Naomi Klein: “How science is telling us all to revolt” // George Monbiot: “Increase in temperature in the 20th century is likely to have been the largest in any century during the past 1.000 years.”

WWF“Ice cores extracted from the Antarctic show that the levels in the atmosphere of carbon dioxide and methane (these are the two principal greenhouse gases) are now higher than they have been for 650.000 years.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) levels have been rising over the 20th century faster than at any time over the past 20.000 years. The only means by which greenhouse gases could have accumulated so swiflty is human action: carbon dioxide is produced by burning oil, coal and gas and by clearing forests, while methane is released from farms and coal mines and landfill sites.

As CO2 and methane levels in the atmosphere increase, the temperature rises. The concentration of carbon dioxide, the more important of the two, has risen from 280 parts per million parts of air (ppm) in Marlowe’s time (16th century)  to 380 ppm today. Most of the growth has taken place in the last 50 years. The average global temperature over the past century has climbed, as a result, by 0.6º Centigrade. According to the World Metereological Organization, “the increase in temperature in the 20th century is likely to have been the largest in any century during the past 1.000 years.”

George Monbiot
Heat – How to Stop The Planet From Burning
(CLICK TO READ MORE QUOTES FROM THIS BOOK)

Climate Change 3

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Naomi Klein: How science is telling us all to revolt

Is our relentless quest for economic growth killing the planet? Climate scientists have seen the data – and they are coming to some incendiary conclusions.

“Global capitalism has made the depletion of resources so rapid, convenient and barrier-free that “earth-human systems” are becoming dangerously unstable in response. (…) There was one dynamic in the model, however, that offered some hope. Werner termed it “resistance” – movements of “people or groups of people” who “adopt a certain set of dynamics that does not fit within the capitalist culture”. According to the abstract for his presentation, this includes “environmental direct action, resistance taken from outside the dominant culture, as in protests, blockades and sabotage by indigenous peoples, workers, anarchists and other activist groups”.

Serious scientific gatherings don’t usually feature calls for mass political resistance, much less direct action and sabotage. But then again, Werner wasn’t exactly calling for those things. He was merely observing that mass uprisings of people – along the lines of the abolition movement, the civil rights movement or Occupy Wall Street – represent the likeliest source of “friction” to slow down an economic machine that is careening out of control. We know that past social movements have “had tremendous influence on . . . how the dominant culture evolved”, he pointed out. So it stands to reason that, “if we’re thinking about the future of the earth, and the future of our coupling to the environment, we have to include resistance as part of that dynamics”. And that, Werner argued, is not a matter of opinion, but “really a geophysics problem”.

(…) He is saying that his research shows that our entire economic paradigm is a threat to ecological stability. And indeed that challenging this economic paradigm – through mass-movement counter-pressure – is humanity’s best shot at avoiding catastrophe.”

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“If hot thermometers actually exploded like they do in cartoons, there would be a lot of mercury to clean up in California right now. The California heat this year is like nothing ever seen, with records that go back to 1895. (…) The high temperatures have contributed to one of the worst droughts in California’s history. The water reserves in the state’s topsoil and subsoil are nearly depleted, and 70 percent of the state’s pastures are rated “very poor to poor,” according to the USDA. By one measure, which takes into account both rainfall and heat, this is the worst drought ever…” – via SYSTEM CHANGE, NOT CLIMATE CHANGE (ECOSOCIALIST ALLIANCE)

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PEOPLE’S CLIMATE MARCH

SEPTEMBER 21, 2014

In September, world leaders are coming to New York City for a UN summit on the climate crisis. UN Secretary­ General Ban Ki-­moon is urging governments to support an ambitious global agreement to dramatically reduce global warming pollution.

With our future on the line and the whole world watching, we’ll take a stand to bend the course of history. We’ll take to the streets to demand the world we know is within our reach: a world with an economy that works for people and the planet; a world safe from the ravages of climate change; a world with good jobs, clean air and water, and healthy communities.

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To change everything, we need everyone on board.
Sunday, September 21 in New York City. Join us.

http://peoplesclimate.org/march/

COWSPIRACY – THE SUSTAINABILITY SECRET (The Connections Between Animal Agriculture and Global Warming)

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Cows don’t conspire, that’s for sure. But they’re involved in a conspiracy of silence and misinformation, created by humans, which aims to hide from public knowledge the real impacts of our eating habits. When it comes to Meat, most of us are living inside the Matrix. By that I mean that most of us, of course, don’t care that much about knowing where the meat in our Big Macs or chicken nuggets came from. We doesn’t establish the connection between bacon and slaughtered pigs, or between the milk in our breafast table and cows who are forcibly separated from their offspring. We prefer not even remembering that a living and sentient creature had to be killed and cut into pieces in order for us to enjoy our fleshy repasts inside a McDonalds or a Burger Kings. Most of us enjoy living “comfortably unaware”, to quote R. Oppenlander.

Corporate media also refuses to share proper information that would damage the reputations of junk-food mega-corporations, which make huge profits selling slices of dead animals who have been turned into hamburgers and sausages. What none of these established powers wants us to know is that animal agriculture is guilty of more environmental destruction and greenhouse gas emissions than the whole transportation sector, for example.  Cowspiracy, highly provocative and welll-informed documentary by Kip Andersen and Keegan Kohn, builds a strong case in defense of veganism as an essential and urgent component of the struggles to overcome our current environmental crisis.

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It turns out that, according to a World Watch Report called Livestock and Climate Change, 51% of greenhouse gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture. I can already hear some of you, dear readers, giggling in skepticism: “cow farts can’t possibly be that nasty!” Well, think again: we’re not talking only about farts, but about massive deforestations of rainforests; huge amounts of water consumption; and an ocean of excremental matter making its way into our rivers and oceans.

Let’s start with the funny part: farts. At least 5 times more toxic than CO2, the methane gas that result from the digestive process of cows is in fact a massive factor causing Global Warming. Some people would argue that one of Earth’s main problems is certainly not the cows and what comes out of their asses, but instead over-population: after all, we went from being  1 billion homo sapiens in 1800 to the current astonishing number of 7 billion. It’s in fact an awesome explosion of human population in a couple of centuries. However, there’s another over-population problem which is highly underestimated, almost never even mentioned: the Earth nowadays has a population of 70 billion farm animals, worldwide. This is how deeply and vastly Humankind has shaped the planet in order to suit its own desires.

Of course that, in order to make way for 70 billion animals, enslaved by Humankind so they can provide us with eggs and milk and meat, a lot of forests had to be cut down. The Amazon rainforest, for instance, has been wiped out in huge proportions in order to reach a clean slate of land in which the animal agribusiness can thrive. Picture this: the rate of deforestation of rainforests in our planet is equivalent to one football field per second. Absolutely fundamental to the balance of global ecosystems, the Amazon Rainforest, also known as The Lungs of the World, is a giant air-purifying machine: it breathes CO2 in, it breathes oxygen out. Our Civilization is in such a suicidal path, in such a self-destructive neurosis, that this essential key to our survival is being ravaged and annihilated in a terrifying pace.

Of course there are activists and organizations who rise up to defend the Amazon rainforest against the advancement of bulldozers and cattle ranchers and agribusiness megafarms. But the sad news is: in Brazil alone, more than 1.100 activists have been murdered in the last 20 years by trying to protect the Amazon and its indigenous populations from destruction. Chico Mendes and Dorothy Stang are only two of the most well-known people who lost their lives in this struggle. I strongly recommend you reading the Global Witness 2014 report, which provides a comprehensive overview of all the murders perpetrated against eco-activists in recent years. “Urgent action required to challenge impunity of perpetrators, protect citizens and address root causes of environmental crisis!”

Another serious issue concerning animal agriculture is, of course, a simple fact: 70 billion animals need to drink and to eat. To produce one single hamburger, it takes 660 gallons of water. Imagine the huge quantity of water that is required for our global production of meat and dairy. In a planet where almost 1 billion people suffer from hunger – thousands die every day because of conditions related to food insecurity and malnutrition – in many countries there’s no shortage of food to feed the animals. In the poorest countries in the world, human beings are dying of hunger while cows and pigs are being fed in order to be slaughtered and then eaten, mostly by consumers in the so-called “First World”. Isn’t this obscene?

And I’m not even gonna start on the theme of Animal Rights and Animal Liberation discourse – those interested in knowing more about the life conditions of these creatures can watch the impressive documentary Earthlings or read Peter Singer’s books. Cowspiracy isn’t interested in shocking people with footage from slaughterhouses or factory farms; instead, it provides an excellent analysis of how animal agriculture is guilty of massive ecological destruction. The film is bold enough to denounce that even environmental organizations – such as Greenpeace or Sierra Club – don’t have the guts to confront the powerful meat-industry.

Fossil fuels is obviously a huge problem, but shouldn’t we widely recognize also the destructive impact of large-scale meat-production and meat-consumption? Isn’t it obvious that urgent and massive action needs to be undertaken in order for us to overcome our current eating habits, which have proven so disastrous to Earth’s ecosystems? Veganism, after all, is increasingly being perceived not only as an individual choice by a bunch of hippies and animal-loving-freaks, but as an essential part of the alter-world we’re aiming to build, in which values such as sustainability, empathy and compassion can reign over individualism, competitiveness and anthropocentrism.

Vegetarianism is an ethical doctrine with spans milleniums of Human History – it has been a part of India’s civilization for thousands of years, and it goes much deeper than deeming the cow a Holy Animal; it also has influenced Western thought profoundly ever since Pythagoras in ancient Greece. A wonderful book about the history of vegetarianism is Tristram Stuart’s The Bloodless Revolution – A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Timesin which this English historian explores several different vegetarian doctrines from the last centuries, including remarks about some of History’s most significant vegans such as the Percy Shelley and Gandhi. After reading it, I got the strong impression that vegetarianism has enough historical force and deeply planted roots, and it can regain massive support in our contemporary world, especially considering the worsening of the climate crisis we will be experiencing in the next decades. Vegetarianism, hopefully, will be increasingly perceived as part of the solution for many of our present troubles. I don’t presume to have a direct connection to Miss Gaia, but I strongly suspect that she would love if humans turned vegan.

Design by Whitney Tudor
KNOW MORE & GET INVOLVED:
COWSPIRACY OFFICIAL WEBSITEFACEBOOK PAGE

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You might also enjoy:

MEAT THE TRUTH

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Blogged by Awestruck Wanderer from the Media Center of Peoples Social Forum, Ottawa,  23/08/14.

The Dirty Little Secrets of Climate Change Denial – by George Monbiot, Naomi Klein, Noam Chosmky, Bill Maher, David Suzuki, Naomi Oreskes etc.

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George Monbiot in Heat – How To Stop The Planet From Burning:

“The effort to tackle climate change suffers from the problem of split incentives: those who are least responsible for it are the most likely to suffer its effects. Bangladesh and Ethiopia are two of the countries which will be hit hardest. A sea level rise of 1 metre could permanently flood 21% of Bangladesh, including its best agricultural land, pushing some 15 million people out of their homes. Storm surges of the kind the country experienced in 1998 are likely to become more common: in that instance, 65% of Bangladesh was temporarily drowned, and its farming and infrastructure ruined. Ethiopia has already been suffering a series of droughts linked to climate change. Spring rains have steadily diminished since 1996. In 2005, partly as a result of the droughts caused by the failure of these rains, between 8 and 10 million Ethiopians were at risk of starvation.

Most of the rich countries, being located in temperate latitudes, will, in the initial stages at least, suffer lesser ecological effects. They will also have more money with which to protect their citizens from floods, droughts and extremes of temperature. Within these countries, the richest people, who can buy their way out of trouble, will be harmed last. The blame, as the following data suggests, is inversely proportional to the impacts.

COUNTRY / CARBON DIOXIDE EMISSIONS (TONNES PER CAPITA)

Luxembourg – 24.3
United States – 20.0
United Kingdom – 9.5
Bangladesh – 0.24
Ethiopia – 0.06

Source: US Energy Information Administration

 Asking wealthy people in rich nations to act to prevent climate change means asking them to give up many of the things they value – their high-performance cars, their flights to Tuscany and Thailand and Florida – for the benefit of other people. The problem is compounded by the fact that the connection between cause and effect seems so improbable. By turning on the lights, filling the kettle, taking the children to school, driving to the shops, we are condemning other people to death. We never chose to do this. We do not see ourselves as killers. We perform these acts without passion or intent.

To make this even more difficult, the early effects of climate change, for those of us who live in the temperate countries of the rich world, are generally pleasant. Our winters are milder, our springs come sooner. We have suffered the occasional flood and drought and heatwave. But the overwhelming sensation, just when we need to act with the greatest urgency, is that of being blessed by our pollution.”

READ MORE FROM MONBIOT’S BOOK HEAT

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BILL MAHER LAYS WASTE TO GLOBAL WARMING DENIERS

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Merchants of doubt: how a handful of scientists obscured the truth on issues from tobacco smoke to global warming

Author(s): Naomi Oreskes, Erik M. Conway

Dowload ebook: http://bit.ly/UBI3Kb (PDF, 36 mb)

Synopsis: The U.S. scientific community has long led the world in research on such areas as public health, environmental science, and issues affecting quality of life. Our scientists have produced landmark studies on the dangers of DDT, tobacco smoke, acid rain, and global warming. But at the same time, a small yet potent subset of this community leads the world in vehement denial of these dangers. Merchants of Doubt tells the story of how a loose-knit group of high-level scientists and scientific advisers, with deep connections in politics and industry, ran effective campaigns to mislead the public and deny well-established scientific knowledge over four decades. Remarkably, the same individuals surface repeatedly—some of the same figures who have claimed that the science of global warming is “not settled” denied the truth of studies linking smoking to lung cancer, coal smoke to acid rain, and CFCs to the ozone hole. “Doubt is our product,” wrote one tobacco executive. These “experts” supplied it. Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, historians of science, roll back the rug on this dark corner of the American scientific community, showing how ideology and corporate interests, aided by a too-compliant media, have skewed public understanding of some of the most pressing issues of our era.

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RT’S “DEBUNKING THE DENIAL”

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Naomi3“Our problem is that the climate crisis hatched in our laps at a moment in history when political and social conditions were uniquely hostile to a problem of this nature and magnitude – that moment being the tail end of the go-go 80s, the blast-off point for the crusade to spread deregulated capitalism around the world. Climate change is a collective problem demanding collective action the likes of which humanity has never actually accomplished. Yet it entered mainstream consciousness in the midst of an ideological war being waged on the very idea of the collective sphere.”

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“This deeply unfortunate mistiming has created all sorts of barriers to our ability to respond effectively to this crisis. It has meant that corporate power was ascendant at the very moment when we needed to exert unprecedented controls over corporate behaviour in order to protect life on Earth. It has meant that regulation was a dirty word just when we needed those powers most. It has meant that we are ruled by a class of politicians who know only how to dismantle and starve public institutions just when they most need to be fortified and reimagined. And it has meant that we are saddled with an apparatus of “free trade” deals that tie the hands of policymakers just when they need maximum flexibility to achieve a massive energy transition.”

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“We also have to confront how the mismatch between climate change and market domination has created barriers within our very selves, making it harder to look at this most pressing of humanitarian crises with anything more than furtive, terrified glances. Because of the way our daily lives have been altered by both market and technological triumphalism, we lack many of the observational tools necessary to convince ourselves that climate change is real – let alone the confidence to believe that a different way of living is possible.

And little wonder: just when we needed to gather, our public sphere was disintegrating; just when we needed to consume less, consumerism took over virtually every aspect of our lives; just when we needed to slow down and notice, we sped up; and just when we needed longer time horizons, we were able to see only the immediate present.

This is our climate change mismatch, and it affects not just our species but potentially every other species on the planet as well.”

— Naomi Klein,
“Climate change is the fight of our lives – yet we can hardly bear to look at it” 

You might also enjoy:

N. Klein interviewed by Bill Moyers in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

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SOME U.S. CARTOONS:

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climate change
June 8, 2014 Toxic Emissions Where were you dad? tumblr_n6nihsZNG41r55d2io1_500
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Neil deGrasse Tyson:

NEIL

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Noam Chomsky;

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David Suzuki:

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TO BE CONTINUED…

On The Verge Of Climate Collapse // George Monbiot’s book “Heat: How to Stop the Planet From Burning”

Monbiot 2

A FAUSTIAN PACT

In Christopher Marlowe’s play The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, written in 1590 (and that would later inspire Goethe’s Faust), he tells the story of a brilliant scholar, “glutted with learning’s golden gifts”, who reaches the limits of human knowledge. Bored by terrestrial scholarship, he plots, by means of necromancy, to break into

…a world of profit and delight
Of power, honor, of omnipotence.

When, he believes, he has acquired his demonic powers, spirits will fetch him everything he wants:

I’ll have them fly to India for gold,
Ransack the ocean for orient pearl,
And search all corners of the new-found world
For pleasant fruits and princely delicates.

So Faustus draws a circle and summons the Devil’s servant, Mephistopheles. He offers him a deal: if the Devil will grant him 24 years in which to “live in all voluptuousness”, Faustus will, at the end of that period , surrender his soul to hell. Mephistopheles explains the consequences, but the doctor refuses to believe him.

Think’st thou that Faustus is so fond to imagine
That, after this life, there is any pain?
Tush, these are trifles and mere old wives’ tales.

Faustus-FTP-Poster

So the bargain is struck and signed in blood, and Faustus acquires his magical powers, With the help of a flying “chariot burning bright”, he takes a sightseeing tour around Europe. He performs miracles. He summons fresh grapes from the southern hemisphere in the dead of winter.  After 24 years, the devils come for him.  He begs for mercy, but it is too late. They drag him down to hell.

If you did not know any better, you could mistake this story for a metaphor of climate change.

Faust is humankind, restless, curious, unsated. Mephistopheles, who appears in the original English text as a “fiery man”, is fossil fuel. Faust’s miraculous abilities are the activities fossil fuel permits. 24 years is the period – about half the true span – in which they have enabled us to live in all voluptuousness. And the flames of hell – well, I think you’ve probably worked that out for yourself… Our use of fossil fuels is a Faustian pact.

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To doubt, today, that manmade climate change is happening, you must abandon science and revert to some other means of understanding the world: alchemy perhaps, or magic.

Ice cores extracted from the Antarctic show that the levels in the atmosphere of carbon dioxide and methane (these are the two principal greenhouse gases) are now higher than they have been for 650.000 years.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) levels have been rising over the 20th century faster than at any time over the past 20.000 years. The only means by which greenhouse gases could have accumulated so swiftly is human action: carbon dioxide is produced by burning oil, coal and gas and by clearing forests, while methane is released from farms and coal mines and landfill sites.

As CO2 and methane levels in the atmosphere increase, the temperature rises. The concentration of carbon dioxide, the more important of the two, has risen from 280 parts per million parts of air (ppm) in Marlowe’s time to 380 ppm today. Most of the growth has taken place in the last 50 years. The average global temperature over the past century has climbed, as a result, by 0.6º Centigrade. According to the World Metereological Organization, “the increase in temperature in the 20th century is likely to have been the largest in any century during the past 1.000 years.

Already sea ice in the Arctic has shrunk to the smallest area ever recorded. In the Antarctic, scientists watched stupefied in 2002 as the Larsen B ice shelf collapsed into the sea (see The Guardian’s Antarctica Sends 500 Million Tonne Warning of the Effects of Global Warming, 20 March 2006, by John Vidal).  A paper published in Science magazine concluded that is disintegration was the result of melting caused by a warming ocean.

Almost all the world’s glaciers are now retreating. Permafrost in Alaska and Siberia, which has remained frozen since the last Ice Age, has started to melt. Parts of the Amazon rainforest are turning to savannah as the temperatures there exceed the point at which trees can survive… The World Health Organization estimates that 150.000 people a year are now dying as a result of climate change… All this is happening with just 0.6 ºC of warming.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a committee of climate specialists which assesses and summarizes the science, estimated in 2001 that global temperatures will rise between 1.4 and 5.8º C this century. (…) Professor Martin Parry of the UK’s Metereological Office estimates that a rise of just 2.1º C will expose between 2.3 and 3 billion people to the risk of water shortages. The disappearance of glaciers in the Andes and the Himalayas will imperil the people who depend on their meltwater, particularly in Pakistan, western China, Central Asia, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization warns that “in some 40 poor, developing countries, with a combined population of 2 billion, crop production losses due to climate change may drastically increase the number of undernourished people, severely hindering progress in combating poverty and food insecurity.”

HEATGEORGE MONBIOT
Heat – How to Stop the Planet From Burning
(Doubleday Canada, 2006, 277 pgs. Buy at Amazon.)
Read on at http://www.monbiot.com

COSMOS: A SPACETIME ODYSSEY [THE COMPLETE 1ST SEASON – 13 EPISODES]

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Cosmos 2
COSMOS: A SPACETIME ODYSSEY [2014]
Download the complete 1st season (13 episodes):
http://bit.ly/UEGI5k (torrent)
Hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Reboot of Carl Sagan’s 1980 Cosmos
Reviews: SlateHuffington Post – Vulture.com

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You might also enjoy:

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A Fierce Green Fire (2013) – The Battle for a Living Planet [Documentary]

“A Fierce Green Fire: The Battle for a Living Planet” is the first big-picture exploration of the environmental movement – grassroots and global activism spanning fifty years from conservation to climate change. Directed and written by Mark Kitchell, Academy Award-nominated director of “Berkeley in the Sixties“, and narrated by Robert Redford, Ashley Judd, Van Jones, Isabel Allende and Meryl Streep, the film premiered at Sundance Film Festival 2012, has won acclaim at festivals around the world, and in 2013 begins theatrical release as well as educational distribution and use by environmental groups and grassroots activists. Inspired by the book of the same name by Philip Shabecoff and informed by advisors like Edward O. Wilson, “A Fierce Green Fire” chronicles the largest movement of the 20th century and one of the keys to the 21st. It brings together all the major parts of environmentalism and connects them. It focuses on activism, people fighting to save their homes, their lives, the future – and succeeding against all odds.” – 

http://www.afiercegreenfire.com/

“Life Far From Hot Baths” – Simone Weil’s philosophy in connection with Zen Buddhist ethics

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“The true hero, the true subject, the center of the Iliad is force. Force employed by man, force that enslaves man, force before which man’s flesh shrinks away.

To define force – it is that X that turns anybody who is subjected to it into a thing. Exercised to the limit, it turns man into a thing in the most literal sense: it makes a corpse out of him. Somebody was there, and the next minute there is nobody here at all; this is a spectacle the Iliad never wearies of showing us.

 Nearly all the Iliad takes place far from hot baths. Nearly all of human life, then and now, takes place far from hot baths…

Such is the empire of force, as extensive as the empire of nature.”

SIMONE WEIL  (1909-1943),
Iliad: Poem of Force, pgs. 3-4-10.

 

6Simone Weil reads the Iliad as if she is witnessing before her compassionate eyes those occurrences evoked by the poet’s verses: she doesn’t turn her face away, refusing to see, when the horrors of war are depicted in Homer’s blood-soaked pages. The war between Trojans and Greeks offers infinite occasions for us to reflect upon Force – especially in its deathly effects. What results from the battles is always men laying lifeless on the ground, “dearer to the vultures than to their wives”, and Simone Weil stresses that even the greatest heroes – Hector or Achilles – are frequently reduced to things by the enemy’s force. “The bitterness of such a spectacle is offered us absolutely undiluted. No comforting fiction intervenes; no consoling prospect of immortality; and on the hero’s head no washed-out halo of patriotism descends.” (WEIL: p. 4)

If there’s a lot of tragedy in the Iliad – and it surely has, even tough it was written centuries before the Greek tragedians (Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides) were born – it’s because force often is employed with tragic effects. It’s clear to me that Simone Weil uses the concept of “force” to denote something she morally condemns, and in such a manner that one might fell she has affinities with Eastern wisdom, especially Buddhist ethics. For example, D. T. Suzuki’s Zen Buddhist philosopy, in which he opposes Power and Love and describes them as hostile to one another. Force/power is imposed upon a subject in order to reduce him to a thing, either by killing him (and thus forcingly throwing him back into the inanimate world), either by violating, humiliating, opressing or harming him in such a way that the person is still alive and breathing, but is no longer an autonomous subject. “A man stands disarmed and naked with a weapon pointing at him; this person becomes a corpse before anybody or anything touches him… still breathing, he is simply matter.” (WEIL: pg. 5)

A difference or imbalance between the forces of two individuals are excellent evidence of the onthological presence of Simone Weil’s force or Suzuki’s power among all that’s human. Trivial examples abound. Someone with a bazooka overpowers someone with a knife. A knifed man forces an unarmed woman into carnal processes she wouldn’t unforcibly agree to. And there are hundreds of movie scenes, especially in westerns and action blockbusters, that tell stories about this battle of forces and powers. But for millenia before cinema was invented human history cointained in its bosom duels, rivalry, competion – and one of the most ancient of literary monuments of the world, Homer, has blood of battle soaked all over his pages. To speak like a Greek, human history is filled with ágon and húbris.

Weil writes about the Iliad being a French woman in the industrial-commercial age, and surely her experience in Renault’s factory, where she went to work in order to experience in the flesh the fate of the proletariat, informs her reading of History as a whole. The factory’s of the 20nd century are a force that dehumanizes and turns subjects into things, Weil dennounced on her writings La Condition Ouvrière, and she can sense a similar process mirrored in  The Iliad.

Iliad

“There are unfortunate creatures who have become things for the rest of their lives. Their days hold no pastimes, no free spaces, no room in them for any impulse of their own. It is not that their life is harder than other men’s nor that they occupy a lower place in the social hierarchy; no, they are another human species, a compromise between a man and a corpse. The idea of a person’s being a thing is a logical contradiction. Yet what is impossible in logic becomes true in life, and the contradiction lodged in the soul tears it to shreds. This thing is constantly aspiring to be a man or a woman, and never achieving it – here, surely, is death but death strung out over a whole lifetime; here, surely is life, but life that death congeals before abolishing.” (WEIL: p. 8)

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In the epoch of the Trojan War, it was destiny of a conquered enemy to become a slave, that is, to be turned into a thing, deprived of autonomy, and Homer describes in some occasions how people are forced into ships, taken away “to a land where they will work wretched tasks, laboring for a pitiless master” (HOMER. Iliad. Apud WEIL: p. 9).

A person enslaved is being treated like a beast, like a horse on reins. 12 Years A Slave, Scott McQueen’s film, is a fresh reminder of these horrors. Simone Weil denounces the inhumanity in human affairs wherever she sees it: be it on a Greek epic-poem or in the factories of the car industry. In this we can see how Simone Weil joins hands once again with Buddhist ethics: she denounces the ways in which misused force, or tyranny, disrespects sentient beings by treating them as if they were inert matter.

What Weil and Suzuki denounce in the workings of Force and Power is that lack of compassion which Buddhist ethics, by dissolving the ego, aims to cure ourselves of. Enlightnement or Nirvana, in Buddhism, can’t be achieved without compassion. It may also be argued that French philosophy in the 20nd century has few voices more compassionate than Simone Weil’s.

“Force is as pitiless to the man who possesses it, or thinks he does, as it is to its victims; the second it crushes, the first it intoxicates. The truth is, nobody really possesses it. In the Iliad there is not a single man who does not at one time or another have to bow his neck to force.” (WEIL: p. 11)

There’s no simplistic dualistic division between the forceful and the forceless in Weil’s philosophy – of course one can be a slave for a whole lifetime, and one can be a master and tyrant from birth to the grave, but force isn’t something a human being can only exert upon others. Nature itself overpowers tremendously each and every one of the sentient and living creatures in its bosom, in such a way that even the most powerful among humans is still a frail thing – and always mortal, transient.

Let’s remember that the Iliad begins when a heated controversy is dividing two very powerful Greeks, Agamemnon and Achilles. This fight for supremacy is all around Homer’s poem, everyone wants to increase his power, and this can’t be done by any other way than at the expense of others. The result of this mad rivalry is huge bloodshed. “He that takes the sword, will perish by the sword. The Iliad formulated the principle long before the Gospels did, and in almost the same terms: Ares is just, and kills those who kill.” (p. 14)

1Certainly inspired and influenced by the philosophy of one of her dearest teachers, Alain  (Émile-Auguste Chartier, 1858-1961, author of Mars ou La Guerre Jugée), Simone Weil is a passionate apologist for philosophy’s powers against inhumanity – because “where there is no room for reflection, there is none either for justice or prudence.” (p. 14) And, she argues, the horrors and tragedies that Homer depicts can also be understood as results of lack-of-reflection, of hastiness to act, of an incapacity to refrain from agression. “Hence we see men in arms behaving harshly and madly. We see their sword bury itself in the breast of a disarmed enemy who is in the very act of pleading at their knees. We see them triumph over a dying man by describing to him the outrages his corpse will endure. We see Achilles cut the throats of twelve Trojan boys on the funeral pyre of Patroclus as naturally as we cut flowers for a grave. These men, wielding power, have no suspicion of the fact that the consequences of their deeds will at lenght come home to them – they too will bow the neck in their turn.” (WEIL: p. 14)

What’s astonishing about these last words is how closely Weil gets to the Buddhist idea of karma. And what’s also touching is how compassionate Simone Weil truly is when she describes those numerous occasions when we fail to treat ourselves as “brothers in humanity” (WEIL: p. 15). But Weil is no Buddhist, and in the text we are following she’s interested mainly in the Greeks and how they also had a concept similar to karma, some sort of “retribution which operates automatically to penalize the abuse of force”. She claims this is the “the main subject of Greek thought”:

Nemesis

Greek godess Nemesis

“It is the soul of the epic. Under the name of Nemesis, it functions as the mainspring of Aeschylus’s tragedies. (…) Wherever Hellenism has penetrated, we find the idea of it familiar. In Oriental countries which are steeped in Buddhism, it is perhaps this Greek idea that has lived on under the name of Karma. The Occident, however, has lost it, and no longer even has a word to express it in any of its languages: conceptions of limit, measure, equilibrium, which ought to determine the conduct of life are, in the West, restricted to a servile function in the vocabulary of technics.” (WEIL: p. 16)

In André Comte-Sponville’s philosophy, especially in his Short Treatise Of Great Virtues, Simone Weil’s ethical legacy lives on, and it’s enough to read his wise chapters on “temperance”, “prudence” or “love” to get convinced that France is keeping alive the flame of these virtues, or at least hoping to spread them by inviting more humans to practise them. “A moderate use of force, which alone would enable man to escape being enmeshed in its machinery, would require superhuman virtue, which is as rare as dignity in weakness.” (WEIL: p. 20)

In Simone Weil’s ethics, moderation of force, care for the feelings of others, awareness of alterity, are virtues to be practised by those who see themselves as brothers and sisters in humanity. But when we look back at History we have few reasons to be optimistic. And besides, as Simone Weil points out with irony, we still live in times where “there is always a god handy to advise someone to be unreasonable.” (21)

Simone Weil’s writings frequently denounces inhumanities commited by humans. She spreads awareness of our common humanity by showing how frequently we treated ourselves in a subhuman fashion. And it’s not true that only the slaves are turned into subhumans when they are forced into slavery: the master also loses his humanity when he enslaves. And war and slavery are dehumanizing forces because they work towards destruction and death, “yet the idea of man’s having death for a future is abhorrent to nature. Once the experience of war makes visible the possibility of death that lies locked up in each moment, our thoughts cannot travel from one day to the next without meeting death’s face.” (WEIL: p. 22)

Is Weil, then, simply a pacifist, a Gandhian? Or did she approve armed uprisings against the Nazi occupation of Paris, for example? Her condemnation of war, and not only on “moral” grounds, but in a much broader sense, in an existential level, would necessarily lead her to a practice of non-resistance? The answer is hard to give, considering that Simone Weil, during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), enlisted to fight against the fascists, and can be seen in a famous photograph with a shotgun in her hand, quite willing to add a little bit of force to the Anti-Franco militias. But Simone Weil was no brute – on the contrary, she was gentleness incarnate, and her personal favorite in the Iliad is “Patroclus, who knew how to be sweet to everybody, and who throughout the Iliad commits no cruel or brutal act.” (WEIL: p. 26)

The possession of a fire arm does not imply the right to brutality or cruelty. Being armed isn’t a license to act with mad húbris. When I think of Simone Weil armed with a shotgun in Spain, willing to fight against Fascism when she saw it dangerously spreading through Europe, I can’t be simplistic about pacifism, as if it was some kind of ethical absolute. I don’t believe it is – and neither did Simone Weil back in the 1930s or the Zapatistas under the guidance of Marcos in Chiapas, Mexico, nowadays.

Encounter-with-Simone_Weil-Filmstill-06.

War turns us into subhumans beasts killing themselves in mad rivalry, but how on Earth are we to build a planetary community in which war has been banned, and ample dialogue and mutual enlightnement between cultures reigns? For thousands of years, war seems to follow humanity, always on its trail. That ideal sung by John Lennon in “Imagine”, the Brotherhood of Man, remains to be futurely made flesh. In Homer’s Iliad Simone Weil sees nothing to be optismistic about, just “a picture of uniform horror, of which force is the sole hero.” (p. 27) But what’s sublime about Homer’s art, the lasting artistic value of ancient epic poetry, lies in the poet’s capacity to portray suffering befalling all – both Greeks and Trojans. Thus it points out to the fact that we’re all brothers in sorrow, and that’s an excellent reason for peace and compassion, as a Buddhist could put it.

“However, such a heaping-up of violent deeds would have a frigid effect, were it not for the note of incurable bitterness that continually makes itself heard. It is in this that the Iliad is absolutely unique, in this bitterness that proceeds from tenderness and that spreads over the whole human race, impartial as sunlight. Never does the tone lose its coloring of bitterness; yet never does the bitterness drop into lamentation. Justice and love, which have hardly any place in this study of extremes and of unjust acts of violence, nevertheless bathe the work in their light without ever becoming noticeable themselves, except as a kind of accent. Everyone’s unhappiness is laid bare without dissimulation or disdain; no man is set above or below the condition common to all men; whatever is destroyed is regretted. (…) Whatever is not war, whatever war destroys or threatens, the Iliad wraps in poetry; the realities of war, never. (…) The cold brutality of the deeds of war is left undisguised; neither victors nor vanquished are admired, scroned, or hated. An extraordinary sense of equity breathes through the Iliad. One is barely aware that the poet is a Greek and not a Trojan.” (WEIL: p. 30 – 32)

For Simone Weil, the poet who wrote the Iliad acted with marvelous impartiality, and sang about the misfortunes and losses, about the victories and triumphs, of both sides of the conflict, in such a way that Greeks and Trojans are shown as co-participants of a common process. “Attic tragedy, or at any rate the tragedy of Aeschylus and Sophocles, is the true continuation of the epic. The conception of justice enlightens it, without ever directly intervening in it; here force appears in its coldness and hardness; (…) here more than one spirit bruised and degraded by misfortune is offered for our admiration.” (p. 34) The enduring existential value of such art lies in this: to be aware of human misery is “a precondition of justice and love”, claims Weil. (p. 35)

When Simone Weil affirms that “misery is the common human lot” (p. 35), she’s once again approaching a landscape familiar to Buddhists: one of the Four Noble Truths enounced by the enlightened Sidharta Gautama is  “all is suffering”. From this awareness  springs compassion. Love, justice, compassion, can’t arise without the clear perception of our brotherhood in suffering. However, it’s clear as water that, even tough she was born in a Jewish family, Simone Weil is deeply suspicious of the doctrines and dogmas of Judaism:

“With the Hebrews, misfortune was a sure indication of sin and hence a legitimate object of contempt; to them a vanquished enemy was abhorrent to God himself and condemned to expiate all sorts of crimes – this is a view that makes cruelty permissible and indeed indispensable. And no text of the Old Testament strikes a note comparable to the note heard in the Greek epic, unless it be certain parts of the book of Job. Throughout 20 centuries of Christianity, the Romans and the Hebrews have been admired, read, imitated, both in deed and word; their masterpieces have yielded an appropriate quotation every time anybody had a crime he wanted to justify.” (p. 36)

Belief in gods is seen as highly problematic in Simone Weil’s philosophy, even tough it would be an exageration to call her an atheist, considering the intense mystical impulses that she manifests so vividly in her ouevre. What Weil can’t stand is the arrogance of those who use religion to falsely believe they are superior to the rest, that they are immune from evils that will only befall others. When religion leads to the denial of our common humanity, Weil rejects it: “the only people who can give the impression of having risen to a higher plane, who seem superior to ordinary human misery, are the people who resort to the aids of illusion, exaltation, fanaticism, to conceal the harshness of destiny from their own eyes.” (p. 36)

We still have a lot to learn from the Greeks, including its great epic poet, and Simone Weil admires Homer’s Iliad so much that she claims that

“in spite of the brief intoxication induced at the time of the Renaissance by the discovery of Greek literature, there has been, during the course of 20 centuries, no revival of the Greek genius. Something of it was seen in Villon, in Shakespeare, Cervantes, Molière, and – just once – in Racine. To this list of writers a few other names might be added. But nothing the peoples of Europe have produced is worth the first known poem that appeared among them. Perhaps they will yet rediscover the epic genius, when they learn that there is no refuge from fate, learn not to admire force, not to hate the enemy, nor to scorn the unfortunate. How soon this will happen is another question.” (WEIL: p. 37).

These words also sound, to my ears, in tune with Buddhist ethics, especially for the praise of compassion for the suffering of others. And of course that within the realm of The Other we should include Life-As-A-Whole, and not only human life. The Buddhist notion of “sentient beings” is such a great idea, methinks, because it describes something much vaster than Mankind, something that, without being a god, certainly transcends the individual self. Dogs and cats, lions and owls, sunflowers and worms, they all belong to the great family of the living, they are all sentient beings, even tough the degree of self-cousciousness greatly varies.

If both Simone Weil’s philosophy and Buddhist ethics are worthy of our attention, study and discussions, methinks it’s mainly because of the imminent ecological catastrophes that will quake our future and will shatter the current “Western Way” of dealing with Nature. Or, to put it in another words, it won’t be possible for the West to continue in its industrial-commercial path, on its productivist húbris, in its crazy consumerism meddled with egotisticall individualism, simply because the Earth’s biosphere won’t stand for it – and if we keep on going in the same direction, we can only expect mass-scale tragic consequences arising from so much atmospherical pollution, fossil-fuel burnings, deforestations, oil spills… A wiser relationship with Nature urgently needs to emerge from the cultural slumber of destructive capitalism – or else we’re damned.

Suzuki 2

“Westerners talk about conquering Nature and never about befriending her. They climb a high mountain and they declare the mountain is conquered. They suceed in shooting a certain type of projectile heavenwards and then claim that they have conquered the air. (…) Those who are power-intoxicated fail to see that power is blinding and keeps them within an ever-narrowing horizon. Love, however, transcends power because, in its penetration into the core of reality, far beyond the finiteness of the intellect, it is infinity itself. Without love one cannot see the infinely expanding network of relationships which is reality. Or, we may reverse this and say that without the infinite network of reality we can never experience love in its true light.

To conclude: Let us first realize the fact that we thrive only when we are co-operative by being alive to the truth of interrelationship of all things in existence. Let us then die to the notion of power and conquest and be resurrected to the eternal creativity of love which is all-embracing and all-forgiving. As love flows out of rightly seeing reality as it is, it is also love that makes us feel that we – each of us individually and all of us collectively – are responsible for whatever things, good or evil, go on in our human community, and we must therefore strive to ameliorate or remove whatever conditions are inimical to the universal advancement of human welfare and wisdom.”

(D. T. Suzuki, The Awakening of Zen, “Love and Power”, pg. 70)

REFERENCES

WEIL, Simone; BESPALOFF, Rachel. War and Iliad. Preface by Christopher Benfley. New York Review Books Classics, 2005.

SUZUKI, Daisetz Teitaro. The Awakening of Zen. Edited by Christmas Humphreys. Boston: Shambhala, 1980.

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(Article by Eduardo Carli de Moraes, at Awestruck Wanderer,
Toronto, Canada. March 2014.)

“Defenders of the Amazon”: National Geographic article + full documentary about Belo Monte Dam

National

In the dawn of the new year, National Geographic magazine emphasizes a tremendously important theme. The Amazon rain-forest, which has been justly nicknamed The Lung of The World, is unarguably a key element for mankind’s survival in the future. While the biosphere heats up and global warming increasingly becomes an undeniable reality, the Amazon’s crucial importance to Life on this planet can’t be understimated. If its devastation continues, our future is doomed to be filled with ecological disasters of unimaginable magnitude. The problem is: deforestation continues going on at scary rates, and no sufficient efforts are being made to stop the chainsaws that day after day annihilate the greeness out of Amazon. To make matters worse, the Brazilian federal government has been engaged in the project of building, in the heart of the rain-forest, at Xingu River, a colossal hydreletric, Belo Monte Dam. Many ecologists and antropologists have been protesting against this deeply controversial project: Belo Monte is considered an attack on the rights of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon and murderous to the biodiversity of this area. Several workers’ strikes and law suits have stopped the hydreletric construction several times, but president Dilma Roussef’s administration wants it done and is paying no mind to the disagreeing voices. As the 2014 soccer World Cup gets nearer, several riots and mass demonstrations are expected to happen in Brazil. The defense of the Amazon, and the protest against those forces who are currently murdering it, isn’t a task exclusively for brazilians or south-americans to engage him; in the Global Village that was made possible by the World Wide Web, every global citizen can become a Defender of the Amazon. I invite you to read National’s Geographic article and to watch documentary Belo Monte  – Annunciation of a War; and to spread the news!

belo monte

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC ARTICLE:

KAYAPO COURAGE
The Amazon tribe has beaten back ranchers and gold miners and famously stopped a dam. Now its leaders must fight again or risk losing a way of life.