Friday, January 19, 2007

Diversity of Opinion

I want to thank Che Bob for inviting me to Lonestone Revolution as a contributing author. I am truly honored. Although the bulk of my first post here is not written my me. I do think that it will serve the tone which Che Bob and the other authors have set here.

One of the big differences between myself and the some of other authors is how I arrive at my opinions. Che Bob believes that the crisis is the system, capitalism, and it is here now. My beliefs are more along the lines of; the system is the cause of a worldwide convergence of three crises, global climate change, peak oil, and over population, soon to come. We both agree that capitalism has run it's course and will soon be economic history, and that economies and governance will soon be localized and not global. When and how this relocalization takes place is another differance between us.

So in honoring that we both maybe right, I want to offer the following essay from Mike Ruppert. I believe that it portrays that the two camps of thought on which crisis we are dealing with, are not mutually exclusive and that the end goal is the same for both of us.

Aprilloper

EVOLUTION
by Michael C. Ruppert

© Copyright 2006, From The Wilderness Publications, www.fromthewilderness.com. All Rights Reserved. May be reprinted, distributed or posted on an Internet web site for non-profit purposes only.

Cultural diversity is not only humanity’s hallmark of progress, but an insurance policy against extinction as a species. Diversity gives not only cultural and economic riches derived from different perspectives on natural resources and what it means to be human, but options to problem solving that are stifled in a homogenized society. When such a society is organized around economic goals that are measured by profit margins for private gain by powerful elites, where the demands of those who bear cash as the ticket of admission to the marketplace rule, rather than the needs of people, then those who are deprived – and those who have never been part of such a global economy – must necessarily suffer. The genocide of tribal peoples, therefore, is symptomatic of a deep malaise in the world’s metropolises. Indigenous peoples will suffer the most, but humanity as a whole will suffer the loss of some of its memory, not only of a unique knowledge of the natural world, but of its ability to cope with the future in various, diverse ways.

THY WILL BE DONE, The Conquest of the Amazon: Nelson Rockefeller and Evangelism in the Age of Oil, Gerard Colby with Charlotte Dennett

Harper Collins, 1995, p. 685
November 7th 2006, 4:39PM [PST] – Nature protects itself through diversity. It stands to reason then that when threatened – as it is now on so many fronts – Mother Earth will exert itself aggressively; enforcing rigid boundaries that ignore the lives of individuals – plant or animal – in order to preserve the diversity which protects all life. That human beings as a species also show such characteristics is proof of the connection between man and planet. In some ways this is not unlike the point in time when a child must break with parents in order to fulfill its own destiny, with its own unique life path, thus guaranteeing that the evolutionary process – life itself – is protected; that something better and new might follow.

All individual life ends so that that life as a whole may go on and evolve. As I have said in so many lectures, the human race is now being faced with a choice: either evolve or perish.

Americans tend to think of the Third World as “the frontier”, a place still open to settlement as if it were a divine right just for the willingness to endure a little hardship. With overpopulation and dwindling global resources, the “frontiers” are defending themselves to protect diversity in many ways; ways that are far more effective than any resistance to colonization in previous centuries. Global warming has been characterized as a planet developing a fever to rid itself of an infection. I believe that increasing global tensions might also be mirroring that process.

The human side of this resistance is also organic and, in Latin America, Venezuela is its heart. It has now taken solid root, emerging almost simultaneously in Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador. I do not think it can be stopped. It is an anthropological resistance.

Living in Venezuela has been an amazing, brutal, and illuminating lesson. It is a truly alien culture that I find simultaneously beautiful, hard, giving, unfamiliar, uncomfortable and definitely self-protecting to the extreme. That is why I am confident that Venezuela, and most of Latin America, will survive the coming crash of Peak Oil better than any other region of the world. I believe it is already starting to protect itself. It doesn’t need me or any outsider to survive. But as a general rule, only those who are native here will be protected by its blessings.

It is not just that I am blond haired and blue-eyed, which does get me a lot of double takes – some hostile. It is as though I am a fish used to swimming in a different kind of water. The way that I swim affects the other fish here, already swimming too much in a superimposed American cultural blanket that has been enforced by scores of coups, debt enslavement, colonization, exploitation, genocide and war over the course of the 20th century and into today. In order to understand this picture a British citizen trying to drive in super-crowded Caracan traffic where there are few rules. Under stress the Brit might instinctively react in a way that might tie up streets. Now change the image of traffic to a culture adapting to dwindling energy reserves, conflict or panic. The Brit would be singled out quickly and forced off the road so that the rest might “function” in ways they were accustomed to.

However, the powerful lessons and principles of human justice, sustainability, harmony with the land, freedom from the mandate of endless capitalist growth, openness, and localization contained in the Bolivarian Revolution led by Hugo Chavez are powerful survival tools that can and must be studied and adapted to other regions. If one reads Richard Heinberg, Matt Savinar, Megan Quinn, Post Carbon Institute, FTW, or any of the great sustainability writers, one will find those same principles; arrived at through different means.

Forget labels. This is what will work.

The Bolivarian Revolution is different from the main body of sustainability literature in one key respect. It is the practical, hands-on implementation of these principles on local, national and continental levels; something all European and North American sustainability advocates know little or nothing about. How could they? While US and European sustainability advocates write about “shoulds” the Bolivarian Revolution is an evolving process of actual doing. It must be watched closely by all who would learn from it.

The irony is that for the most part, the Bolivarian revolution does not see itself as a sustainability movement but rather as a political and economic one. Now for another of my trademarked quotes: Until you change the way money works, you change nothing. The Bolivarian Revolution is doing just that.

PROTECTING DIVERSITY

The Bolivarian Revolution and Venezuelan culture inherently knows that it cannot make too many exceptions to the rule that diversity must protect itself or else the rule will have no meaning. That’s exactly what I was asking it to do (though I didn’t know it) when I came here. I am not just one migrating gringo. Mike Ruppert could not be assimilated without changing something here: the Tao of politics.

That is why, after 15 weeks of waiting, after only one interview, a formal petition and a lot of pressure from influential Americans and Venezuelan-Americans (some with direct government connections) I have not heard a word on my request for political asylum. Venezuelans are inherently suspicious, let alone of a blond gringo who is an ex-policeman who came from a US intelligence family. It is possible that within the massive and glacially slow bureaucracy, some who are not loyal to Chavez have buried my request under a pile of papers. In Latin America things take much longer and I can see now that the waiting process, never guaranteed to be successful, is part of a natural selection.

My thirty year record of activism and sacrifice in the US means little in Venezuela. Those deposits were made in a bank belonging to a different ecosystem. There are no ATMs for that kind of withdrawal here.

The first real kindness shown to me by a full-blooded Latin American with government connections, came about two weeks ago as “Tano”, a bearded artist and long-time revolutionary who had worked with Salvador Allende in Chile, looked at me with true compassion and said, “Venezuela will run you through a gauntlet. It will ignore you. It will make promises and never call you back or fulfill them. It will mistrust you even if you have lived here for ten years, twenty years.”

It took me 12 weeks to get to Tano and it was not by a linear, logical path.

Tano is a famed artist and thinker knows Hugo Chavez personally. He has traveled with him. His kindness and sympathy was abundant and visible. Kittens slept on his massive belly as he spoke from behind a desk cluttered with papers. Two dogs gravitated to him as though he was a magnet. He offered to open doors and make some introductions in certain ministries. As opposed to many other unfulfilled promises since I have been here, he meant it. Promises are made quickly here and soon forgotten, even between native Venezuelans. But it was already too late. My health was gone, I could not make one important event and I had already been rejected like an invading organism; rejected by the differences in culture and an environment I had trouble adapting to.

I was introduced to Tano by my young Venezuelan friend Ivan, who, at 27, who had just quit his job as a trader at J.P. Morgan because it was too stressful. He was too Venezuelan to live the life of a Venezuelan posing as an American. Good for him.

It would be embarrassing to many people if I named the names of all of those back “home” who, learning that I had come here, told me that they had been considering the same move. They said that when things got intolerable in the States, or the UK, or Canada, they would just move here; or to Costa Rica, or to New Zealand, or to someplace else. My pains and troubles here will serve as an object lesson for all that the time to relocate in advance of Peak Oil has, for almost everyone, long passed.

DISTINCTIONS

The important distinctions about adaptivity are not racial at all. US citizens come in all colors. American culture is the water they have swum in since birth. A native US citizen of Latin descent who did not (or even did) speak Spanish would probably feel almost as out of place here as I do. They would look the same but not feel the same. And when it came time to deal collectively with a rapidly changing world, a world in turmoil, a native-born American’s inbred decades of “instinctive” survival skills might not harmonize with the skills used by those around him.

Another one of my trademarked lines is that Post Peak survival is not a matter of individual survival or national survival. It is a matter of cooperative, community survival. If one is not a fully integrated member of a community when the challenges come, one might hinder the effectiveness of the entire community which has unspoken and often consciously unrecognized ways of adapting. As stresses increase, the gauntlets required to gain acceptance in strange places will only get tougher. Diversity will become more, rather than less, rigid and enforced.

As energy shortages and blackouts arrive; as food shortages grow worse; as droughts expand and proliferate; as icecaps melt, as restless, cold and hungry populations start looking for other places to go; minute cultural and racial differences will trigger progressively more abrupt reactions, not unlike a stressed out and ill human body will react more violently to things that otherwise would never reach conscious thought.

Start building your lifeboats where you are now. I can see that the lessons I have learned here are important whether you are thinking of moving from city to countryside, state to state, or nation to nation. Whatever shortcomings you may think exist where you live are far outnumbered by the advantages you have where you are a part of an existing ecosystem that you know and which knows you.

If the time comes when it is necessary to leave that community you will be better off moving with your tribe rather than moving alone.

Evolution is guaranteed. Useful knowledge gained by ancestors is incorporated into succeeding generations. It may not be used in the same way that it was when acquired. It may lie dormant for years or decades, safely stored in DNA or the collective unconscious. But it is there, and it will always be available should the day come when it is needed.

3 comments:

troutsky said...

Interesting. My wife could never just pick up and leave, she would feel that same stranger in a strange landishness. I ,on the other hand, have an odd talent for adaptation so that I was a very successful vagabond for many years of my youth.My point is,Mike Rupperts generalization fails to take these individual traits into account. I think of successful transplants, the world wide, from one culture to another much more disparate than US and Venezuela.

I do agree with his basic thesis about diversity as natures survival mechanism and how insane our civilization would look to a Martian in our headlong rush towards ecological and cultural destruction.Luckily , I have a plan.

Aprilloper said...

I realize that this is the account of one man's journey. However, woven into this account are some key points that I believe we need to consider, in any debate about revolutionary change for ourselves.

What Mike Ruppert's essay conveys to me is that revolutionary changes must be as unique and varied as the environment and communities in which they occur. What works as a system in Venezuela may not work as a system within the cultural ecosystem in which we live. That is not to say that how one community addresses challenges of their environment and culture is of no use to another, it is simply not the only way to address a problem.

Therefore, though the goal is the same for all of us, the reasons, approach and methods of obtaining that goal are as varied as our personal and cultural experience as well as our motivations and physical environment.

A personal example is a local organization I belong to, Snake River Chapter of Oregon Rural Action; two years ago we were working on helping the citizens of Ontario, Oregon work on issues over changes to the charges and billing of their water. One of the key issues was that there wasn't any information or person available at the water billing office that could help non-english speakers. We did secede in getting this problem changed with little problem. Another problem our group was having internally was of our 40 members, only the officers were showing up for meetings.

During a series of meeting between the director of Oregon Rural Action and our officers and several very committed members we began looking both for new projects to work on and how to get more actively involved members. Since we had a history of success with Spanish language issues in the past we began an active campaign to recruit more members from the local Hispanic community and asked them what they wanted done within the community. Our group has undergone what can only be called a revolutionary change. We now have over 50 new members, and about 10 to 15 regularly attend our monthly meetings. We are now working on such issues as homelessness, Spanish language daycare, and Spanish language assistance with other local government agencies.

Although the other chapters of Oregon Rural Action address other issues such as local alternative energy generation, farmer's markets, and food safety issues, we are to some extent the lone wolf on social justice issues. I see this as an organic evolution of our group, in order to survive, we had to change to meet the needs of our community. However, the change has not been an easy one, we have lost many long time members and have even taken some heat from people that don't understand our need to change.

It has been my experience in this whole process is that one of the hardest thing to do is adapting to the changes within in the group and my role within the group. Although I am still a member, I have had to spend more time sitting back and just listening to others, without interjecting my view, opinion, or method of addressing problems. I am still adapting, learning, and trying to see my community through the eyes of someone with totally different experiences in that same community.

“...survival is not a matter of individual survival or national survival. It is a matter of cooperative, community survival. If one is not a fully integrated member of a community when the challenges come, one might hinder the effectiveness of the entire community which has unspoken and often consciously unrecognized ways of adapting.”

Diversity of Opinion was the title for my post because I personally see diversity as the key to healthy debate and in the end unique solutions. Which make our own communities able to adapt to change. Whether those changes come in the form of my key concerns, peak oil, climate change, and over-population or social, economic and governmental restructuring as Che Bob has mentioned in the past. Mike Ruppert says to both, “Start building your lifeboats where you are now.” in the vernacular of peak oil activist such as Mike Ruppert, “lifeboats” loosely translates into “community survival infrastructure.” This infrastructure can mean many things, whether it take the form of physical infrastructure or social infrastructure. I believe what Mike is telling us in his essay is more of a social infrastructure nature, while pointing out the need for community cohesion.

Additionally, that it is of necessary importance to acknowledge that each community's and individual's response to evolutionary and revolutionary change are going to be affected by both their cultural and physical ecosystem. Therefore the shape, size and engineering of each lifeboat will be as unique as the community and landscape in which they are constructed.

troutsky said...

I am reminded of the saying "think globally , act locally" and wondering if maybe that doesnt need to be turned around some.Im all for a diverse array of problem solving methods but when it comes to identifying problems I think we need to look across constructs of race and culture and find systems and structures about which we can generalize and find values and "human" themes around which we can rally as a global community.The tension between diversity/individuality and unity/ universitality will always exist but i would hope there is room in the concept of the lifeboat to realize that injustice for one is injustice for all and that no man is an island.

Maybe i can explain my feelings by the analogy of a cancer patient.We need doctors to do the necessary triage to help patients of course (human rights defenders, social justice groups etc) but we REALLY need researchers to find the cause of cancer and come up with a cure. (political movements) One can and should do both, of course.