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Culture Change

Interconnectedness of all in the universe
Doom and gloom?  Your perception calls the tune

by Jan Lundberg

To most people in the U.S., any change that would disturb dominant society's definition of reality is frightening.  In a stark portrait of an energy-deprived economic future, we lose our cars, computers, refrigerators, convenience foods, unending plastic objects, and most of the rest of modern life's accoutrements.  To most watchers of TV news, this is not a realistic vision but a needless scenario of "doom and gloom." 

To others, just losing the right to drive an SUV with affordable gasoline is doom & gloom and unAmerican.

To go further than discussing changes in lifestyle is to warn of deadly consequences of too many consumers running up against resource limits in a biosphere with failing life-support systems.  This should be considered a biological and sociological question, but is almost always rejected out of hand by the authorities in power.  Or, the honest assessment is considered inconvenient for the public and the profitable, global marketplace.

But if one can see the wonder of healthy nature — working with one another and the ecosystem in harmony — a so-called doom & gloom picture could be a fortunate outcome.  Certain challenges of the post-petroleum future could be turned into advantages that include village-based mutual support.  One's perception could thereby be joyous upon exiting today's conflict-ridden phase of history and transitioning to a sustainable culture.  This essay looks at divergent perceptions and how our reality is to a significant extent shaped by our observing the universe on our familiar material plane with our cultural expectations.

Physics and society

A petroleum-free, no-growth economic future is not a sufficiently viable basis for a positive vision to achieve a sustainable society.  Awareness of our place in nature is essential, but in a world distorted by artificial systems in a decaying environment we must also become aware of the limitations of what we accept as objective reality.  Physics has shown that every individual's consciousness is always co-creating in a unified, interconnected reality with every particle and wave that exists and that has ever existed and that will exist.

Unless we broaden and deepen our perception of both the universe and our fellow members of society, we all  may perish in persisting to manipulate each other and our ecosystem with materialism and exploitation.  The infinite expanse and inward depth of our interconnected consciousness, according to physics, allows for a wide range of outcomes flowing simply from our awareness — even without action taken.  As controlling as this might be, it is patently insufficient thus far to aid us in assuring survival, perhaps due to the small minority practicing full consciousness.

The obstacle is from the majority: Reality perceived in a limited, material way — by individuals imagining themselves to be merely separate, independent beings — causes their cultural programming to allow them to see only what they expect to see.  In today's trying cultural/perceptual reality, almost all of us in modern society thus fail to sense the greater, inextricable unity of the known and "hidden" universe.

Social change and perception of the universe

The social change that many strive for requires minds that see through the material(ist) obstacles to a more fluid, open consciousness.  Simultaneously, a positive future for life as we know it calls for (1.) gutsy action for justice according to compassionate emotions and (2.) calculated organizing to right wrongs.

Among the many other requisites for a healthy culture, society must neutralize threats to our survival such as nuclear waste and weapons — immediately.  For humanity to succeed in this challenge it means working together and no longer accepting the leader/follower syndrome.  To achieve this, it is essential to look deeply at our perceptual habits.  Seeing alternatives is impossible for those hard-wired to relate only to material security.  To jar such rigid minds loose, a shocking realization or therapeutic experience must occur.  However, if the process of change is suddenly violent, and living from day to day is a challenge to feed oneself, the opportunity for maximizing awareness may be blunted or precluded.

Just as the mechanistic worldview sees order in terms of separate objects and forces, the conventional view of society as depending on taking and distributing resources cannot imagine new definitions of relationships and energy use.

So, although there is an alternative world to experience that departs from the highly wasteful industrial/economics model in place today, people are discouraged from opposing today's system and implementing a new one based on emerging global reality.

The order that the authorities cling to is based on a faulty understanding of the universe.  Everything is connected to everything else and operates as a living whole.  But this is denied by those who exploit resources and people, as if humans are part of what is considered the expendable environment.  Living things and inanimate resources are thought to be lacking in intrinsic value.  In the anthropocentric, capitalist paradigm of materialism, a species (any but the human) that is going extinct is of little importance.  In contrast, according to both the traditional nature-based cultures and the new awareness of modern physics and ecological thought, the world does not merely contain fuel, wealth, units of this-or-that, to be devoured or discounted by a market.

The observer makes reality

Interestingly, there is no "local reality" for a given particle or object, independent of the rest of the universe or cut off from the whole.  This means, in physics, that what is happening with a particular object is also happening everywhere at once simultaneously, on the quantum subatomic level.  The same thing can be said of everyday material reality as well as a society's entire human population — we are all connected.  It is possible this view will become more widespread and dominant, with sufficient world upheaval or shock.

"The way an observer interacts with the ensemble determines which aspect unfolds and which remains hidden."  This statement of physics [The Holographic Universe, by Michael Talbot] refers to the order of the universe as having more than one manifestation (ordered versus apparently disordered), depending on ones' presence, attention and perceptual expectation.

What this can tell us about today's societal priorities and the prospects for transforming the way we view and treat the world, is that the myopic participants of dominant society do not see nature's wholeness.  If they do see it or accept it, they quickly dismiss its essential meaning for our common survival, so they will not have to change their lives and risk material deprivation.  Many of these aware but uninvolved observers know that society must become cooperative and egalitarian — if humanity and biological diversity are to survive.

Cultural values — via perception — threatening the world

Society's most reactionary and reluctant elements who hold and defend material wealth now see problems brewing that have just begun to rock their world.  They know climate change and oil depletion are hitting an overpopulated, toxified biosphere.  Their approach, however, is not at all to let go of any control they think they have over their own and others' lives.  Nonrenewable resources will instead be gone after anew, with the hope of merely changing or switching the resources to exploit and exhaust.  

They call their tomorrow renewable-energy powered, but on close examination there would still be massive, unending draw-downs of non-renewable resources.  This means that only an elite is to benefit from such things as solar panels and green cars, as these manufactured items cannot be given to the Earth's billions of people over many years.  The industrialists of both the old and new stripe do not understand or respect entropy, the law of nature that says the structure and quality of matter degrades whenever there is energy-transfer (as with burning fossil fuels).

With all we know, our minds still become rigid in locking perception on the "materialist world."  The materialist world is an aspect of the material world that emphasizes the culture of materialism and most concerns of consumer society.  When consumerism takes over our minds and hearts, we need to seek natural surroundings or obtain release through yoga or meditation, for example.  These respites and tonics are not a substitute for living a spiritually/materially balanced life.  Some people think they can "have it all," i.e., driving to a yoga retreat that few can afford.

When the mind is locked, and we can't "turn it off" or find peace or refuge from our thoughts and worries, this is an effect of the manifestation of reality we have created with both our culture and personal choices within it.  We become our own prisoners of our perception that is in turn limited by our daily choices and conditions.

Solutions include unmasking reality

The solution does not lie in taking drugs or obtaining the money to enjoy greater advantages of materialism — including even New Age methods of relief.  Rather, the solution is in dismantling the "false reality" of materialism and the physical structures of the dominant society.  If one could become a spiritual warrior and actually immobilize cars, depave streets and disable any destructive systems, the masses of drones and worker ants of human society might run around wildly in circles of confusion.  But they would be freed of their deadly, stifling boxes for a while (or henceforth, if the system crashes).

Street theatre and creative use of media can enhance mass perception, as practiced from the beginnings of society on through to the present.  The Yippies and the Diggers of Haight-Ashbury were effective in their era, and new issues have demanded new action.  In Sparks, Nevada over the Labor Day weekend, a feast of factory-farm meat — 130,000 pounds of pork ribs — took place.  If someone were inclined, he or she could walk through such a crowd wearing a boar's skull with blood dripping from the tusks, as an amplified scary voice intones that it has come to haunt the humans.  Experience shows that not everyone in a target audience is swayed immediately, but it can help to enlarge consciousness — despite the riskyness of such an action.

Iraq and perception of U.S. mainstreamers

When Iraqi resistance forces destroy U.S.-backed systems of control, and oil facilities are sabotaged, it is an intention to fight Western (infidel) culture and use violence against the violent, alien invader.  The people of Iraq feel they have no other choice, as decisions to invade and control Iraq were made years ago without the input of the Iraqi people.

Not every Iraqi is part of the resistance, but a poll in early summer of 2004 put the support rate at 90% of the population.  The perceived reality of today's increasingly desperate Iraqis is one of degeneration of cherished old ways and formerly reliable institutions, despite the violence of the previous regime.  To meet today's challenge with violence is the choice of those who believe there is no other way at the moment.  However, peaceful ways are always better, and are not sufficiently tried by those tending to commit aggression.  Then again, self-defense can call for lethal force.

Still, comfortable American materialists who expect to continue their affluent living through profligate energy use (see bottom story on electric power in California) must endeavor to see reality through others' eyes such as Iraqis'.  If we do this, we can take peaceful action for everyone's sake by understanding the connections between energy, war, politics and lifestyle.

Death of nature and individuals

Our normal cultural perception of reality blinds us to the unique, spiritual essence of each individual.  So it is through the death of someone close to us that we can then sense the full being who has departed from our everyday plane as an integrated organism.

When commodification of nature renders the ecos of the economy into a growing wasteland and artificial environment, we cannot appreciate the spiritual, sacred value of life of individuals or whole species.  Indeed, most of the individuals participating in the dominant system are unconscious of their true condition and relationship to their often hidden masters.  People allow themselves into being herded into darkness, being brainwashed that there is "better living through (petro-)chemistry."  Lives and nature are devalued to the point that the extinction of the human race is in the works.

Some creative solutions

The situation being what it is, the question is What can we do about it?  People who think independently of regimented society and who are not pursuing material wealth in a greedy fashion, instead occupy themselves in various approaches to counter the runaway death machine killing the biosphere and degrading our already compromised lives.  Some may pour their energy into helping to bring sustainable agricultural practices to the attention of mainstream members of society.  Others may create art or music or write about problems and solutions.  Other activists may take direct action against symbols of authority or against the authorities themselves.  However, despite the extreme nature of the threat to life as we know it, and the incorrigible behavior of corrupt "leaders," there is little resistance or support for resistance.  

The analogy of frogs being slowly heated to boil may be most apt.  In Iraq, people felt the boiling water thrown over them and they decided to jump and attack their enemy.  This is not to say the Iraq insurgency is not tainted by self-serving elements.  And some indulge in certain scams or atrocities to seek vengeance against their opponents.

For consumers enjoying peaceful slavery in their lives as they work for petroleum-guzzling/providing entities, the boiling-water wake-up call could be the sudden unavailability of petroleum.  It is then that perception will be radically jolted en masse, if not altered, and the illusion built on petroleum and on oil-wars will dissolve like an acid eating the feet of those dwelling in materialism in their Babylon.  But anyone already aware of the petroleum-illusion and who has tried to avoid the corporate juggernaut may be able to sidestep the crash of the falling U.S. giant.  

The better our consciousness is developed to see the whole of reality as much as humanly possible, the more likely peace will break out for a long stay. 

What the (bleep) do we know

The film by the above name is about physics, altered states of perception and consciousness.  The vehicle for the film's ideas is a story of a troubled yuppie failing to enjoy her privileged lifestyle in a glamorous city as a photographer.  But she is soon taught that she is an integral part of her universe that she is shaping, and that she may as well enjoy the wonder of it all and accept reality.  It fails as a comprehensive scientific documentary, but many interesting concepts are thrown at the viewer combined with slick cinematographic/computer effects to tickle the imagination and recall our existing knowledge.  The film makers' upcoming project in fall 2004 is to document a global healing conference that features shamans flown into the U.S. from all over the planet.

Last word

The world that we know in our waking state is a manifestation of reality that conforms to our expectations and normal perception.  It is time to both widen and deepen our perception and consciousness, such as paying greater attention to our dreams and learning about quantum physics (which can be amazingly fun).  That said, there can be no let-up in action to defend biological diversity and the beauty of nature.  This does not mean social justice can or should be ignored, but it must be anchored to Earth defense.


The following letter in the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper, August 28, 2004, was in response to a spokesman for a business/government consortium who called for "5 Steps for Preventing the Next Power Crisis" two days before.

Editor -- R. Sean Randolph's article is objectionable to conservationists and anyone concerned about society's dependence on fast-dwindling petroleum. His positions favoring "growth" solutions and management adjustments are outmoded.

At the top of his list is more power, and second on the list is still more power, while conservation is limited to time-demand shifting instead of slashing energy-consumptive appliance use.

In the post-petroleum future, neighbors will have to gather and share precious nonrenewable energy.

It is impossible to prevent the next power crisis. Randolph gives lip service to the environment, but with global warming, someone has to yell, "What planet are you on?" His efforts to keep energy cheap would assure continued high demand and maximum pollution. His expensive proposal to re- meter every electricity user is like reupholstering the deck chairs on the Titanic.



Related reading:  
Modern perception's limitations and
The curtain of materialist society's illusion #39, published October 21, 2003, written early 2001. 
The Holographic Universe
, Michael Talbot.  HarperCollins Publishers, 1991

To support the nonprofit Culture Change and its projects, make a donation.



Articles of interest:
Measuring and controlling the actions of governments 

Anti-globalization protest grows, with tangible results. 
WTO protests page

Tax fossil-fuel energy easily
by Peter Salonius 

UK leader calls War on Terror "bogus"

Argentina bleeds toward healing by Raul Riutor

The oil industry has plans for you: blow-back by Jan Lundberg

It's not a war for oil? by Adam Khan

How to create a pedestrian mall by Michelle Wallar

The Cuban bike revolution

How GM destroyed the U.S. rail system excerpts from the film "Taken for a Ride".

"Iraqi oil not enough for US: Last days of America?"

Depaving the world by Richard Register

Roadkill: Driving animals to their graves by Mark Matthew Braunstein

The Hydrogen fuel cell technofix: Spencer Abraham's hydrogen dream.

Ancient Forest Protection in Northern California. Forest defenders climb trees to save them.

Daniel Quinn's thoughts on this website.

A case study in unsustainable development is the ongoing crisis in Palestine and Israel.

Renewable and alternative energy information.

Conserving energy at home (Calif. Title 24)

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