.
A message arrived today from one Bee Thabee, on the Vernal Equinox and Zoroastrian Navroze (new year) celebration, asking for permission to publish the video he’d been working on through the night.
And, of course, it’s about this day’s mother subject, the light of stars.
I’m feeling well honoured to appear alongside Carl Sagan, Bill Hicks and Alan Watts. It was all seemingly triggered by the tune Gaudi produced a few years back, that was itself triggered by an interview with me getting a bit cosmic at the first Wilderness Festival. The Light works in mysterious ways.
I gave this excellent little talk on light at the Odditorium in Brighton a couple of years ago and only discovered it to be online recently when a listener contacted me to ask about the tattoo mentioned in the talk. I sent him a picture of it and he sent me the link, which I now send to you. The curious events in their introduction occurred before my arrival so I cannot enlighten on that front.
This episode starts with a crash, after an eclipse and power cut in the studio leave our presenters stumbling around in the dark while Mr Mounfield later reveals himself to be a Zoroastrian. It all proves however, to be a perfect link for their guest, Gregory Sams, who puts forward a compelling argument for the sun, stars and universe being far more intelligent than conventional science would have us believe.
This did not start with Donald Trump. It is good that he is barefaced and honest enough for people’s eyes to snap right open and realise where we have come to. The world reacts in anger as millions take to the streets to protest at his temporary ban on immigration from seven nations. That the previous president was already bombing Muslims in seven nations had somehow been acceptable. Surely bombing people is as bad as banning them. The groundwork for Trump’s ban had been put into place before he came to power, in the Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 . To paraphrase Isaac Newton – If Trump has oppressed further than others it is because he is standing on the shoulders of tyrants.
It is not only the leader but also the system that oppresses, with a militarized police force, tyrannical application of laws and the criminalization of countless activities that have no victims. Sure, citizens have the right to vote for who is going to rule the system, but with that choice limited to different flavors of shit even an educated socially thoughtful majority are going to make a crap choice.
Many Americans had lost so much faith in the status quo that they wanted to vote against it, whatever the alternative. Many Trump voters would have been just as happy voting for his polar opposite, the humble and perceptive Bernie Sanders. They realized something had gone very wrong with their beloved nation and responded by jumping out of the pot they knew and despised, not caring if that might mean landing in an unfamiliar frying pan.
Those Trumpophobes who wanted to stick with the status quo (the devil you know) are in a shocked state of disbelief. The vulgar and insensitive character of the new president has activated them. They are like the frog in a pot that was being heated so slowly it was unaware of its own imminent demise. Trump’s election was a sudden leap in temperature, shifting from a very dark situation they had come to regard as normal, to what looks like an even darker shade of dark.
But just how dark does it have to flipping get? We know that our leaders did not give a damn whether or not WMD’s were in Iraq – they wanted war. They didn’t care about the people of Libya – they wanted a bombing spree. They fanned the flames of conflict in Syria, not for the people – they wanted war. Next in line was (or is) Iran, a beautiful nation of 77 million with a modern culture that functions better than many world nations who are allies of ours. Ditto for Syria and Libya not long ago. There are countless sub-plots to it all that involve oil-based currency plans, pipeline routes, oil, droughts, religions, bankers, et al. And the poster child of it all is the evil Islamic State, itself spawned by the heavy-handed activities of the so-called leader of the free world.
The problem with democracy, as we have just seen, is that anybody can win the popularity contest. Many world leaders, including Adolf Hitler, used and then abused the democratic system. The difficulty with government, democratic or otherwise, is that its natural tendency is to grow as long as society (it’s prey, you could say) is producing enough wealth to support it.
America currently creates more wealth than any other nation in the world. Its state is overgrown and its military budget surpasses that of the world’s next eight big spenders combined. A third of tax revenues go directly to the military (including veteran benefits). The real figure, including security agencies, private contractors, caring for the disabled, could take this even higher. Veteran suicides, far outnumbering combat deaths, do not count as a cost.
Americans, immensely proud of being the strongest nation in the world, seem oblivious to the fact that such a mighty military force is not content to be sitting on its collective ass all day. It’s got a million and a half willing combatants trained to kill and equipped with the most sophisticated and powerful killing technology on the planet. Can you really think they are not going to be finding reasons to put all this practice and hardware into play? And if they cannot find a reason they can manufacture one.
In Europe and America our rulers and the status quo over which they preside (or under which they thrive) have been complicit in actions that have and continue to result in the death and injury of hundreds of thousands and the displacement of millions, the destruction of ancient monuments, homes and modern cities, the proliferation of weapons in the region, and massive profits for Western “defense” industries. To our own doorstep their actions have brought the relatively minor inconvenience of a refugee crisis and occasional acts of terrorism. We are feared and hated in many parts of the world, an understandable response to the wanton destruction being funded by our taxes.
The new president is such an obnoxious character that it is tempting to blame him for things which have been part of the scene for many years, such as police violence and the stripping of human rights that began with the Patriot Act. Fair play to Trumpophobes for hating him but don’t for a moment pretend that things were idyllic before him. He is just the new and uglier face of a government they support; a body to which they have already sacrificed their rights, complacent that the state knows who they know, what they watch and like, what they say, write, and buy. Our states have granted themselves the right to tap into everything we do, in order to protect us from a threat that has arisen as a result of their activities on the world stage. This is not something Trump set up. This is the apparatus of a police state, far more invasive even than the notorious Stasi of former East Germany. It was something to be concerned about long before the Donald.
With talk of measures to ban so-called “fake news,” any views diverging from the official propaganda line could soon become prosecutable. And if Trump is the evil demagogue that many fear, he will now have the power to quickly identify and shut down dissenting views, expunging any remaining semblance of democracy from the system. It has been an ever-reducing commodity of late.
Trump and Hillary are just different shades of darkness. We cannot know where she would have taken us, but her track record would suggest more war and pipelines, less rights and freedoms. Barack Obama may have seemed ‘white’ by comparison to those two, but still we saw bombings and domestic surveillance soar on his watch. He may not have banned Muslims but he sure bombed them. This is the so-called democracy that the American state now administers, setting a standard for the free world.
After this, can anybody still believe that the democratic process is going to make it all right, by getting a decent honest man into the White House? Many thought Obama to be that man, though with a barrelful of rotten apples it is optimistic to believe that we can throw an unblemished one into the pile that will un-rot all the others. Yet many keep hoping for this magic apple.
As long as we believe that the road to peace is paved with rules and regulations enforced by police and military we will continue to see conflict in the world. We are more suited to living together than to killing each other, with peace being an easier and more natural state than war. We are not all born with sin in our hearts because of what Eve did. There is another way and we have countless instances where we govern from the bottom up and do an excellent job, without even thinking about it. It is time to consider whether we are truly in need of a nuclear umbrella to protect us and countless politicians and bureaucrats to regulate us. However much power rests in the state’s hands, when it comes right down to it their existence depends upon our belief in a need for their control. Can we do it ourselves? You bet we can.
Warning: book plug approaching: I wrote this blog in the hope of converting Trumpophobes to ‘Stateophobes,’ or freedom lovers as I prefer to put it. We must pin the tail on the donkey and not its rider. Were Donald Trump removed from power next month the world would not return to some idyllic state without wars, onerous travel restrictions, racial tensions and sexist behavior. Government would still be corrupt and/or in the pockets of corporations, the military, and bankers. Wealth would still transfer from the many to the one percent.
Ah yes, the book. It is one thing to point out the flawed nature of this system. What we can do about it and how we can do it and why we need to do it is the subject of my book, The State Is Out Of Date, We Can Do It Better.
More information and chapter briefs on my website. It’s positive, not paranoid.
This inauguration was a strange and powerful event. I was as shocked and horrified as many at the thought of a ruthless property tycoon holding the powerful position of American President. That said, I took great pleasure in the defeat of Hillary Clinton, whom I loathed for deeds already committed. But as those who know me know, I see voting as little more than a novel way of determining who is to be the ruler and one which magically bestows upon them the will of the people, even if just a quarter of “the people” made up the majority of those who voted.
I found Trump’s inaugural address to be riveting and at times it truly moved me, so much that I remember wondering if I could bring myself to admit to this. He was saying a lot of right-on stuff about America being controlled by the very establishment elite that surrounded him right there, and how he was giving power back to the people. I felt better about my feelings when two BBC commentators thereafter said they thought many of Trump’s words could have come out of Bernie Saunders’ mouth.
When candidates are on the campaign trail, we are used to them saying whatever they need to get votes, delivering conflicting messages to different groups. Now Trump has won he doesn’t need to re-iterate these promises, but did so in force, in a speech that broke tradition and spoke of America today, recognising the internal decay that is apparent in much of it. He has hand-on-heart forcefully promised to bring the American people into the process of government, and break the power corporations exert on the state. Whether he can deliver this is another question, but he has left no room for excuse if he fails. With his reputation so strongly pinned to success, failure could destroy him. Whether America goes bankrupt in the process is another matter.
Yes, I was impressed by his address overall, despite a few references that stirred those hairs on the back of my neck. It sounded like he meant what he was saying, but maybe he’s just good at that, regardless of his intention. I am keenly aware that many despots have known what people wanted to hear and led them to ruin on the pretext of delivering what they wanted. America’s state promises to protect its people from terrorists, and bleeds them dry fighting bogeymen of their own creation. Will Trump deliver on his promise to end extreme Islamic terrorist groups, with the consequent loss to America’s war industry? We shall see.
I was deeply disturbed by three aspects of the event, offsetting my enthusiasm for the new President’s powerful rhetoric. First was the strong militaristic imprint of the occasion. Just as he promised to give control of America back to the people a curious group of soldiers in dress uniform assembled behind him, filling the frame until being dispersed. He beat the patriotic drum and wants to rebuild America’s sadly “depleted: military – one already spending more than the next 8 nations combined (not something he mentioned). I later discovered that military chiefs shot down Trump’s request for tanks and missile launchers to be included in the official parade (like in the old USSR). They would have chewed up the roads.
Senator Chuck Schumer gave me chills all over, speaking before Trump about repairing the nation’s fractured press, and dealing with threats to the state, foreign and domestic. He heaps praise on the military and read out a nauseating letter that he found inspirational, from one Major Ballou, of the Rhode Island Volunteers in the American Civil War. The letter to his wife is all about why he is willing, and happily duty-bound, to die for his magnificent state. My stomach turned at “Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.” Less that 1 in 20 of the Union fighters were lost that day and Sullivan Ballou was one of them, his leg torn by the cannonball that killed his horse. He was carried off the field, his leg amputated, and abandoned when the army retreated, his body never to be recovered. I wonder if his patriotism was comforting as he approached a lingering end.
Ah, then there was the religion – lots of religion, though nothing of the Muslim variety. We got more on sacrifice here as well. Before he was even the candidate I recall being chilled by seeing Trump in a ritual with fundamentalists laying hands on him and all kind of shit. When researching my book, Sun of gOd, I realized that religious fundamentalism could be as dangerous coming from Christians as from Muslims or Jews. When you are obeying God’s commands there is no place for human idiosyncrasies like compassion or rationality. So yes, this heaving steeping of religion in the inauguration was disturbing, though raised a laugh when the preacher man hoped God would bless Trump with the humility of Jesus.
The final disturbing part was the distinct absence of colour in this supposed melting pot of the world. We had to endure bouts of patriotic singing from two different choirs, about 40-60 strong and as far as I could see there was not a single face of colour in either of them, apart from one man of oriental descent I spotted. For a while I wondered if the Obamas would be the only two Africa Americans at the event, but then a handful of others became involved. There was some lip service and the old cliché about all races having the same colour blood, but white faces predominated to a noticeable degree.
For me, the clinching finale of this political charade was at the Presidential Lunch where Donald Trump stands up to say how honoured he is that Bill and Hillary Clinton had joined the party. He asks them to stand and showers them with his respect! Sure they hurled scathing abuse at each other during the campaign, but only for political reasons (which we all know to be phoney). Now the match is over, the loser congratulates the winner and shows them respect, like tennis players shaking hands at Wimbledon.
That’s politics for you, my friends, and if you remain optimistic that voting and the wonderful democratic process are going to ensure that only good people get into power then you have been sadly unobservant of what has going on for as long as it has been going on.
The election of Donald Trump to President demonstrates as nothing else the failure of so-called democracy to alter the nature of that “necessary evil” called government. In the birthplace of modern democracy we see a man hated by most of the population rise to become its ruler, oops, I mean leader. This, because even more people hated the woman running against him, and with good cause.
I will not digress into the pros and cons of either candidate here. They shared the same major pro of not being each other, and enough cons apiece for an entire book. People often ask if I am working on another book and if I were, for sure, that would not be it. An earlier book of mine looks beyond pros and cons of candidates, beyond even “who took down the Twin Towers?” type questions. “Why does this shit keep going on?” is a better question than “who did what to whom for why.” This backdrop shapes the comments this bizarre contest prompted.
Like nothing else, this election underlines the reality that by whatever means our rulers assume power it is the structure of rule itself that invites abuse. Churchill was wrong to say “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” History may well compare the actions of some modern democracies unfavourably to other and older non-democratic regimes. There have been kings and queens who thought well of their subjects, avoiding warfare and living within their, albeit comfortable, means. Relax, I will not digress into the pro’s and con’s of the dozens of failed variants of rule–by-the-stick throughout history.
However they got there, those in power have the self-given right to make rules and to force compliance upon us. Legislation stripping us of our right to privacy and basic human freedoms can be passed by a majority of our so-called representatives, few of whom will have read the thousands of pages within those acts. Even if they do, and object, the aptly named Chief Whip is there to beat them into compliance. Terrorism, drugs, tax-evaders and pedophiles are often pulled out of ye olde propaganda box to scare us into accepting ever more intrusions. Rant stops, not going there.
Let us imagine it is all going well – we’ve got good people elected into power and whilst they take a bunch of taxes they do provide reliable services on the education, public services, safety and clean roads-type departments. Maybe they don’t even lock people up for victimless crimes. America used to be a lot like that. Everybody thought it could only get better. Yet back in 1989 the former sheriff of Sacramento, California’s capitol, told me unequivocally that the USA had already become a police state. It wasn’t as obvious to the rest of us at that time.
Once we have relinquished our rights and freedoms to so-called government they may never return. Indeed the current course is one of ongoing diminishment. Who would have ever thought the so-called government could access all our private correspondence and browsing history, in the name of fighting a terrorism spawned by their own violent interventions in the Middle East? The problem with creating a surveillance state is that you never know who may inherit it and what they will consider acceptable or not.
Let us hope that Trump does not live up to his campaign persona. There is always hope, but this man could be bad news indeed. For very sound reasons, people wanted a change from the same old shit in the US elections and had leftie Bernie Saunders been the Democratic candidate many believe he would have won the vote for change. In Europe we now see far right parties soaring in popularity while in Greece it was far left party Syriza that unexpectedly rose to power (only to be beaten into line by the EU bankers). We see far left Podemos in Spain and far right Front Nationale in France. Oh my!
The only thing we can really be sure of is that we have little idea of who or what may be in power a generation or three ahead, or of what use they will make of the all-pervasive technology at their disposal. Perhaps one day a dangerous megalomaniac will gain control of your nation’s destiny, perhaps a religious fundamentalist, a clique of bankers or a charismatic gangster. Could the AI singularity enable computers to take over? Might they do a better job than those currently in control? Many might vote for an algorithm, given the chance. It would certainly be a change.
Anybody but who we’ve got now is as far as many will allow their imagination to run. They know the old narrative is failed and hope anybody new in charge cannot be any worse. But just turning the wheel of state a little or a lot, to the left or the right, is not enough. The wheel needs a whole new hub, not just another revolution. Left, right, religious, military, we can’t be sure of future shifts in politics, aptly described as war without the bloodshed. Even dangerous people we dislike can gain power legitimately, claiming their mandate to rule based upon our votes. Even honest and uncorrupted people in power can be brutally repressive when committed to a religion or political ism.
Whoever runs it, corruption is likely to be rife in a structure based on the foundation stone of coercion, a structure that long ago granted itself the right to demand money and direct behavior at the point of a sword. Many different types of ruler have occupied this structure over the ages, claiming their right to rule on one basis or another, and demanding money at the point of a sword. Democracy claims to represent the will of the people but whoever we vote for, the so-called government stays in power, demanding money – you get my drift.
We need real government, the sort that operates naturally from the bottom up; the sort that evolves effortlessly to adapt to new situations and meet new needs; the sort we take for granted because it happens without us trying; the sort that does not rely upon the “big stick” to govern us. This is the core subject of my book mentioned earlier. For many today, so-called democracy has come down to choosing the lesser evil. This is not a rational or effective way to govern our complex society. Recognizing how well we self-govern or used to self-govern large complex aspects of our civilization is edifying, and not to be taken for granted. Look where we have taken music, transport & travel, and information technology, governing from the bottom up without the state. Have so-called governments evolved beyond wars; beyond police, courts & prisons; beyond people in charge telling us what to do? International trade between ancient cultures long preceded the existence of rulers, taxes and global banking systems.
We still self-govern much of our food chain with feedback loops largely intact between consumers, sellers and manufacturers – if not farmers. We witness countless new food products appearing on the market. Some join our culinary culture and some fail. If some consumers want their cars to be electric or their food chemical-free they can get it. That’s natural government at work, from the bottom up.
After the Second World War, German u-boats and the like, the British government decided the nation’s food supply was so important to our survival that it needed their guidance. Intervention in farming gradually grew, replacing feedback loops with price and subsidy schemes skewed to favour meat and dairy. Industrial agriculture and the factory farm were born and boosted by conformity to EU agricultural policies, leading to the the infamous lakes of milk and wine and mountains of butter and beef that grew through the 1970’ and 80’s, persisting for nearly four decades. From this source came the cow meat fed to cattle that then developed Mad Cow disease. We still have not emerged from their management today, and most farmers in Europe would go bankrupt without government grants and subsidy.
Let us do a thought experiment and imagine a planet where for several generations the so-called government managed the entire food supply, contracting farmers, processors, and caterers to feed the people. They taught that in the bad old days we suffered terrible health and food poisoning when choosing what to eat for ourselves. But in time the gargantuan state service starts to experience failures of service (frequent rotten, toxic, adulterated food and missed deliveries). Without feedback loops, what can people do other than clamour for improvements? Few would consider scrapping this faulty model and doing it themselves, through fear of inevitable starvation and poisoning, however dodgy the existing supply is. How could we possibly take care of such a complex issue ourselves? You know the answer.
We do already, and the fact that millions of residents in the world’s cities are fed daily according to their tastes and pockets without anybody planning it centrally is one of the miracles acknowledged by new science ‘chaos theory’ in the 1980’s. Chaos theory was the catalyst that led me to write the aforementioned book, providing as it did some scientific underpinning to what I had already learned about the power of freedom and the perils of its suppression.
The truth is that people are great at cooperating and living together. There is no regulatory glue of government that keeps it all working and any change we think the state must force upon us is change we can effect ourselves. There are free market means to guarantee product safety and truth in product description just as there are to assure organic cultivation and fair trade. Supermarket chains have very demanding, and enforced, quality standards. Amazon and other online businesses maintain order without needing jails. The government’s track record is not very good. The government we would like to protect us from corporations is the same one enacting laws that let frackers over-ride centuries-old common law land rights. States love large corporations, which simplify the harvesting of taxes, deducting it at source.
Rule by a coercive state is not a natural state of affairs for humanity. It is wrong yet we buy into it for the same reason that we once bought into the idea of a flat earth, believed the whole Universe rotated around us and, in China, thought that binding women’s feet was a normal thing to do. Tradition. Several factors could bring about the natural collapse of this unnatural state of affairs within our lifetimes and the dumbest thing we could do is just re-create a new variant, with new leaders very different to the ones we know. My book does not fit into a short sound bite so if after the US election you are wondering what in the hell is wrong with the way we run this world and what other options there are, you might find it an enjoyable read.