Friday, March 15, 2013

Apocalyptic Now 1, 2, & 3

Chapter 1:  What is an Apocalypse?
[…]; “revelation” from Latin and “apocalypse” from Greek both mean a lifting of the veil, a disclosure of something hidden from most people, a coming to clarity.

To speak apocalyptically, in that context, is first and foremost about deepening our understanding of the world, seeing through the illusions that people in power create to keep us trapped in systems they control.

Things are bad, systems are failing, and the status quo won’t last forever.  Thinking apocalyptically in this fashion demands of us considerable courage and commitment.  This process will not produce definitive answers but rather help us identify new directions. 

Chapter 2:  What is an Intellectual?

[…] real intellectual effort – the task of understanding how the world works and communicating that understanding to others […].

Intellectual work suggests a systematic effort to (1) collect relevant information and (2) analyze that information to discern patterns that help us deepen our understanding of how the world works, (3) to help us make judgments about how we want to shape the world.  […].  Defined in this way, it’s clear that lots of different kinds of people do this kind of intellectual work – not just professors, but students, organizers, political activists, journalists, and writers and researchers of various kinds.  They engage in the systematic effort in search of the answers to questions about the natural world, technology, human behavior, societies. 

[…] most intellectuals are subsidized by the institutions of the dominant culture.  The people who run those institutions generally expect a return on the investment, which argues for putting restrictions on the work of those subsidized intellectuals.  […].  These institutions prefer that research, writing, and teaching support the existing power system, and most intellectuals conform to that implicit expectation – either because they honestly believe in the system of power or because they want to avoid trouble.  But tensions arise when intellectuals follow paths that lead them to challenge the pre-ordained conclusions that the powerful prefer. 

[…]: The institutions that most often subsidize intellectuals (universities, think tanks, government, corporations) are the key agents of the social systems that produce inequality and threaten the stability of human life on the planet. 

Chapter 3:  The Condition of the World

Social Justice

More than 3 billion people survive – struggling for food, shelter, clothing, education, medical care – on less than what those in the privileged sectors of the developed world might spend on a fancy cup of coffee one morning. 

Inequality is a permanent feature of capitalism, and the gap between rich and poor is growing. 

In the United States, this class divide is also racialized, which is hardly surprising in a nation that has never transcended the white-supremacist ideology on which it was founded.

[…] the United States remains a deeply patriarchal society, […].

We live in a culture in which men are trained to see themselves as naturally dominant and women as naturally passive, in which women are objectified and women’s sexuality is commodified, in which men eroticize women’s subordinate status.  The predictable result is a world in which violence, sexualized violence, sexual violence, and violence-by-sex is so common that it must be considered to be normal, […].

We live in a woman hating world. 

A 2005 United Nations report, aptly titled “The Inequality Predicament,” stressed: “[…].  Focusing exclusively on economic growth and income generation as a development strategy is ineffective, as it leads to the accumulation of wealth by a few and deepens the poverty of many; […].”

Ecological Sustainability

If we remain on our current trajectory there likely will come a point – not in some future millennium but possibly in this century – when the ecosphere cannot sustain human life as we know it.  […] the living system on which we depend is breaking down.   

Look at any crucial measure of the health of the ecosphere in which we live – groundwater depletion, topsoil loss, chemical contamination, increased toxicity in our own bodies, the number and size of “dead zones” in the oceans, accelerating extinction of species and reduction of bio-diversity – and ask as simple question: Where are we heading?

[…] we can’t pretend all that’s needed is tinkering with existing systems to fix a few environmental problems; massive changes in how we live are required, […].  

More to come.  

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