“Billionaires Have the Money, We Have the People.”

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“Politics is not a baseball game with winners or losers. What politics is about is whether we protect the needs of millions of people who are hurting.
 
The struggle to create a nation and world of economic and social justice and environmental sanity is not an easy one. The struggle to try and create a more peaceful world will be extremely difficult.
 
But this I know: despair is not an option if we care about our kids and grandchildren. Giving up is not an option if we want to prevent irreparable harm to our planet.
 
We are living in a world which worships not love of brothers and sisters, not love of the poor and the sick, but worships the acquisition of money and great wealth.
 
I know the media is not necessarily focused on these things. But what this campaign is about is not Hillary Clinton, it’s not Donald Trump. It is the people of this country, people who are working longer hours for lower wages, people who do not have health care or are underinsured.
 
Income and wealth inequality have reached obscene levels, the threat of climate change is more frightening than ever, and the billionaire class is now allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money to buy the candidate they want. And it is up to us to stand up and fight back. If we stand together, there is no limit to what we can accomplish.
 
There is too much shouting at each other. There is too much making fun of each other.
 
When you have kids that have no jobs and are not in school, too often they get themselves into trouble. So what we have got to do is invest in education and in jobs, something which I have fought for, rather than more jails and incarceration.
 
Trickle down economics is a fraud. Giving tax breaks to the rich and large corporations does not create jobs. It simply makes the rich richer, enlarges the deficit and increases income and wealth inequality. We need economic policies which benefit working families, not the billionaire class.
 
I am going to do my best to try to create a country in which children are not living in poverty, in which kids can go to college, in which old people have health care. Will I succeed? I can’t guarantee you that, but I can tell you that from a human point of view it is better to show up than to give up.
 
It’s time to make our government work for all of us… and not just the 1%. The greed of the billionaire class has got to end and we are going to end it for them.
 
No president, not the smartest, best human being in the world can do it alone. You cannot take on this, the power that is in Washington, to billionaires and lobbyist, the military industrial complex, all of this money and power, you can`t do it. You need a mass movement of Americans…
 
The point is change can come about, but it only comes about when millions of people are actively involved in political struggle. The billionaires may have the money, but we have the people.
 
I am extraordinarily proud of the campaign that we ran. The issues that we raised, the fact that we got 13 million Americans to vote for a political revolution…”
 
~Bernie Sanders~
 
2015 & 2016 quotes source
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The Art of Political Deception – Chris Hedges

“Washington has become our Versailles. We are ruled, entertained, and informed by courtiers — and the media has evolved into a class of courtiers. The Democrats, like the Republicans, are mostly courtiers. Our pundits and experts, at least those with prominent public platforms, are courtiers. We are captivated by the hollow stagecraft of political theater as we are ruthlessly stripped of power. It is smoke and mirrors, tricks and con games, and the purpose behind it is deception.” ~Chris Hedges

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“The words consent of the governed have become an empty phrase. Our textbooks on political science and economics are obsolete. Our nation has been hijacked by oligarchs, corporations, and a narrow, selfish, political, and economic elite, a small and privileged group that governs, and often steals, on behalf of moneyed interests.

This elite, in the name of patriotism and democracy, in the name of all the values that were once part of the American system and defined the Protestant work ethic, has systematically destroyed our manufacturing sector, looted the treasury, corrupted our democracy, and trashed the financial system.

During this plundering we remained passive, mesmerized by the enticing shadows on the wall, assured our tickets to success, prosperity, and happiness were waiting around the corner.

Sadism dominates the culture. It runs like an electric current through reality television and trash-talk programs, is at the core of pornography, and fuels the compliant, corporate collective. Corporatism is about crushing the capacity for moral choice and diminishing the individual to force him or her into an ostensibly harmonious collective.

This hypermasculinity has its logical fruition in Abu Ghraib, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and our lack of compassion for our homeless, our poor, the mentally ill, the unemployed, and the sick… We accept the system handed to us and seek to find a comfortable place within it. We retreat into the narrow, confined ghettos created for us and shut our eyes..

Washington has become our Versailles. We are ruled, entertained, and informed by courtiers — and the media has evolved into a class of courtiers. The Democrats, like the Republicans, are mostly courtiers. Our pundits and experts, at least those with prominent public platforms, are courtiers.

We are captivated by the hollow stagecraft of political theater as we are ruthlessly stripped of power. It is smoke and mirrors, tricks and con games, and the purpose behind it is deception.

Fear stops us from objecting to government spending on a bloated military. The corporations that profit from permanent war need us to be afraid. Fear means we will not ask unpleasant questions of those in power. Fear permits the government to operate in secret.

Fear means we are willing to give up our rights and liberties for promises of security. The imposition of fear ensures that the corporations that wrecked the country cannot be challenged. Fear keeps us penned in like livestock.

Inverted totalitarianism, unlike classical totalitarianism, does not revolve around a demagogue or charismatic leader. It finds expression in the anonymity of the Corporate State. It purports to cherish democracy, patriotism, and the Constitution while manipulating internal levers.

A culture that does not grasp the vital interplay between morality and power, which mistakes management techniques for wisdom, which fails to understand that the measure of a civilization is its compassion, not its speed or ability to consume, condemns itself to death.

We have to grasp, as Marx and Adam Smith did, that corporations are not concerned with the common good. They exploit, pollute, impoverish, repress, kill, and lie to make money.

They throw poor people out of homes, let the uninsured die, wage useless wars for profit, poison and pollute the ecosystem, slash social assistance programs, gut public education, trash the global economy, plunder the U.S. Treasury and crush all popular movements that seek justice for working men and women. They worship money and power.”

~by Chris Hedges~

Source of Quotes

“Unfettered, or unregulated capitalism, is about societies that cannibalize themselves. When capitalism is the dominant ideology… it turns everything into a commodity, including human beings…” ~Chris Hedges

“As a species, we are on the cusp of an evolutionary choice. Standing at the dawn of this perfect storm, we find ourselves at the beginning of a process of civilizational transition. As the old paradigm dies, a new paradigm is born. And many people around the world are already making the evolutionary choice to step away from the old, and embrace the new.” ~Nafeez Ahmed

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The Global Butterfly Effect

“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.” ―Richard Bach, Illusions
 
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We are living now during one of the most important time periods in human history. Our global species is at a turning point, the actions and decisions we take collectively over the next few decades will determine the path humanity (and all life on our planet) takes far into the future― towards either greater harmony or chaos, stability or destruction.
 
If one turns on the television, the news does not sound good. The mass media feeds our fears, warning of global warming, terrorism, racism, wealth inequality, economic instability and ecological collapse.
 
While most of these problems are real, what the media (and our leaders) do not understand is how these issues are ALL symptoms of the destructive ways so-called “advanced” civilizations see the world and behave. That the way to solve these problems requires that we grow up (as a species), cultivating a deeper level of wisdom, compassion and creativity.
 
“A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels…” ~Albert Einstein
 
Our children and grandchildren’s future depends upon our species become less materialistic, fearful and violent, more generous, peaceful and caring. It requires that billions of people “wake up” to a deeper sense of unity and love for our human family and the Natural world that supports us.
 
Mother Earth needs us to mature, to transform ourselves from a selfish caterpillar-like species (that consumes resources mindlessly), to more spiritual butterfly-like beings, who behave wisely, dance among the flowers and take joy from living lightly.
 
The time has come for our species to evolve our consciousness, to open our hearts, to question the predatory behaviors and mechanistic thinking of our more technologically advanced warrior civilizations.
 
For thousands of years people in Western cultures have been wrestling with the illusions we’ve spun from our dualistic “us vs. them” mindsets and belief systems. It’s like we’ve been dreaming a shared nightmare together, grounded in the predatory and feudalistic ways our societies have been organized, rooted in how we live and think.
 
Across the centuries, the very foundation of Western civilization has been based on ideas of separation and superiority- men above, women below; kings above, peasants below; humans above, Nature below; etc.

We’ve built walls of separation in our hearts and minds, a sense of sin and abandonment, believing that our entire species was “thrown out of Eden” by a sky God that lives far far away.

 
With dualistic thinking came an emphasis on linear time, our consciousnesses locked into mental projections of a feared or desired future, an imagined and idealized history.
 
When lost in these linear projections we became less aware of the magical nature of each moment, blind to the beauty, value and mystery of the HERE and NOW. This is how schools teach our children to think and feel, how our ancestors were dazed and hypnotized.
 
From this mindset grew civilized humanity’s mad circus of history, the hostile cultures of race and nationalism as identity, religion as truth, militarism as method, acquisition of wealth and power (by a ruling elite) as the organizing goals of our economic and political systems, the unquestioned materialistic paradigm guiding our way of life.
 
It manifested with the rise of wealth obsessed empires seeking power and dominance in the Middle East and Europe. Dualistic thinking led to the Witch Hunts during the Renaissance, to Europeans coming to conquer the “New World” – thinking themselves superior to the Natives, stealing their land. Then going to Africa where they kidnaped and enslaved the people, robbing their resources and dragging them across the oceans.
 
Over the centuries reductionistic and compartmentalized thinking has given rise to all our most difficult problems- to racism, sexism, nationalism, slavery, human trafficking, organized crime, alcoholism, drug abuse, obesity, prostitution, genocide and all our wars.
 
For thousands of years now, individual artists, poets, prophets and sages have been trying to help “civilized” humans to wake up from our delusions, to let love and wisdom guide us, instead of materialism and fear.

From Jesus to Buddha, from Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet” to Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience,” Whitman & Blake’s poems, Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables,” Van Gogh’s paintings and forward thru time to the “Wizard of Oz,” Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” and James Cameron’s “Avatar”… the message of love has been clear.
 
“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.” ―Led Zeppelin
 
There was a great creative burst of realization and vision in the 1960s, but still the spirit crushing institutions, materialistic lifestyles and unquestioned mechanistic assumptions of the past continued to exert a powerful hypnotic force.
 
With the rise of new technologies and global industrialization our consumer lifestyles have overpowered the rivers, mountains and forests that surround us. Over the last five decades we have been destroying Nature’s ecosystems at an astounding rate.
 
Why has it been so difficult for humans to change?
 
In part, I think, it is because the “Civilized” Matrix will do whatever it can to avoid a shutdown. Our dominant institutions are designed to acquire wealth for those with power, to maintain control, to defend, expand and perpetuate their existence. Like the immune system of a body, attacking these systems directly only strengthens them, leads to hostility and violence.
 
Mostly however, I believe that we have not changed as a species because too many of us are still hypnotized. Primarily identifying our sense of self with names, career, race, religion, gender, political perspective or nationality.
 
Seeking pleasurable experiences, wealth, status and material possessions; mistakenly believing that these will bring us happiness and that the only way to solve complex problems is to “defeat the opposition.”
 
What most of us have failed to see is that we are not these social and cultural roles we imagine ourselves to be. And that the historical systems that have constrained us- the darkness and creative suppression- may have been exactly what we needed, to transform our minds, let go of our fears and transcend our limited cultural ideas of identity.

“You are not IN the universe, you ARE the universe, an intrinsic part of it. Ultimately you are not a person, but a focal point where the universe is becoming conscious of itself. What an amazing miracle.” ~Eckhart Tolle

 
We are Life, in human form. Descendants of the stars and galaxies, children of the oceans and forests, creative expressions of Nature. As much a part of this planet as the rivers, trees, mountains and butterflies.
 
As more and more of us wake up to that deeper sense of identity we will be more easily able to transcend old thought patterns and beliefs. Observing Nature’s Systems closely, studying her ways, we can re-write and delete old programming.
 
To truly bring an end to the destructiveness of humanity- to really transform the world- a deeper wisdom has to first arise from within. As individuals, we must each “be the change” as Gandhi put it. We have to free ourselves first, transform our ways of thinking, feeling and behaving.
 
Then join with others who have awakened, taking the wisdom of our wholeness and applying it creatively to everything we say and do, to all fields of human activity. Economics, entertainment, technology, education, art, music, poetry, law, medicine, farming, politics, transportation, energy- they all can (and must) be transformed.
 
What is dawning now is the realization that we are not the solitary individuals we had believed ourselves to be. We are expressions of Universal life, Children of the Earth. We are the “leaves of grass” Walt Whitman spoke of – the Awakening voices of Eden, instruments of the great turning.
 
Nature’s Agents of Transformation- The Global Butterfly Effect.
 
~Christopher Chase~
 
“See simplicity in the complicated, Seek greatness in small things. In the Universe, the difficult things are done as if they were easy.” ~Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching
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We Must Take Care of the Earth ~ John Trudell

“The people who have created this system, and who perpetuate this system, they are out of balance. They have made us out of balance. They have come into our minds and they have come into our hearts and they’ve programmed us. Because we live in this society, and it has put us out of balance. And because we are out of balance we no longer have the power to deal with them…

We are a natural part of the creation, we were put here on the sacred mother Earth to serve a purpose. And somewhere in the history of people we’re forgetting what the purpose is. The purpose is to honor the earth, to protect the earth, to live in balance with the Earth. And we will never free ourselves  until we address the issue of how we live in balance with the Earth. Because I don’t care who it is, any child who turns on their mother is living in a terrible, terrible confusion. The Earth is our mother, we must take care of the Earth. ~John Trudell, 1980

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The following are excerpts from John Trudell’s Thanksgiving Day Address, made in 1980. This is one of the most powerful and visionary speeches in recent American history, in my opinion. Trudell’s “view” of the human family’s imbalance, confusion and true relationship to the Earth is especially relevant now, as tens of millions of people in the United States (and around the world), are awakening to the same understanding. You can listen to his full speech here. ~Christopher
 
“I’d like to thank all of you for coming here tonight and sharing this evening with us. And tonight I’d like to talk in honor of the water and the earth and our brother Leonard Peltier.
 
We’re faced with a very serious situation in this generation. There are insane people who wish to rule the world. They wish to continue to rule the world on violence and repression, and we are all the victims of that violence and repression.
 
We as the indigenous people of the western hemisphere have been resisting this oppression for 500 years. We know that the black people have been resisting it for at least that long. And we know that the white people have had to endure it thousands of years. And now it’s come full swing to this generation that we live in..
 
You see, this cannot be. We cannot allow this to go on. We cannot do it. We cannot expect that the pro-nuclear oppressor, that other side, we cannot expect that they’re going to change for us.
 
They are going to become more brutal. They are going to become more repressive because it’s a matter of dollars and their illusionary concepts of power.
 
We have to re-establish our identity. We have to understand who we are and where we fit in the natural order of the world, because our oppressor deals in illusions.
 
They tell us that it is power, but it is not power. They may have all the guns, and they may have all the racist laws and judges, and they may control all the money, but that is not power.
 
These are only imitations of power, and they are only power because in our minds we allow it to be power. But it’s all an imitation.
 
Racism and violence, racism and guns, economics- the brutality of the American Corporate State way of life is nothing more than violence and oppression and it doesn’t have anything to do with power.
 
It is brutality. It’s a lack of a sane balance. The people who have created this system, and who perpetuate this system, they are out of balance.
 
They have made us out of balance. They have come into our minds and they have come into our hearts and they’ve programmed us.
 
Because we live in this society, and it has put us out of balance. And because we are out of balance we no longer have the power to deal with them. They have conquered us as a natural power.
 
See, we are power. They deal in violence and repression, we are power. We are a part of the natural world.
 
All of the things in the natural world are a natural part of the creation and feed off the energy of our sacred mother, Earth.
 
We are power. But they have separated us from our spiritual connection to the Earth, so people feel powerless.
 
We look at the oppressor and we look at the enemy because they have the most guns and the most lies and the most money. People start to feel powerless.
 
We are power, we are a natural part of the creation, we were put here on the sacred mother Earth to serve a purpose. And somewhere in the history of people we’re forgetting what the purpose is.
 
The purpose is to honor the earth, the purpose is to protect the earth, the purpose is to live in balance with the earth. The earth is our mother.
 
And we will never free ourselves as human people, we will never free ourselves as sexual people, we will never free ourselves until we address the issue of how we live in balance with the earth.
 
Because all our resistance and all of our struggle is hollow, it’s false, it’s another one of the oppressor’s hypocrisies. If we do not look out for the welfare of the Earth first, because I don’t care who it is, any child who turns on their mother is living in a terrible, terrible confusion.
 
The Earth is our mother, we must take care of the Earth.
 
They pollute- this oppressor, this machine that has gone mad and run amok, it is beserk. They keep telling us, “progress.” They keep telling us “face reality.”
 
Well, let’s deal with reality. Reality is the Earth can no longer take this attack. We can no longer allow this thing to continue when it’s polluting the air, it’s polluting the water, polluting our food.
 
They pollute the air, they pollute the water, they pollute our food, they pollute our minds. They put us out of balance.
 
They have made us be insecure with ourselves. They have put us into a situation where we have to play many roles.
 
You know, we gotta be chauvinist, or we’ve got to be on some kind of a class trip, or some kind of illusionary power trip.
 
We’ve gotta play a role, see? We’ve gotta play a role to communicate with other people. We’ve got to go through this charade because they have attacked our self confidence.
 
They have attacked our self confidence and they have made us to listen to *them.* They have made us to believe that they are power. But they are not- they are violent and they are brutal, but they are not power.
 
We are a natural part of the earth. As a natural part of the Earth, we have the energy and the power that IS the Earth. The Earth will take care of us if we will remember the Earth- in more than just our words.
 
If we will remember the Earth in our way of life; we are all here to play a role. And all of the animals, and all of the life on the earth is playing it’s proper role except the human people.
 
Somehow we are betraying, we are betraying our purpose here and that is why we live in the confusion that we live in. They tell us, they want us to believe, that we are powerless.
 
We are a natural part of the earth, we are an extension of that natural energy. The natural energy which is Spirit, and which is power.
 
Power…
 
A blizzard is power. An earthquake is power. A tornado is power. These are all things of power that no oppressor, no machine age, can put these things of power in a prison.
 
No machine age can make these things of power submit… That is natural power.
 
And just as it takes millions and billions of elements to make a blizzard to happen, or to make the earthquake, to make the earth to move, then it’s going to take millions and billions of us.
 
We are power. We have that power. We have the potential for that power.
 
I remember in the 60s and 70s I heard all these things about “power to the people” and I never really understood because everyone was saying “power to the people” when they were talking about demonstrating, they were talking about votes, they were talking about dealing on the terms of the oppressor.
 
Our power will come back to us, our sense of balance will come back to us, when we go back to the natural way of protecting and honoring the earth.
 
If we have forgotten how to do it, or we think that it looks overwhelming, or think that we can never accomplish it, all we have to do, each one of us, an individual, is to go and find one spot on the Earth that we can relate to.
 
Feel that energy, feel that power. That’s where our safety will come.
 
The Earth will take care of us. We have to understand that the American Corporate State will not take care of us.
 
They do not care about us. Maximize their profit, that is where their whole life’s balance is placed upon- maximizing the profit. They will turn us against each other to maximize the profit, because they have done it in the past…
 
Our obligations and our loyalty have to be to the Earth, and they have to be to our sense of community and to our people and our relations.
 
Our obligations and loyalty should not be to a government that will not take care of our needs.
 
Our obligations and loyalty should not be to a government that has proven time and time again that it is the enemy of the people unless the people are rich in dollars.
 
That has been the consistent history of Western civilization and the American Corporate State Government- that’s reality. They are not our friends, they do not care about us. We have to face the reality that we have an enemy…
 
We have to come to a time in our lifetime- and it will come in our lifetime- where we are going to have to deal with the fact that the enemy has taken over your government.
 
The government is not your ally. The government will use you, chew you up and spit you out.
 
You think that we are wrong? You think that we are talking unrealistically? Then go look at your elders and see what has happened to your elders in your machine age society.
 
See what kind of respect that they get. See what kind of a voice they are allowed into your society, what kind of input they have.
 
See what their final reward of happiness is after working for this slave state for 30 or 40 years and allowing someone to exploit their labors.
 
What is racism? Racism is an act of war. What is sexism? Sexism is an act of war. It’s a war against our human dignity and our rights to self respect.
 
This is the war that they wage there. War! They are war-like. And we have to understand that the American Corporate State got to where it’s at through the act of war..
 
For 500 years my people have resisted. For 500 years we will resist again if it becomes necessary.
 
We want to be able to relate and communicate with all of the people who are living on this land, but we want to be able to relate and communicate from a position of truth.
 
You all gotta face the truth. We have had to face it through 500 years of genocide, we have had to face the truth, we have had to live the truth. We have had to die the truth.
 
Before we’re gonna ever see our evolutionary liberation, the people that call themselves Americans are gonna have to face the truth also.
They tell us to “be realistic,” that “progress” means that all these things have to happen. They tell us that we can’t go back to the old way.
 
They tell us “be realistic.” But there is no old way, no new way, there is a way of life. We must live in balance with the earth. We MUST do it. We have no choice.
 
If we allow ourselves to be apathetic, or we allow ourselves to be lied to, or tolerate their lies about what they’re doing to the earth, then we are betraying our intention.
 
We are betraying our purpose here. We cannot protect that 7th generation if we do not protect the earth. We cannot protect ourselves if we do not protect the earth.
 
The Earth gives us life, not the American government. The earth gives us life, not the multi-national corporate government.
 
The Earth gives us life, we need to have the Earth. We must have it, otherwise our life will be no more. So we must resist what they do.
 
They want to break our spirit. They will do everything and anything to break our spirit, our will to live. We must learn to resist, we must learn to see, we must learn to look.
 
We must learn to step out of this reactionary-ism. All of our lives they’ve had control of us through their schools, their TV, their electronic media.
 
They’ve had control of us all of our lives. They have programmed us, they have made us become reactionary. We don’t think, we react to what they do.
 
To everything that they do- we react to it. They’re setting us up in the 80’s because they know consistently throughout the past the people have always reacted to their manipulations of circumstance.
 
They know that the people always react. They’re counting on it..
 
See, and they outnumber us with guns, They outnumber us with money. They outnumber us with votes.
 
They control all the machines that count the votes. They’ve got it all stacked in their favor. Except there’s a key. The key is we must start thinking, and stop reacting.
 
The oppressor has no thinkers, they have no philosophers, it’s all scientific, it’s all economic, it’s all manipulative. They have no thinkers.
 
You go look and you deal with the enemy and what the enemy does is: the enemy will send somebody out on the street to hit you in the head and the guy says “I’m only taking my orders.”
 
And if you can come from a position of strength to this guy whose hitting you in the head and say “Hey, you’ve got to stop hitting me in the head, we want to talk.”
 
Then he says “Well I have to go to my superior to see.” They have no thinkers, either.
 
If we will start to think we will learn to see, to see what reality really is, and we will outnumber them through the thinking process.
 
We will take our minds away from them. Because through their manipulation of our minds they control our spirit, and they know this is true.
 
They tell us, see, they want us to believe that we are powerless. They want us to believe that we are becoming overwhelmed, that they can overwhelm us.
 
You see, but they are paranoid. They are more paranoid than any of us are, no matter what happens to us. You see, because they have to put people in here to come and listen to what we’re saying, so they can go back and tell.
 
See, so they’re afraid! They’re afraid because they know we’re talking about reality! Now why are they afraid?
 
They are afraid because they know they are dealing with the illusions of power which are based on the realities of violence and brutality.
 
They’re afraid! See, they don’t want people to think, they don’t want people to be talking, and they don’t want people to think about what they talk about.
 
Because they know. They’ve known it all along, that they built their whole THING on illusions.
 
And because they have drawn us in to giving this illusionary world all this power, they have taken our power away from us. Because we believe in the illusions.
 
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“John Trudell (February 15, 1946 – December 8, 2015) was a Native American author, poet, actor, musician, and political activist. He was the spokesperson for the United Indians of All Tribes’ takeover of Alcatraz beginning in 1969. During most of the 1970s, he served as the chairman of the American Indian Movement, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After his pregnant wife, three children and mother-in-law were killed in 1979 in a suspicious fire at the home of his parents-in-law on the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes Duck Valley Indian Reservation in Nevada, Trudell turned to writing, music and film as a second career.” Source: Wikipedia

 
 
Posted in Creative Systems Thinking, spiritual ecology | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Joy of Learning

“Educating the mind without educating the heart, is no education at all.” ~Aristotle

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Fifteen years ago, George Bush introduced No Child Left Behind, which increased pressure on children and teachers, with nationwide standardized testing. President Obama promised to change that, but instead gave us Common Core and Race to the Top.
 
Stress, anxiety and boredom increased, many children began to dislike school even more. And nothing was done to address wealth inequality, that children from poor communities had less money and resources for their schools.
 
f99eb05b2688aa8e2e75ef017ea54f7aMeanwhile, across the Atlantic (in Finland) children were excelling. Why? Because teachers were encouraged to be innovative, money was provided for public education and students were allowed to enjoy themselves, to learn things together and independently. They have been given the freedom to learn, without excessive homework and standardized testing.

Children are natural born learners- curious, sociable, skillful, joyful, compassionate and creative by nature. Their minds are open and flexible, their hearts trusting and generous. They come into the world with brains designed to learn from their local environment, to interact skillfully with the people and objects that surround them.

They enjoy experimenting with new things and investigating whatever interests them. They learn languages and gain new skills easily, as long as they are respected, assisted (when needed) and encouraged to enjoy the learning process.

Maria Montessori understood this, and taught that the role of educators is to organize learning environments so that they facilitate self-discovery, creativity, concentration and collaborative exploration.

sungha-jung-sungha-jung-17204895-640-426Put another way, children learn best when learning is playful, social, interesting and self-directed. There is no need for constant control, monitoring, external rewards and punishments. In fact, such authoritarian efforts tend to deter children’s learning, deaden their natural motivation and curiosity.

Young people enjoy learning when it is meaningful and collaborative. They will put time and effort into mastering skills and helping one another. They have a natural desire to communicate, to be creative, competent, sociable and successful.

They will put time into learning when it is enjoyable, which is why helping every child to cultivate a love of learning should be the guiding principle of any system of education.

collaborative learningAdults have an important role to play with this, but attempts to over-control the natural learning process will immediately begin to snuff it out. Rigid expectations, testing and comparisons are also harmful, as no two children will learn in the exact same way or at the same rate.

Adults need to be good role models and provide extra help for those who are struggling, but this should be done with love, respect and good intentions. Bottom line, children lose interest when adults are too rigid, demanding and controlling. Such learning experiences become miseducative, as John Dewey put it.

The bottom line, children need to be free to learn.

~Christopher Chase

Posted in Creative Systems Thinking, education reform, Learner-centered education | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

The Perpetual Curse of Feudalism, Reinvented

“Washington has become our Versailles. We are ruled, entertained, and informed by courtiers — and the media has evolved into a class of courtiers… We are captivated by the hollow stagecraft of political theater as we are ruthlessly stripped of power. It is smoke and mirrors, tricks and con games, and the purpose behind it is deception.” ~Chris Hedges, Manufacturing the Illusion of Democracy

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Is Feudalism (marketing itself as Democracy) the underlying operating system (OS) for modern civilization’s social, economic and political systems? This is the hypothesis of those who describe current systems of governance, militarism and global economics as a mutated form of neo-feudalism.

If true, it would help to explain why (for over 2000 years) Western civilizations have perpetuated certain distinct characteristics- such as class systems, extreme wealth inequality, power elites, racism, militarism, prison systems (that put people in cages) and human trafficking (aka, slavery).

The guiding “parameters” (social systems and cultural programing) of modern civilizations appear to be rooted in feudalism- focused on the centralized concentration of power and wealth-  and have not changed significantly, over time.

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In school, most of us learned that feudalism was abandoned long ago, that our world is now more democratically organized. While that is true (to some extent), those who study neo-feudalism suggest that instead of being discarded, the centralized power dynamics and social patterns of early empires are still very much with us.

These systems have been continuously repackaged and “updated” over time (like new versions of Windows software) morphing into imperialism, colonialism, industrialism and (most recently) corporate capitalism and globalization. (See: Mutation of Medieval Feudalism Into Modern Corporate Capitalism)

This would explain the “disconnect” many of us feel between the ideals of democracy (that we had been taught in school) and the reality of the world we see and experience all around us. And also the attraction millions of people feel to the ideas of politicians like Bernie Sanders in the United States, who has highlighted these problems, demanding radical, evolutionary and compassionate change.

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If one looks carefully, human history (over the past few thousand years) has been one long story of empire building, predatory colonialism and military conquest. In Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, we are presented with the prevalent themes of class systems, crime & punishment, poverty, prostitution and peasant labor that have not changed to this day.
 
Even now, most people on our planet are either extremely poor or in debt, while the wealthiest 1% surround themselves with an elite class that live behind the walls of their mansions, like royalty.
 
Look at our educational systems, where standardized tests are used to sort, rank and classify children (while indoctrinating them with an incomplete understanding of history and manufacturing obedience). Where test scores determine society’s winners and losers, where a child’s future social status will depend on their willingness to follow orders and do as instructed. (And where the children of the wealthy receive a “private” education much more advantageous and enriched than anyone else.)

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See how our political systems are rigged by those with the greatest wealth, allowing powerful individuals (and corporations) to make laws and wage wars, occupying offices far away from most “common people,” ruling over the rest of us, like kings.
 
Look at our modern military campaigns, where young men are sent off like pawns on chess boards, to kill people in far-off nations (that have resources our corporations want to control). Where expensive weapons systems cost trillions of dollars, while back home there is little money left for the education or health care of our “peasant” classes.
 
Notice how our prison systems are set up, where poor people who violate laws are locked up in cages (sometimes for years), a barbaric system of punishment that has not changed since the days of the Roman empire. And where, in the United States, more African Americans are currently incarcerated than were forced into slavery 200 years ago.

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In America, a revolution led by wealthy slave owners (in 1776) deposed one set of power elites, but set up another. All around us, we can see the old feudal systems- mutated or morphed into modern versions of the same archaic patterns, resulting in the same social problems and dysfunctions.

It’s a system kept in place by propaganda that is fed to the masses (by the media and schools), telling us that our world is based on “progress,” that we are more advanced and “developed” than primitive tribal cultures of the past. When in truth the feudal paradigm of civilization (focused on the social dominance of others and the acquisition of wealth by a small power elite) is in many ways barbaric, authoritarian and unsustainable.
 

Crime, war, racism, slavery, addiction, human trafficking, environmental destruction and extreme poverty are all symptoms of an underlying systemic imbalance, of a world where predatory and selfish feudalistic thinking (and systems of social organization) still dominate our lives.

Such criticism and understanding is not new. Jesus saw the evils of this system, and spoke out against it. Buddha refused to participate in his father’s kingdom, walking off and choosing to live in poverty instead. From Lao Tsu to Gandhi to Martin Luther King, there have been a chorus of voices that have spoken out across the ages.

Albert Einstein wrote about this problem over 60 years ago (see: Beyond Capitalism). He described how modern political, economic and media systems were perpetuating oligarchy and rigging democratic systems.

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As we moved into the modern industrial age large peaceful social movements have risen up to “challenge the system” – from the abolitionists and women suffragettes to the civil rights movement, anti-war protests, ecology movement and Occupy Wall Street.

Recently, Bernie Sanders has been speaking out, asking millions to join him. It’s way past time to shift paradigms, to evolve and update civilization’s materialistic values, antiquated systems and predatory methods.

The old feudal ways of doing things has created endless misery, destroying Nature’s fragile ecoystems and leading the human race to ruin. The time has come for our species to grow wiser, evolve our thinking and change the way we live upon this planet.

~Christopher Chase
Creative Systems Thinking

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Capitalism pyramid

“Those who study the nature of colonial rule offer the best insights into the functioning of our corporate state. We have been, like nations on the periphery of empire, colonized… It is an old, old game.” ~Chris Hedges, Colonized by Corporations

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Photo by Linda Kristine. In Ghana, children pan for gold in water poisoned by mercury from the extraction process.
Posted in age of ignorance, economics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 13 Comments

Zen & the Art of Living Deeply

“With traditional arts in Asia much emphasis is put on long-term practice and effort, so as to reach continuously higher levels of skill development. There is a deeper character training happening as well, to reduce the ego’s voice, let go of fears, cultivate mindfulness, increase gratitude and live more fully in the present moment.” ~Christopher Chase

tea ceremony ichi go

Cultivating a Beginner’s Mind

Beginner’s Mind is a phrase from Japanese Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki’s book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. He uses it to describe an approach to life that is empty of preconceptions and egotism, yet very mindful.
 
“In Japan we have the phrase shoshin (初心), which means “beginner’s mind.” The goal of practice is always to keep our beginner’s mind… This [means] an empty mind and a ready mind. If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.”
 
The idea of an empty mind in Asian cultures is different from Western conceptions, which signify that something is lacking. It is closer to our idea of being open-minded, providing a spacious awareness that allows the outer world to flow in freely through our senses.

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The Chinese philosopher Lao Tsu shared a similar conception of emptiness, in verse 11 of the Tao Te Ching, describing structured spaces which invite participation as being very practical and useful.
 
“Thirty spokes share the wheel’s hub;
It is the center hole that makes it useful.
Shape clay into a vessel;
It is the space within that makes it useful.
Cut doors and windows for a room;
It is the holes which make it useful.”
Therefore benefit comes from what is there;
Usefulness from what is not there.”
 
In Zen Buddhism, to maintain a beginner’s mind means to be open to continuous growth and deeper understanding. One is encouraged to drink in each moment of life, without excessive desire, pride or judgment.
 
A beginner’s mind is not willful, power seeking or egocentric. As a beginner, we are encouraged to develop skills without comparing ourselves to others or seeking to be superior in any way. In Japan, this also relates to the idea of kenkyo (謙虚) which means to cultivate modesty and humility, to not be full of oneself.
 
In Zen Flesh, Zen Bones (by Paul Rep) there is a section entitled 101 Zen Stories. Here a tale is told of a University professor who visits Nan-in, a Japanese Zen master. The professor says he wants to learn about Zen, but is filled with his own knowledge and opinions. Nan-in pours tea into his cup and does not stop so that it begins to overflow.
 
“What are you doing? It is overfull. No more will go in!” yells the Professor. “Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

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Zen & Japanese Traditional Arts
 
Even now, a beginner’s mind is very much a part of traditional arts training in Japan. The idea of mu (無) or mushin (無 心) is commonly taught to students. It is often translated as “not, nothing” or “no mind” but it’s closer to openness of awareness in meaning. Students are encouraged to be attentive and mindful, carefully observant of the present moment.
 
With traditional arts education in Asia much emphasis is put on long-term practice and effort, so as to reach continuously higher levels of skill development. There is a deeper character training happening as well, to reduce the ego’s voice, let go of fears, cultivate mindfulness, increase gratitude and live more fully in the present moment.
 
A core idea with Zen influenced arts is that deep mastery and learning requires that we keep all our senses open. Over time one’s knowledge becomes intuitive, instinctual. We do not have to “think “ consciously to act skillfully.
 
The goal with arts training is not to receive praise or do better than others, but to grow spiritually, develop as a human being and learn to live each moment peacefully, mindfully and deeply connected to the present.
 
The Buddhist scholar D.T. Suzuki (no relation to Shunryu Suzuki), gave this description, in his essay An Introduction to Zen Buddhism:
 
“The idea of Zen is to catch life as it flows. There is nothing extraordinary or mysterious about Zen. I raise my hand; I take a book from the other side of the desk; I hear the boys playing ball outside my window; I see the clouds blown away beyond the neighboring wood — in all these I am practicing Zen, I am living Zen. No wordy discussion is necessary, nor any explanation… When the sun rises the whole world dances with joy and everybody’s heart is filled with bliss. If Zen is at all conceivable, it must be taken hold of here.”

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Living & Learning in the Modern World
 
Zen teaches that living in this way is not difficult, but modern “civilized” people make it hard for themselves, and their children. Educational systems (both in the West and in Asia) put great emphasis on competition, status and ranking, requiring the memorization and testing of knowledge.
 
The goal of modern schooling is for students to remember vast amounts of information, to do better than others on tests, so that one can get higher grades, get into the “best” college, attain a high paying job. This “training” (that most of us have received) keeps our minds focused on information storage, future goals and how we compare with others in the present.
 
Living and learning this way has created a world where a rat race mentality dominates. Where many “well educated” people’s minds are crammed with disconnected bits of knowledge (about math, physics, history, etc.) that we never developed the ability to apply in meaningful ways.
 
In recent decades, Western psychologists have described some of these dynamics. Carol Dweck talks about a growth vs fixed mindset. A growth mindset is open and curious, the person understands what they are studying and is continuously learning, updating their knowledge and skills. We do not compare ourselves with others and see learning as a lifelong process.
 
Psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi describes this approach to life and learning as flow, the psychology of optimal experience. With our minds open to the present moment we experience a sense of unity and intimate relationship with our current situation and context.

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A growth mindset and flow are quite similar to the beginner’s mind approach of Zen. In the book Zen in the Art of Archery, Eugen Herrigel shared his Japanese archery teacher’s advice, “Don’t think of what you have to do, don’t consider how to carry it out! The shot will only go smoothly when it takes the archer himself by surprise.”
 
Goals can be helpful, but the focus with Zen arts is to anchor our consciousness in the present moment, detached from ego and desire. “A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at,” is how Bruce Lee put it.
 
Numerous athletes, artists and musicians have described their most satisfying experiences in this way, as being in “the zone,” where a sense of self drops away and we feel a deep connection with the present moment. Skillful actions happen of themselves, intuitively, without willful thought or direction.
 
When playing sports or music, thoughts of future outcomes or failure can trigger powerful emotions that distract our awareness. It is only by paying full attention to what is happening NOW that we can respond mindfully and effectively to current conditions, and deeply connect with the present moment we inhabit.
 
Moreover, as our skills develop without egoism, we will naturally cultivate positive psychological qualities (such as mindfulness, optimism, compassion, creativity, kindness, joyfulness) that make our lives more happy, successful and meaningful.
 
As the composer John Cage put it, “Get yourself out of whatever cage you find yourself in. There is poetry as soon as we realize that we possess nothing.”

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Developing Deep Appreciation for Our Lives

When we learn and grow in this way, over time we may discover what Japanese call ikegai (生き甲斐), a deeper sense of purpose and direction to our lives. Ikegai is about developing your many unique gifts so that you can share these with the world. Finding our life’s purpose brings joy to us and benefit to others.
 
To do this successfully, it helps to be aware of how we are connected to the rest of the Universe. Finding deep meaning can only be discovered in the now, not in the future. This is why Taoist and Zen teachings encourage us to cultivate an intimate relationship with (and appreciation for) Nature as she manifests in the present moment.
 
We are at all times connected to the Cosmos in ways that mundane concerns distract us from seeing. Alan Watts has described how we are each like waves of a larger ocean, unique and creative expressions of the Universe we inhabit.
 
When our mind is empty of self-centric thoughts and emotions, we can more easily connect with our surroundings. Maintaining space in our minds allows the magic of the world to enter through our senses.

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For Taoist sages and Zen masters the Universe that surrounds us is experienced as our “original face.” It’s the Source of all that exists, a living matrix of creativity that we all belong to, that has brought each one of us into being. As Alan Watts put it:
 
“If you see yourself in the correct way, you are all as much extraordinary phenomena of nature as trees, clouds, the patterns in running water, the flickering of fire, the arrangement of the stars, and the form of a galaxy. You are all just like that…”
 
While this is not difficult to comprehend conceptually, it can be challenging for “civilized” people to experience directly and frequently. Not buying into the rat race mentality of modern cultures is an essential first step. Training mindfully in an art form or sport, learning to meditate or do yoga, will provide us with a system of practice that assists greatly.
 
As we learn to meet the world like an empty cup, we allow inner and outer realms of our lives to flow together. Where there had been separation before, now there is greater unity and love. Every living being we meet, every experience we have, can be seen as magical in some way.
 
More and more, we may begin to experience yūgen (幽玄), a term that Japanese artists and poets have used to signify a deep appreciation and feeling of relatedness with the Universe.

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 Awareness & Experience of Inter-being
 
Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh describes this as a deepening awareness of inter-being, the fundamental unity and interconnectedness of every “thing” in the Cosmos. In a flower exists water from clouds, energy from the sun, molecules from the earth, atoms created billions of years ago within stars.
 
This understanding is very important if one wishes to grasp Buddhist teachings about emptiness, as Thich Nhat Hanh explains:
 
“A flower cannot be by herself alone. To be empty is not a negative note… A flower is empty only of a separate self, but a flower is full of everything else. The whole cosmos can be seen, can be identified, can be touched, in one flower. So to say that the flower is empty of a separate self also means that the flower is full of the cosmos.”
 
Such an attitude and recognition brings greater peace and happiness in our lives (and wisdom in our actions) because instead of trying to manipulate outcomes and take from the world we become more aligned with Nature, moving in unison with life, like a musician or dancer.

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By letting go of distracting thoughts and emotions throughout the day, we create space for the world to move through us, be a part of us. This letting go allows for a deeper experience of inter-being, our intimate connectedness with everything and everyone.
 
Over time, connecting & letting go, like breathing, becomes second nature for us. Not seeking far off goals that the modern world considers to be important, we discover that everything we need is already here. We just need to cultivate inner space and connect fully with what is happening right now.
 
Maintaining a beginner’s mind helps us to experience flow in our activities, joy in our relationships and growth as human beings. Like the lead characters in the films Groundhog Day and About Time, we start to discover deep meaning and poetry in all of life’s moments.

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In the Japanese tea ceremony this connection and appreciation is expressed with the idea of ichi-go ichi-e (一期一会), translated as “one time, one meeting.” Every meeting we share with others is a once in a lifetime event, a sacred moment that we can treasure and enjoy deeply.
 
Over time, as we practice seeing and living in this way, everything we do can be experienced as an art form to be mastered and/or appreciated, every interaction with others becomes a potential source of joy, gratitude, peace, love and beauty.
 
We will never find happiness in far off places or goals that we imagine in our heads. The way to happiness is to realize deeply, that each moment of life― each snowflake, flower, mountain, sunrise, friendship― is a work of cosmic art, both unique and precious. Each step of our journey we have already arrived, for we have always been home.
 
 Christopher Chase
Fukuoka, Japan
 
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“To dwell in the here and now does not mean you never think about the past, or responsibly plan for the future. The idea is simply not to allow your self to get lost in regrets about the past or worries about the future. Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh
 
“Zen professes itself to be the spirit of Buddhism, but in fact it is the spirit of all religions and philosophies. When Zen is thoroughly understood, absolute peace of mind is attained, and a man [or woman] lives as he ought to live.” ― D.T. Suzuki

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The same stream of life that runs 
through my veins night and day 
runs through the world and 
dances in rhythmic measures.
It is the same life that shoots in joy 
through the dust of the earth 
in numberless blades of grass 
and breaks into tumultuous waves 
of leaves and flowers.
It is the same life that is rocked 
in the ocean-cradle of birth 
and of death, in ebb and in flow.
I feel my limbs are made glorious 
by the touch of this world of life. 
And my pride is from the life-throb of ages 
dancing in my blood this moment.

~ Rabindranath Tagore ~

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Posted in Alan Watts, Creative Systems Thinking, nondual awareness, thich nhat hanh, zen | Tagged , , , , , | 19 Comments