Tag Archives: liberalism

Why the World is Not Ending Anytime Soon

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How much of what you experience of the world and believe about it is really based on the truth of “the world,” and how much is actually conditioned into you by the virtual world created by media and social media? This is an important question, because many of us today are actually experiencing less and less of the real world. And it is our connection with the present moment and this real world and real people that nourishes the human spirit most profoundly.

I have made the point about the importance of presence many times, but there is another crucial aspect of our increasing attention on cyber space that I have mentioned less: the worldview the media presents is a severe distortion of the actual world, often passing off the world’s more fearful and violent aspects as “normal.” Much of the media and social media is also deeply, deeply pessimistic.

This includes not just news media. Even well-intentioned news and media sources which seek to advance human knowledge or awareness are often unconsciously distorting our perception of humanity. Human rights groups depend on their very existence in making sure human oppression is continually brought to our attention. Liberal publications tend to be obsessed with oppression and social injustice, including racism, sexism and bigotry.

There has not been a lynching in the US for fifty years, but this didn’t stop a recent suicide of a black man by hanging in a public park in the US going viral, communicated by many as a lynching. This is despite the fact that about 8000 black people commit suicide per year in the US, making suicide the more mathematically likely explanation for his death by about 400 000 to one. His girlfriend later tweeted her outrage at his final act being used as a kind of political stunt. She had his suicide note at hand.

Third wave feminism has also become deeply pessimistic, producing a constant stream of hyperbolic narratives about “rape culture,” “slut shaming” and victim-hood. Is this really an accurate representation of western culture in 2016?

Another relevant story last year involved students at Yale University publicly shaming and swearing at a professor because he had failed to accept their demand for him to provide a safe space for them at Halloween. These mostly female and minority students felt that getting dressed up as “other” cultures (such as indigenous, Chinese, black) was a form of cultural appropriation, and thus traumatic for them. They then tried to have the professor and his wife fired and removed from campus. How oppressed can someone studying at Yale possibly be?

Despite the great progress the “liberation” discourses have helped make, are they now increasingly enslaving us in an unrealistic and pessimistic worldview?

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I have not only become a skeptic of the doomsday media and its constant focus on oppression and what is missing. I have also chosen to act, and now watch it very selectively.

And I choose to take the time to listen to people and sources which include an optimistic, positive quality. Is technology robbing us of our souls and rendering us redundant, as many believe? Futurist Keven Kelly doesn’t think so. In his book The Inevitable he writes that robots and automation are giving us ever-more free time to explore what makes us authentically human, and this wonderful development will only become more pronounced. He could be right! Do smart phones actually render us more stupid by making us constantly distracted? Benedict Carey in the book How We Learn refers to scientific evidence which shows that spaced learning with regular breaks is actually the way the brain works best. Intermittent distraction may actually aid learning and memory! Mobile devices could be deliberately used to this end in education. Indeed, one university professor in Queensland, Australia breaks his lectures into ten minute blocks, with spaces for students to fiddle with their machines.

The truth is that most of us have never had it better, all things considered. Yet many of us still act like – or believe – the sky is falling. And media distortion is to blame for much of the error in our thinking. If you want to see the difference between worldly reality and media reality, just open the home page of your city online newspaper on your mobile device, then step out of your front door and into the steet and compare what you see and experience to that home page. Where are all the rapes, murders and terrorist attacks? Unless you live in Mogadishu, they probably do not inform part of your daily experience.

So why do we insist that the media and social media are more real than what we experience? Why do we (want to) believe that the world is a worse place now than what it was when our grandparents were in their prime? Is the world really so terrible, so unsafe? Is it really falling apart because of the threat of terrorism, Donald Trump’s politically incorrect rhetoric or the war in Syria?

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The answer is no. We have been brainwashed into thinking everything is turning to shit, that we are oppressed, that there are evil others controlling the world and preventing us from shining our light.

Sure, there are many problems. Some people have it rough. Real rough. But in the bigger picture we have never had more freedom, more access to knowledge and more opportunity. And we are mostly pretty safe, living long lives and dying in old age. It’s hard to believe, I know.

A few weeks ago I walked through an old estate here in Melbourne, Australia, not far from where I live. At one time the estate was effectively a small village, centered on fruit farming. I wandered along a forested area which led into a small cemetery containing a few hundred graves, most from the first half of the nineteenth century. I was shocked to see how many of the dead were infants. Scores were children under five, many just a few days old. Many bore the same surname, and one family had lost five children, all under the age of six. Many of the graves bore nought but a tiny plaque with a name and age, the only remnant of brief lives snuffed out the best part of two centuries ago, forgotten by all, their mourning parents long dead. In those days there were no antibiotics, no penicillin and doctors did not even wash their hands because microorganisms had yet to be identified. Many women died horrible, protracted, painful deaths giving birth.

Nowadays we complain about slow internet connections.

I leave you with an extract and a link to a recent article by Steven Pinker, who puts much of the pessimism of the modern age into perspective. He does this by taking an evidence-based examination of many popular misconceptions about the way the world is developing. I quote a section here. I highly recommend that you read the article, and reflect upon it.

Marcus

“The world is not falling apart. The kinds of violence to which most people are vulnerable—homicide, rape, battering, child abuse—have been in steady decline in most of the world. Autocracy is giving way to democracy. Wars between states—by far the most destructive of all conflicts—are all but obsolete. The increase in the number and deadliness of civil wars since 2010 is circumscribed, puny in comparison with the decline that preceded it, and unlikely to escalate.

Why is the world always “more dangerous than it has ever been”—even as a greater and greater majority of humanity lives in peace and dies of old age?

Too much of our impression of the world comes from a misleading formula of journalistic narration. Reporters give lavish coverage to gun bursts, explosions, and viral videos, oblivious to how representative they are and apparently innocent of the fact that many were contrived as journalist bait. Then come sound bites from “experts” with vested interests in maximizing the impression of mayhem: generals, politicians, security officials, moral activists. The talking heads on cable news filibuster about the event, desperately hoping to avoid dead air. Newspaper columnists instruct their readers on what emotions to feel.”

Marcus Anthony

 

Marcus T Anthony, PhD is the author of ten books about human awakening, including Discover Your Soul Template. He is also a life coach and teacher of profound intuition. His web site is www.mind-futures.com

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Beyond the Violence of Neo-Liberalism

The fact that it is so very difficult to offer any critique of the problems within western liberalism without being targeted for “punishment” by that system is evidence that it has become a kind of hegemony in itself. Most sensible people avoid challenging political correctness. Any attempt to challenge the dominant narrative on racism, sexism, discrimation and so on can incur swift and dramatic consequences for the worse.

If policies are implemented at the systems level without a congruent shift in consciousness, many people will tend to return to the very behaviours and attitudes the policies seek to change. There is an obvious self-contradiction in employing a process with inherant intellectual violence to try to dissuade people from being intellectually violent.

Many of the problems we are witnessing today with the rise of conservative sentiments may be insolvable at the level of mind. This is what we are seeing with the backlash against liberalism, as evidenced by the relative success of conservative politicians like Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump and recently with Tony Abbott in Australia.

I believe that the problem is not just the internet or social media, as some have argued. Nor is it that all conservatives are simply stupid. The conservative backlash emerges from the inherant violence of the mind, something that no enforced liberal “machinery” is going to shift, as long as the policies merely target the human intellect.

What we are seeing is the limit of the idea that all you need are more rules and more education and more policies to shift things. Many people are rebelling against political correctness and against not being able to speak their truth.

A good example occured in the news here in Australia yesterday. According to a Fairfax media report, a caucasian student at the Queensland University of Technology in Australia is being sued by an Indigenous worker after he complained on Facebook about being removed from a computer lab. The room had been reserved for Indigenous students (but not signposted as such). According to the article, his error was in criticising the university policy for “segregating” students according to race. There is no evidence that he used any abusive or racist language, yet he is being sued under the racial discrimination act.

Clearly, both parties identify themselves as victims. The caucasian student believes that he has been discriminated against by being forcibly removed from a university space because of his race – then being labeled a racist and sued for criticising the system. We may assume that the indigenous worker feels she is the victim because of the long history of racial discrimination in Australia. By my estimation, both have legitimate grievances. The problem is that at the level of mind, each sees the other as the oppressor, and they are hitting out against the perceived enemy. This is a strong tendency of the human mind, one most likely it is rooted in our biology, our evolution.

Modern liberalism has the unintended consequence of encouraging people to identify with narratives of oppression. It encourages many to be angry, and to blame others and the system. This is despite the fact that the ideals of liberalism are well-intended. They appeal to justice and equality for all. Yet human beings prefer the victim identity to that of the oppressor. When the system labels them the bully, they get angry and lash out. When they are labelled the victim, there is a tendency for them to assume an attitude of moral superiority and to project shame at the “oppressors.” The accused then hit back, and round and round we go on the carousel of postmodernity.

What is to be done about this?

I have a suggestion which I believe would greatly diminish the tendency for mental projections to escalate into intellectual and sometimes physical violence. What if both parties in the QUT conflict had the capacity to witness the contents of their own minds, including the narratives of power and oppression which emerge from their worldviews? What if mindful reflection was their initial response, a state initiated before any further mental attitudes or physical actions took place?

Based on the Fairfax media report it appears neither the caucasian student nor the Indigenous worker have the skills (or intention) to assume responsibility for their projections.

The current Neo-liberal system encourages the Indigenous worker to pursue an unnecessarily aggressive action (litigation) against a person who is merely criticising a university policy. Once societies begin to become tightly controlled by such liberal ideas they tend to re-establish an hegemonic narrative, and those who challenge the narrative get punished (mostly they just stay silent). The presence of Donald Trump is in part a reaction to the powerlessness that a certain segment of the American population (mostly working class) feels under such a system. Is this one of the factors which leads them to reject the liberalism?

Meditators and practitioners of deep presence know from personal experience that the majority of human confict and “drama” emerges from mental projections. Yes, there is such a thing as “the good fight.” Yet the desire to fight an “other” is often completely unnecessary. Instead we can either walk away or engage the other in presence. Presence bypasses the hostility the mind tends to generate when it sees itself as being wronged.

Whatever legal or practical systems we lay down to solve the problems within our institutions and societies, none will ever be perfect. There will always be people who are inconvenienced or wronged, even by the most well-intentioned policies. Indeed, as a friend of mine used to say, solutions are problematic. It is irrational to believe that policies in themselves will ever resolve all human conflict. Yet what would greatly assist us as we all live and interact within such systems is the ability to be present to the mind and it’s projections. It would cut out the drama, leaving us with more time and energy to address the problems that are truly important. Is being asked to leave the Indigenous computer lab really that important? Does having your lab policy criticised on Facebook really require the racial discrimination act to be invoked? What about most of the things we get worked up about each day? I will leave it up to the reader to decide for yourself the answers to these questions.

Extreme liberalism can be just as hegemonic as extreme conservatism. Both represent a kind of intellectual violence, and that often escalates into more overt forms of violence. Both ideologies tend to operate under the imperatives of the mind.

I believe that if all people had the simple capacity for embodied presence and to be able to witness the projections of the mind, the ideals of liberalism would follow naturally. Then there would be no need for the enforced hegemony liberalism has come to represent for many.

In my ideal world, both liberals and conservatives would introspect to acknowledge to what degree they have become attached to an inflexible and intolerant worldview. They would then be able to assume responsibility for the intellectual violence that their projections create.

But how can this be done? This blog post is not the place for such practical details. More about that later. But I will grant one hint. You won’t transcend the current system by surfing the comments pages of most social media sites and firing off angry responses to other people’s online projections.

I am under no illusions that mindful attention will automatically solve all world problems. Nor should we desist with implementing sensible “liberal” policies to help address the problems we see in the world. Policy can help illuminate the dark spaces where inequality and injustice reside. Yet I believe a greater capacity for mindful attention can make a real difference in the way people respond to such policies, in real life situations.

Marcus