Tag Archives: liberalism

The Two Paths You Can Go By

 

“Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There’s still time to change the road you’re on.
And it makes me wonder.”
Led Zeplin, Stairway to Heaven.

We live in troubling times. Daily,  we twenty-first century hominoids are bombarded with disturbing news about the increasing number of perils that await us as individuals, and as a species. This is a volatile world, and we just have to live with fear and rage, knowing how it may all come to a screeching end at any moment. You want a disaster? Take your pick. North Korea is about to explode, and the kid-empower will take the rest of us with him. There are not only colluding Russians out to desecrate our precious democracy, but there are also them damn Nazis hiding under the bed. Indeed, the brown shirts are around any and every corner.

But even if Adolf’s latter-day descendants don’t dare show themselves, there are storms of unprecedented magnitude bearing down on us, threatening to blow away our houses and our existence. Then, if the gods disappointingly steer the typhoons elsewhere, we can still pop into the cinema where Al Gore will reassure us that the climactic end is nigh. And you betta stash some of that popcorn and coke, because it’s probably too late to do anything. Be careful on the way home from the movie, too, because we live in a rape culture (say some feminists) where a quarter of female university students are sexually violated before their leacherous professors let them graduate.

Finally, if all that doesn’t finish you off, you can just turn on the news and see for ourselves that Donald Trump, the man leading the free world, is Hitler incarnate. Such is the level of pure evil emminating from his black veins. This horror, the horror! And this is the tangerine tyrant with his finger on the atomic button! Oh, and he’s really, really stupid!

In such a world why would anybody even bother to get out of bed?

Let me confide in you that I wouldn’t get out of bed either if I believed this story. But I just don’t believe it. I reckon it’s mostly bullshit, the nonsense of click-bait journalists and bloggers desperate to get the hits necessary to generate a bit of attention or income.

And those foolish enough to click on such stuff mostly do so because the narrative is what they have come to believe. It’s what they want to hear. “Ain’t it awful! I told you so!”

Look, I know the doomsday story is really popular. It’s a ratings winner. And it gets all the awards at Golden Globes time, where some crusty celebrity (who has taken the precious time to leave her gated community to condemn leaders who build walls) will shed a tear for what has become of the world, and to rage against the monsters who lead it.

Meanwhile, what didn’t make the papers is the story about the old guy who walked down the street whistling, a skip in his step, smiling at babies and the pretty girls he knew fully well he shouldn’t be smiling at (because, as all decent human beings living in this rape culture know, only perverts do such things). That old bastard was enjoying himself far too much to make the news.

So… there is that other story – or those other ten thousand stories. They are the tales that I prefer to listen to. They are stories driven by intentional optimism. And by life itself. Not by the spin of media and social media and their enraged audience.

Intentional optimsm is the decision to be fully present in the real world of experience. And the decision to stay there.

The price to pay is a small one. Tune out of the electronic news media and social media and learn how to be present to life.

But make no mistake, this other narrative is not a story of delusion (relatively speaking, as compared to the doomsday narrative that we have all come to know and love). It doesn’t deny evidence or data regarding global warming, rape or political extremism.  But neither does it get sucked into the collective projections of the masses, preferring grounded experience. Instead it makes a commitment to withdraw from the fear-driven narratives and their doomsday noosphere and to make lived presence and intentional optimism the basis of life, whereupon an entirely new world unfurls before us as if by cosmic grace. The painful pasts and fearful futures that obsess the minds of the many suddenly disappear, seen as the illusions that they typically are. Abstract narratives are eplaced by the fullness of life.

And what is it exactly that becomes real? It is whatever arises in the moment. It is the mother and her baby that you stop to smile at as you walk home. It is the song you choose to sing, regardless of who cares to listen. It is the tang of the orange upon your tastebuds as you bite the fruit.

And in such moments these things are often joyful. And enough.

Yet we all know life is not always “happy.” We all experience a full range of emotions, including fear, anger, sadness, guilt, shame and so on. Intentional optimism doesn’t reject those. It simply addresses their root cause and permits them their natural expression (perhaps crying if you are sad). If action is needed, such as acknowledging that loneliness is creating sadness, then one commits to such action (for example, developing more warm relationships). If addressed in such a way, all such feelings pass in time.

The best thing is that this other story that we can choose comes with a very different attitude, and typically a different experience of life. You don’t live in fear of expected doom. You don’t blame anyone or anything for what is missing. You are just thankful to be here, now. There is little need for affirmation, visualisation, or imploring prayer to the deity. Instead there are words that form spontaneously: “Thank you. I love you.” Such words have more power to transform the world than any social justice narrative one can possibly imagine.

Thus there is a generosity of spirit that seeks sharing of experience.

Will the world be here tomorrow? Will you and I be here tomorrow? To be honest, I just don’t know. But one day soon, and in but the blink of the cosmic eye, the sun will rise and both you and I will not be here. That is an absolute certainty.

”But Marcus!” I hear you say. “My world is going to hell and you just don’t care!”And you would be (mostly) right. Unless you are my wife, someone I’m directly involved with or some twerp knocking on my door trying to sell me some contraption I don’t need, your hell is none of my business. I can’t save you from your misery, and even if I could, I’m too busy having a good time of it to give it much thought.

So am I against social activism? Against seriously tackling political and ideological extremism? No. Not at all.  If we are to consider this from a spiritual perspective (and I realise most people won’t) an essential aspect of engaging such problems is the consciousness that underpins that activism. Social activism can be like the “liberalism” that often drives it. The latter is a nice idea, but not actually commonly practiced – not even by liberals. As far as I can tell a great number of social activists in 2017 are too busy being morally superior and beating up enemies to actually demonstrate the justice and compassion that their souls (and all our souls) call them to actualise.

Human societies need people to develop good ideas and sound policies to create preferred futures. That includes having to deal with the darker side of human nature and of human propensity. World and local leaders do have to deal with psychopaths, extremists and despots, including those within our societies. My main point here is that working at the essential foundation of problems – their expression of consciousness – can help all of us make more intelligent and wise decisions. It can enhance insight, where upon we can pull out of the psychic dramas that we are so prone to engage in if we do not bring things to full awareness. If we fail to assume responsibility for our fear-based projections, we may fail to tackle perhaps the most essential aspect of the problems we experience. We may end up creating conflict and suffering – a kind of self-fulling prophecy.

What I am saying is that the most logical attitude to take in this mad world, under most circumstances, is this. Stop judging and condemning everyone as stupid and immoral. Instead, give thanks, dance and celebrate this moment of existence that the cosmos has very generously granted you.

Yes. Let us give thanks. Let us forgive those fucking Trump supporters and those fucking libtards. But most of all, let’s love everyone and anyone who is so generous as to cross our paths and smile, who cares to talk to us or just be present with us for a moment in time. For this moment in time is all any of us have.

Who knows, maybe in a day or two I’ll be singing a song, dancing in the park with some old Chinese ladies here in Zhuhai (South China) or helping myself to a nice big piece of chocolate cake… and I will look up to the sky and see a large missile with a beaming image of our Dear Leaders Kim Jong Il or The Donald on the tail. There will be just enough to to think “What the fuck was that all about?” before every molecule in my body is incinerated. Maybe the Nazis really will ride into town upon their murderous tanks. Or perhaps the damn Commies will ride in upon black horses, with a bare-chested Vladimir Putin leading the way.

And that will be it.

But at least I’ll know that I stood by what was of the greatest importance for this spiritual journey as an individual, and for this human species. I will know that I refused to live in fear, anger and blame. Not even for a good cause. I will know I took the time to share a little joy and laughter with just a few other souls. All without charging a cent.

And that will be enough.

Marcus

 

 

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