Monday, February 3, 2014

State of the Mountain

by Shawn K. Inlow

I worry too much.  Or do I?

To say that one worries too much implies that maybe there's nothing to worry about.  I care a lot.  I love a lot.  I laugh a lot.  And I worry a lot.  How's that sound?

The Artist, I was telling someone in church this weekend, feels the weight of the world more keenly than most.  Do you ever feel that tidal wave of melancholy?  All the beauty and sadness of this life just wailing on you?  It is, if you are well balanced, a wave that knocks you topsy-turvy and then, when it ebbs, it has by contrast the effect of making all the good things even brighter.

It is, my friend Julie would say, the Libra in me; constantly out of balance and constantly seeking it.

I am opening to you today, dear reader, a larger window on things that has been brought on by my recent thinking on politics, expressly the president's recent state of the union address.  Everybody and their brother had a "response" to the Obama speech.  And they generally all missed the boat.  This is my response:  The State of the Mountain Address.

The Mountain abides.  As my old friend Lao Tzu might say, those things that are not born do not die.  The life on or about The Mountain, though, is in constant turmoil.  Constant change.  We, dear reader, are the little things clinging to life.  The Mountain owns you.  You don't own it.  You may think you do, but one day you return to it.  Your waking life, though, is one of precarity.  Mr. Obama was talking about the ten-thousand things, all of which are reflections, I think, of two basic things:  Economic Problems and Moral Problems.  The two, on a real level, are the same thing.

The sickness lies in an economic paradigm that prizes profit over sustainability.  Profit even over common decency.  Continual growth and increasingly complex energy throughput and waste over simplicity and health.  This world of human affairs is sick.  It is out of balance.  We need to strike a balance.

Continual growth is impossible.  The Mountain is, after all, finite.  There is only so much coal you can dig and so much natural gas you can frack.  Meanwhile the waste heap grows higher and higher, poisoning the air we breathe and the water we drink.  More energy.  More power.  More things.  More pollution.

There are too many people for everyone to live like Americans without us toppling off the Malthusian cliff.  Thus Americans, rich and in the driver's seat of the best of warplanes, can and should lead the world.  But how?  We must decide if we're going to be heroes or villains (the moral question) in the equation.

The words are scary:  Communism, Socialism, Terrorism.  Show me a new "ism" and I'll show you a new war.  The words are scary because you've been propagandized to have negative feelings about these when all they are is ideas.  Capitalism and Imperialism have probably caused more death and destruction in the world.  Communism, Socialism and Capitalism, after all, are just methods of accounting; ways of counting what we have and determining who gets most of it.

We need to think about Idealism.  Altruism.  We need to think about ways that we can share our wealth in ways that improve the world around us.  For instance, I would, with all my money, figure out a way to start an electric cooperative and build a solar or wind farm to help supply my town's needs and use the overage to do the same for other towns.  I could still make some money for my trouble, but is there a need to make a killing?  How much do I need to live well?

We need to shift from a purely capitalist system which demands unsustainable growth to one that includes slow growth or possibly zero growth models for the common good rather than the individual massing of wealth. 

Capitalism has done very well, thank you, at creating wealth.  Since the founding of the USA and through the industrial revolution, the capitalist paradigm magnificently lifted the masses to a quality life.  This wealth has been built on a seemingly endless supply of natural resources.  But the wars are now raging for possession of those dwindling resources that are left.  All over Africa and the Middle East the last fateful gold rush is on in the selfish death spiral that is capitalist, imperialist perpetual growth.

There are big businesses rushing to establish electrical grids in tribal regions of Africa not to enlighten the people but to gain access to their resources.  Soon a tribal person in Africa won't be able to see the stars at night for all the blinding light.  The people will begin to have abnormal rhythms as their days become longer and more "productive."  Then they will get sick and seek medicine.   Can we not just leave them in peace?

I think Cargill and Monsanto and other giant agri-businesses have already changed our DNA with their genetically modified foods and they spend millions of dollars to prevent you, the consumer, from knowing what Faustian bargains they've made to engineer food.  These kinds of companies are destroying farms, destroying soil, and poisoning habitat.  The fossil fuel industry, though it has been hugely beneficial, needs to be grandfathered out because with global warming we're now paying the piper.  And don't get me started on the bankers.

NAFTA unleashed a tidal wave of cheap corn on Mexico and drove whole generations of farmers from their fields, where their labor no longer turned a profit, to the cities, where there was nothing for them, and then, finally, to cross in wave upon wave across the American border to find some way to survive.  This is how an economic decision has caused, not only an immoral disruption of a way of life, but the shattered families of illegal immigration as well.

NAFTA was touted as being great for everyone but it turns out it was a shitty deal for almost everyone.  NAFTA, the North-American Free Trade Agreement, 20 years since it was instituted has been hellish on decent American jobs but very, very nice for corporate profit margins.

And now President Obama wants "fast track" authority to execute another, far worse, "free" trade deal in the Pacific Rim, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP.  We are waging global economic capitalist warfare, a destructive brand of economics that will negatively affect much of the population, be a bonanza for corporate ledgers and simply stab the working man in the heart and wreak havoc on the world's climate.

Unless.  Go and read the Dr. Seuss book "The Lorax."  Unless.

We must pull back on the reigns of the runaway engine that is unbridled capitalism.  Capitalism, I heard someone say, must serve democracy rather than impede it.  And given the price of a congressman nowadays and the ways in which corruption and bribery have become the rules of the road, the United States is in no position to lead.

Men like Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch spread disinformation and sew the seeds of scientific illiteracy.  Men like Charles and David Koch are seeking to buy out the government to free themselves to continue their wanton exploitation and ruination of the environment.  There are so many corporate interests lobbying Washington that it is clear that capitalism is hurting democracy.  The government no longer serves the voters.  The government serves the wealthy.  For the love of God, the only people claiming responsibility today are terrorists.

The world's answers cannot be had without American action.  And the villains in this game have have tipped the balance in their greedy self interest.  In fact, they may well have broken the scales entirely, making the societal choices that are needed impossible to come by via common governance.

Time is short and America is unable to move.  Its emperors are fat and lolling on beds padded by legal bribery.  The lock on the doors of power must be broken and the scurrilous bastards who have put us here must be confronted.  They must change or be removed.  Otherwise, these greedy fools will take us all down with them.


  1. Shawn, before we confront global politics, we need to address the national idiocy to send money to people who are able to work and choose not to do so, because no one obligates them to do so....

    1. My dear friend. So good to hear from you. I don't think I was talking directly about the welfare issue, but I have no problem with my tax money going to help the less fortunate. I would rather that than an unnecessary war, for one. In my view, the poor are not the cause of the problem: They are the result of the problem. I'd like the readership to think not about the symptoms but the underlying problems. And I think those problems lie at the heart of the mechanism of government. I think greed is the problem. Perhaps the next poster, Doralla, will make some sense to you. She always sets me straight anyway!

      Lovely to hear from you again, my friend, may you be safe and may all good things come your way.


  2. Hey Shawn, as always I've enjoyed reading your stormy blog. I only want to comment on a couple of issues you've raised.

    You state that you worry a lot - worrying, in my view, is a senseless and energy-draining mental action being that one should detect and abstain from. Why do I say that? Worry is another word for fear, worrying about what was (past), what could be (future). Not being fed by and grounded in any present moment it's n action without roots that goes' round and 'round in circles while sapping our life force which we can use better for caring actions, changes, active love ......I see a lot of people spending most of their awake life chained to this activity and not being able to move forward.
    The following applies only indirectly but it describes our inner battles well:
    'An old Cherokee told his grandson, “My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies, & ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, & truth.” The boy thought about it, and asked, “Grandfather, which wolf wins?” The old man quietly replied, “The one you feed.”

    You write 'There are too many people for everyone to live like Americans without us toppling off the Malthusian cliff. Thus Americans, rich and in the driver's seat of the best of warplanes, can and should lead the world.' Honestly, Shawn?? What soul trait qualifies us?

    Sorry for not addressing all you've written and just picking several items

    Lastly, thank you for mentioning, among others, the terms communism, socialism. I have the hope that people in our country one day may want to think a little deeper about esp. the principles of socialism which often just gets lumped in with others including fascism.
    I think that this country consists mostly of people who selflessly and generously act SOCIAL -ly, be that for their neighbor, their fellow church member, their colleague or friend or stranger. In no other country do I see the principle of volunteerism as deeply ingrained in its fabric and culture as in ours. And I'm proud and happy for it! We are all acting in very SOCIAL ways. While that is not the criteria of a socialist society I still have the hope that people will not short-stop at those terms but care to think them through.

    Keep writing, Shawn!

    1. Doralla -

      I don't know how someone so kind and charming as you was ever born. I love the Cherokee story. It bears repeating.

      By the thing about leading the world, I mean that the United States could lead the world in many ways. As it stands we are setting a very bad example. This needs to change. For instance, I think that efforts to combat climate change would be supercharged if America got off the sidelines and seriously addressed this issue. But you have to overcome big industrial money and pressure to do it.

      President Obama talks a good game and I think he's alive to the fight but I don't think he's going to do a damn thing about it. He's gonna talk about political issues he can win on, like a minimum wage or immigration reform. These issues, like I mentioned in the main text, are reflections of the underlying economic and moral problems we face.

      The TPP talks, for instance, will - by the way I read it - damage the environment forever with a giant free trade zone from China and Japan to the US. This will put more American workers out of jobs and flood the market with more slave labor abroad and begin to erode American wages further with the multitudes out of work.

      The XL Pipeline is a carbon-bomb waiting to go off and its tar-sand byproducts, "petcoke", which I believe a younger Koch Brother is the kingpin of, is the filthiest energy product of all and Lil' Koch is all about selling that cheap, dirty energy to China. The US can prevent this. We COULD lead on this issue. But I fear we wont.

      This is what I mean by America taking a leadership role. I certainly agree with you that we've not exhibited thus far any "soul-trait" (love that) that would qualify us in a leadership role.

      But if the US could lead on things like climate change, we could get other big polluters like China on board too. Because the US entertaining the real cost of Climate change rules and practices would throw a huge competitive advantage to Asian nations and Congress would have to act to counter-balance that issue. Then China would be the heart of the climate change problem rather than the United States. Then, I think, China would have the latitude to clean up too.

      We could lead. Will we? is the issue I present. I'm not optimistic.


    2. Doralla's point is well-taken that worry seems to be futile and counter-productive - feeding the wrong wolf, so to speak. On the other hand, the alternative can too easily be apathy and groundless hope for magic bullet solutions. Even though I know better than to expect panaceas from technology, I suspect that I let the expectation of such be my default assumption to keep me from getting swamped by fears for the future. We tend to be too busy in this culture to do the things that are good for the soul and for the eventual good of our society. We need to be reminded of why it's worth the effort to take the time, and writings like this can inspire these changes. Please keep it up.

      I really liked your answer to Howie. Not knowing him personally, I would not likely have been so kind. The way you put it is perfect though. Not much point in blaming the victims of the erratic society we have. So many are unfortunate and never get a chance to shine.

    3. Hey, Max.

      Thanks for stopping by and I hope you find some of the blog posts of some use. I lurk a lot over on and really enjoy you guys' creativity.


    4. Feel free to write a guest post sometime if you wish. It's a very different format than what you have here. More of a gaggle of bloggers posting on anything imaginable. Sometimes it gets a little out of hand, but I try to avoid steering as much as I can. After a while it takes on a life of its own. Sometimes I wish I had something more like this, where there's a little more freedom to get personal (ala Sleepless Night) and to be assured a post could have a little more shelf life.


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