Showing posts with label economic collapse. Show all posts
Showing posts with label economic collapse. Show all posts

Monday, October 21, 2013

Who Will Win? Republicans or Democrats?

Sometimes they are difficult to tell one from the other. But these days, so polarized are they that it isn’t quite so difficult. Nonetheless to define or characterize them is not easy. There are high-minded, noble partisans and there are the others, as diverse as human nature can be. If I left it at that, I wouldn’t have an article to write, however, And for those who stick with me on this, I assure you there’s point somewhere to be made.

Republicans tend to describe themselves as conservatives: fiscal conservatives, traditional values, mainline religion, God and country first, and finally, “hands off my stuff!” (my business, my family, etc.) Democrats tend to be associated with plurality, diversity, acceptance of alternative lifestyles, compassionate and desirous to help those in need. Well, I know that just as in the rest of politics we could split hairs and argue about these distinctions but I ask, if I must, for your forbearance for the sake brevity and simplicity, lest whatever point I might have, be buried in the “ifs, ands, and buts.”

Conservative, status quo and tradition has been on the run since the very dawn of modernism. Perhaps it began with the Italian Renaissance when men of genius and curiosity stepped out the darkness of medieval consciousness and began boldly to explore the natural world of the human body, biology, astronomy, non-religious philosophy, chemistry and much more. Hot on its heels came the great Protestant revolution (beginning with Martin Luther) and simultaneously the age of world exploration and conquest. The medieval era of unchanging tradition and rigid social and religious castes and customs began to crumble. Advances in knowledge, technology, arts, sciences, medicine and, of course, war, gave birth to the hope for freedom with the appearance of the initially weak but dynamic 13 colonies, now the United States of America.
Change and innovation by men and women of genius, courage, and commitment have been upsetting conservative bastions of “this is how it’s always been” in every generation since!

Still, orthodoxy and conservatism have always managed to regain the reins of power even if new ideas and new forms of populist activism temporarily wrested those reins away. Indeed, in the halls of power, this is the reason most of typically see little difference between the blues and the reds. Once in power, it’s “the same old, same old” song.

The reason the blues and the reds alternate in dominance every so many years is that each has a piece of the trending puzzle of consciousness and change. By definition, neither will ever in the course of history win permanently and forever. From the point of view of consciousness and metaphysical truths, Democrats represent the growing awareness, initiative and energy of the common man, flinging off the shackles of caste and of the past. We are living in the early stages of a long cycle (thousands of years) during which human consciousness (slowly at first, and then with increasing intensity) grows in the awareness of individuality, personal initiative, and an internal yardstick of right action, increasingly independent from external or traditional laws, customs, or forms.

Republicans represent the stability inherent in the calm acceptance of the law (law of karma and right action). “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” With experience and wisdom, a person who early in life was a maverick finds that he becomes, later in life, a conservative. This is for the simple reason that some people realize that basic truths of behavior don’t really change. One might find, later in life, that the most valuable things in life aren’t money or pleasure, but health and friendship—just to describe one common realization.

A person who starts adult life as a stickler for the rules and apt to pounce on those who don’t uphold the “ol-time religion” (whether ethics, politics, caste, or religion) may, later in life, after some struggles and disillusionment, relax and become more accepting of others’ realities and their need to find their own way in life.

Our government today is in a great crises. What is to come will affect not only the fortunes of this nation but of many nations, some of whom share our predicament, and others who will be affected by it. We are bankrupt. The momentum of habit, the existence of ignorance, and the paralysis of fear of change, both in this country and abroad, have kept the masses from hearing the little boy whimpering, “The emperor (dollar) has no clothes!”

The debt crises has galvanized some Republicans over Obamacare for, among other reasons, the fear that it will create an exponential increase in mandated federal entitlements at a time in history, regardless of Obamacare’s long overdue status and intrinsic merits, when it could be the proverbial “straw” which when added to our deficits and consequent debt will topple the dollar into the dustbin and trigger a financial and commercial collapse never before seen in the history of the world.

With so many economies of developed countries in equivalent or worse shape, only blind, habitual, and fear-anchored “faith” in the dollar holds the world’s fragile “fiat” fictionalized trading and lending activities in an evanescent and virtual chimera.

Add to this a wide range of concerns about global warming, declining energy and other natural resources, erosion of water, air and soil quality, exponential increases in population, and the potential for pandemics or mega-cataclysms, one can see why artists in the entertainment and creative arts have produced, for decades now, an unending parade of futuristic movies and books depicting a depleted, ugly and sterile earth, devoid of all but a handful of humans living like beasts! Warning or reality?

Yet millions hope for a better world. Millions associate themselves with trends, ideas, organizations and a culture of stewardship for the earth and responsibility to be channels for the descent of an expanded consciousness from above.

If the Republicans “win” it won’t be against Obamacare but “for” the need to rein in government spending. This goal is now impossible, however. Voters don’t have a clue, any more than their on-paper representatives. No one has the moral authority or political power to stop the train wreck that is coming. The only politically feasible option is to let the government careen out of control and bottom out. Only then will the voters stop arguing about entitlements; the military industrial–industrial complex be temporarily paralyzed; and the pork barrel farm and industry subsidies will shrivel up like crops in a draught. Just imagine, however, the consequences.

The power of big government will be permanently shaken, though in time it will attempt to bestir itself to its former glory. But like the zig-zagging chart of the Dow-Jones Industrials, which though it regains some of its value, the overall trend is southward, or the mad beast who keeps getting back up and shot again but finally succumbs, the long term trend of destiny shines on the individual and on smaller groupings of people. Though I suspect a dark period of “Big Brother” is yet to come, no matter how bleak the winter of our discontent, the Spring of individual initiative is the real hope for a better world.

Blue and Red will always have parts to play in the drama of human affairs. We mustn’t fuss so overly much over their their ever-changing ascendancies and seeming demise. Nor yet will the world end anytime soon.

Have faith not in the dollar of matter but in the gold of Divine Love, Divine Will, and the Divine Presence which, as Jesus and the great ones of east and west have always proclaimed is the “good news” and is the “truth that shall make us free.” Meditation offers the most effective way that anyone, anywhere, and anytime can use to find these pearls “of great price.” Move away from the city if you can. Grow your own food, but in all circumstances, associate with people of like-mind, and you will have a wealth more precious than a king’s ransom.

Joy to you,

Swami Hrimananda!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Five Stages of Collapse - Survivors' Toolkit

I am reading the book with this title by Dmitry Orlov. It was given to me as a birthday gift by my friend Cliff Kushler. It's definitely only for the "good, bad and the ugly" nonconformist. I don't challenge anyone to read about the collapse of society as we know it, but if you were open to exploring what it might look like in both theoretical and practical terms, you might find it interesting, at least.

Orlov was born in Russia came to the United States in the 1970's. You can "Google" him and find YouTube videos and Wikipedia.

My spiritual teacher, Swami Kriyananda, spoke for decades about predictions made by his guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, about the collapse of society and various countries as we know it. Yogananda didn't specify a time frame though he did point to specific countries which would be devastated and to a third world war. He also predicted a "depression" far greater than that of the 1930's.

Orlov, however, brings to a clear and practical focus the possible scenario that Swami Kriyananda warned audiences of to his dying day (earlier this year!). I've known Kriyananda since the 70's myself and not until recent years did it seem to at least possible that a perfect storm of global economic events might possibly produce the catastrophes (war and depression) predicted by Yogananda (up until his death in 1952).

American financial markets came very close to a complete meltdown in the Fall of 2008. Reading various economic accounts in the years since forces me to conclude that the so-called safeguards enacted by legislation since that time are without teeth and all but useless to prevent a recurrence. I cannot pretend to understand the complexity of such things as derivatives, but, according to others, neither can the regulators nor yet even the markets themselves. Yet such financial instruments were left more or less untouched by the so-called market reforms. Warren Buffet is often quoted as calling these instruments "weapons of mass financial destruction."

I don't feel to recount the various global soft spots, economically. This is beyond my frame of interest and knowledge. But I point to you to Orlov's book for a more intelligent and thorough analysis.

What is interesting to me is that one of Yogananda's predictions was that the time would come when intentional communities would "spread like wildfire." Orlov describes in amazing detail what amounts to intentional communities of people who would be needed to rebuild society in the event of the collapse of currency values, financial markets, and especially commercial trading activities. The five stages, by the way, are 1) collapse of financial markets and trust in them; 2) collapse of commercial activity (trading, importing, shipping etc.); 3) collapse of political institutions (dependent on tax revenues); 4) collapse of faith in social structures; 5) collapse of cultural values. The last two are extreme and can be avoided, the author believes, if people can prepare for the possibility of the first two, and even, the third.

If this subject intrigues you, please simply read his book! Again, what interests me is that he sees the reconstitution of society and survival itself as being on the basis of interacting with people you trust. To whatever degree of the five stages of collapse might occur, interacting with people you know and trust is the essence of stability, prosperity (in simple and sustainable living), security, and happiness. So, yes, "like wildfire" may true community spread!

Never before have I read such a focused and detailed analysis of what might lie ahead of us in such a way as to balance the "bad news" with the "good news," and to give practical, down-to-earth suggestions about how to prepare.

I cannot say from my own intuitive insight what may lay ahead. But between my guru's (Yogananda's) warnings, my teacher's counsel, Orlov's writings, and my own instincts, I cannot help but feel this world will be unrecognizable in the next few decades. Scanning the history of human culture, we in the West have lived in a bubble of prosperity, health and relative security and the statement by many that this is, at least in part, based on cheap and plentiful energy sources seems indisputable. As does, the concomitant reality that these cheap energy sources are steadily waning even as the world's population is exploding. A train wreck seems inevitable. Throw into the mix, global warming, terrorism, and possible pandemics, and I think we have a deadly brew inclining to mass loss of life, destruction, and colossally rapid change on a scale unprecedented in human memory.

We in the West are living on borrowed money, borrowed time, and depleted resources. Our comeuppance is due, as if we have tried to cash a check that cannot be cleared. What greater counsel can there be to form communities, especially with rural, food-producing land, with friends who share high ideals and seek to life simply and creatively. The future belongs to the brave and the daring.

Blessings to you,

Swami Hrimananda

Friday, September 23, 2011

After the Fall - The Road Ahead?

What lies ahead of us after the Fall? What Fall, you may ask? America and European nations stand on brink of a fall in currency values and wholesale economic paralysis. No matter what form it takes: hyper-inflation, deflation, partial or complete, the results will affect everyone to varying degrees.

What, then, may the road ahead of look like after "the Fall?" We see the American Congress (seen as a symbol of American public opinion) in paralysis. Some say the government should uphold spending as a safety net to wholesale collapse. Others say continued spending in the face of such immense debt and deficits is irresponsible and, itself, responsible for wholesale collapse. As I have written previously, it probably doesn't make much difference as the result is the same.

For today, however, I want to roll the film ahead and peek behind the curtain of the road ahead. What are the consequences of a new economy in which the central government plays a greatly reduced role in the lives of its citizens (whether in America or in Europe)? Here are some possibilities:

1.     So long as major war(s) are not imposed upon us, we can expect a great reduction in public and governmental willingness to intervene militarily in off shore wars. If things go this direction (and not towards MORE international warfare), the reduction in military spending for personnel, facilities, and weaponry will result in the unemployment of thousands, with a concomitant ripple down affect.
2.     We saw how World War II was a major economic engine that drove the 1930's Depression from the national scene. While the Depression was not necessarily the cause of that war, we might see that a worldwide economic collapse or stagnation might generate warfare especially around energy resources, or as a window to more effective and devastating acts of terrorism. When things are tough at home, uniting against a common "enemy" can be "good" politics and "good" economics, if you know what I mean.
3.     Social services and support systems will be greatly reduced in their funding. Charity will shift to the private sector, the individual, and to the nonprofit sector with the result that many otherwise on some form of relief or subsidy will have a difficult time. Social unrest is certain to result and polarization of public attitudes towards the poor will certainly make things even more difficult.
4.     A renewed emphasis on both individualism and cooperation will surface. Faith-based groups, ideologue-based groups (green or cause oriented), and local partisans will form to tackle various needs and causes. 
5.     A large increase in part-time or shared jobs, telecommuting and other forms of shared, partial, or results-based (commissions, e.g.) jobs will occur. The trend to the use of subcontractors will continue to accelerate.
6.     Private, corporate, union and nonprofit pensions will be reduced.
7.     Despite the glut of homes on the market, more people will live together, whether related or unrelated.
8.     A small but growing exodus out of the cities will begin in the face of unemployment and harsher living conditions, including scarcity of food, social instability, and cost of utilities.
9.     The trend toward personal or small farms will accelerate. 
10. Communes, cooperatives, co-housing, and intentional communities will become visible and will grow in number and influence.
11. Small numbers of westerners will move to other countries and expatriates of such countries currently living in the west will return to their country of origin.
12. Government spending will shift toward infrastructure and jobs, and away from social services. 
13. A rapid increase in the use of barter clubs will be seen.
14. The high cost of public transportation may be strangled by lack of public funding and interest. Low-cost individual transportation systems (from bicycles, motorcycles, smart cars and hybrids), including telecommuting and living near one's workplace, will increase.
15. Energy conservation will become high profile and high priority in all sectors. 
16. Agri-business will lose substantial subsidies provoking more instability in food prices and boosting interest in individuals growing their own food (and locally grown produce).
17. Immigration into the U.S. will slow due to slow economy and tightened security and public attitudes.
18. Alternative forms of currency (not just bartering) will pop up here and there, greatly enhanced to the extent internet remains stable. 
19. Government efforts to regulate will become increasingly ineffective. Regulatory power will shift to the state and local levels, but even here, will be lax or inconsistent from place to place. Crime or lack of conformity to laws and regulations will skyrocket. Society will become far more random and chaotic while yet free and enterprising.
20. Travel will be greatly reduced and more emphasis will be placed on local recreation, sports, and holidays. People will tend more to stay at home or local.
21. Home improvement projects, especially low-cost and energy-efficient (with rapid payback), will accelerate.
22. Real estate prices, in general, will remain low, stable, or dropping for years to come (with various exceptions of course!) Commercial real estate will be the next sector to drop hard and fast. Malls will be devastated and big-box shopping will move even more strongly to the internet (assuming the internet remains reasonably stable).
23. A new growth industry in trade and labor skills will slowly build. Jobs in small manufacturing activities will slowly begin to build momentum as the economic and energetic incentives to make things locally or nationally grows.
24. A trend toward simplicity in technology, lifestyle, and household products will begin.
25. The trend toward non-impact exercise and interest in yoga and meditation will grow at an accelerating rate. Fewer people will be able to afford or have interest in high-tech gymnasiums, pools, and equipment.
26. Public interest and acceptance of non-sectarian spiritual values, beliefs, and association will begin to rise. This will threaten mainline and sectarian oriented churches and institutions. Mainline churches will suffer in membership and revenues, although there will be exceptions and some push-back as members turn increasingly to their faith for comfort.
27. Trend toward alternative health care and naturopathic and energy healing will increase rapidly both for economic reasons and for the lack of satisfaction with allopathic solutions.
28. Health care industry will be devastated, whether private or public due to economic pressures.
29. It would seem that conflict and instability in less developed countries around the world will increase. But this will be mitigated (perhaps) by economic paralysis. We will probably see an inconsistent and spotty pattern of conflict alternating with reconciliation, both at more local levels with less interference from developed countries. 
30. Against the prior point is an increase in the intensity of competition for natural resources among all countries and especially the (relatively) richer nations.
31. Increased attention and commitment to alternative energy sources will be slowed by economic troubles creating an inconsistent stop and start pattern of research, development and implementation around the world. Necessity will be the mother of invention and solutions will tend to be more local than global.
32. Lifestyles in developed countries hard hit by economic troubles will tend to polarize but in general will move towards traditional, universal, and simpler values: health, commitment, saving, hard work, community and family. I avoid the label here of conservative in favor of natural, balanced, and sustainable living in all levels: earth-oriented, health-oriented, family-oriented, community-oriented, and church-oriented values and lifestyles.
32.5 The public school system in America will continue its steady decline. Committed parents will continue to look for alternatives but economic woes will make traditional private school increasingly out of reach. Tutors, small non-profit schools staffed by dedicated staff and volunteers, after-school enhancement activities, character and holistic education, home schooling, and volunteer associations will sprout everywhere. Online and internet alternatives, especially in higher grades and education, will skyrocket almost as fast as costs and prices.
33. The BIG IF'S that can drastically affect all of the above are as follows: war, plague, and natural catastrophes.
34. War between nations is not difficult to imagine when global conditions become stressed and competitive. Terrorist use of small nuclear devices could wreak havoc and great suffering.
35. Pandemics are constantly being touted as just around the corner. Millions could be affected.
36. Natural catastrophes are seen, by the public at least, as increasing in both frequency and intensity of devastation. Predicted sunspot activity could herald global disaster for telecommunications, travel, and energy production. Meteor hitting earth is a popular fear as is a shifting of the poles (perhaps as a result of the former).
37. When the time arrives for a general subsiding of our troubles on earth, it seems that humanity will so yearn for peace, health, and prosperity that a long and gradual period of relative security and peace would undoubtedly result. 
How long a time frame is all of the above? Well not short like a recession, certainly. The trends above are long-term but are listed because I feel that in the few years ahead of us we will be able to discern their appearance. Those who live with faith, share with love, pray with devotion, and act courageously and creatively will fare well, spiritually for sure and likely in most other ways as well.

May we live in God's light and peace as His children!

Nayaswami Hriman

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Does Satan Exist? (Or, more depressing news?)

Last Sunday at the Ananda Meditation Temple, in Bothell, WA our subject was a peek at the dark side and one of humanity’s core ethical and existential issues: Does evil exist? What is the cause of suffering? Is there a cure for suffering? If there is evil, did God create evil? Is God evil therefore? Does Satan exist?

I’ve always had an interest in such musings. My mother used to tell me that as I child I pestered her with “the big questions of life.” But my response to that was that it was she who prodded me day in and day out, constantly urging me by shouting: KNOW KNOW KNOW. (Maybe I misunderstood the NO for KNOW - :)).
As you have perhaps heard it said here, the Indian scriptures proclaim that GOD CANNOT BE PROVED. Ishwar Ashiddha

I suppose therefore it must also be admitted that neither can evil be “proved,” only experienced and judged as such. Paramhansa Yogananda defined evil as that which obscures truth, or prevents us from knowing the divinity behind all forms of creation.
Relative to the bliss state of cosmic consciousness (out of which the creation has been manifested) we could say that any lesser state or any desire for a lesser state of consciousness or object of creation would take us away from our bliss nature.

There cannot be the great drama of creation, the great symphony of life if all life were harmonized with bliss alone. It takes the multifarious forms of creation each seeking their own existence and separate welfare to enact this drama. It is the duty and opportunity of awakened beings to pierce the veil of maya to see through the drama to the dramatist Himself behind it all but, as we are not its creator, it is not our duty, task, or ability to change the nature of creation itself. To exist it must perforce carry on the drama of dark and light.
We are all in a matrix, a spider web of false appearances. The game goes on only if we play it on its relative terms of survival, competition, conquest, pleasure, pain, health, disease, life and death. Once we begin to view it transcendently and to view these opposites as only a ceaseless flux can we begin the journey towards the goal of pure consciousness which is untainted by opposites and where we find our original state, our home in God, in Bliss.

Does this mean however that evil, being opposite of good, is, well, just as good? Well, of course not! On the scale of “distance” from bliss, evil (selfishness, e.g.) blinds us far more completely to the divine within than good. But good alone is not enough though it is better. Good remains only an opposite destined to reverse itself until we see it and use it as a stepping stone off the wheel of samsara, rebirth, and the opposites of life and death.
Though we exhibit self-awareness we cannot claim to have created it, no more than we can claim to have given birth to ourselves, or to the world around us. We come from and are part of something much greater. This, then, is as true for good and evil as it is for consciousness and life.

“Thoughts are universally, not individually, rooted” Paramhansa Yogananda wrote in his famous autobiography. What this means to us is two-fold: the power which darkens our life towards error, ignorance and suffering is greater than us, but the power which brings light is also greater than we. In each case, as we are not the origin of dark or light, we can consciously call upon the power of Light to uplift us from the darkness. Not passively, of course, for the Light vibrates on a higher level of energy, intelligence and bliss than we do on a merely conscious egoic level. We must attune ourselves to its level by thought, word, and deed.

The vast nature of that Light is such that we, confined as it were to the prison of ego and body, cannot comprehend that Light without a medium. It is its own language and we need an interpreter, a teacher, to instruct us in its syntax (that's a pun, actually). Just as a radio or cell phone is needed to capture the spoken words of one far away but attempting to speak to us, so too it is the guru who acts as a light-house that refracts, aims, and concentrates the universal but subtle and difficult-to-perceive beam of cosmic Light into human form that we can see, feel, and be transformed by it back into it!

Is God responsible for ignorance, suffering and evil? He created this world, didn’t He? God becomes this world as the playwright writes a play but in so writing becomes not villainous for making the villain evil. Without the villain the play would not play and no one would pay to see it.

Therefore His actors, who are manifestations of His intelligence and desire to create that His joy might be experienced in the play, are similarly endowed but by necessity separated by their forms. Our created separateness is a necessity for the drama but imposes upon us the urge to survive, to compete, to win, and to seek the natural objects of sensory fulfillments and ego affirmation. By degrees, therefore the actors of the play begin changing the script. We begin to be typecast as second rate actors who have forgetten that it's just a play. We have forgotten our lines in the script.

We come now to our red, horned, cloven-hoofed friend, Satan. As we are beings clothed in human form, endowed with intelligence and intention, and the power to act, so too does the divine creating Light manifest higher (astral and causal) beings with roles to act in the grand drama of creation. As we fall into ignorance by the hypnosis of the creation's seeming reality, so too some of these Beings fall into ignorance drunk with their own power and embolden by their duties to create and oversee.

As this world is itself a manifestation of consciousness, so too the forces that emerge to create and diversify and to sustain the creation are conscious. Whether seen as Beings or as Forces it matters not. There is a satanic force that impels and invites us into ego affirmation, into the delusion of sense satisfaction, security through material weath, and pride, just as there is an angelic force that invites us into the inner silence to commune with Her as Peace, Joy, and who invites us, as prodigal sons, to return to our Father's kingdom as Sons of God.

An example of such forces of darkness and suffering can be seen in a drama that is unfolding right now on our planet. Today our western world is on the brink of the greatest depression and economic collapse in recorded history. Will it happen? How can it not happen except by pretending it isn’t happening? Paramhansa Yogananda certainly is among the many who have predicted it. In his case, he did so over sixty years ago. But of course so have other seers of various persuasions seen through the fragile success of capitalism. Whether spiritually seeing the delusion of materialism fanned by capitalism or socially seeing the potential for the enrichment of a few at the expense of the many, or economically seeing the endless expansion of capital and wealth and consumption as the false foundation for its success, the end result is the same: collapse.

Not that the basic tenets of capitalism are somehow evil, at least not so far as giving individuals the freedom to earn a living. Rather the pursuit of wealth for its own sake and money (a non-productive, imaginary object) as the measure of that wealth: these are the false gods before us who are soon to betray our trust in them.

Life must be productive, harmonious and sustainable of life, health, and harmony. The western form of consumption and lifestyle is simply based on the untruth of himsa, injury to life. It cannot therefore last. Here we see evil pretending to be good: the good life (for some at the expense of others, and other life forms). Generation after generation this good life has lulled us, its beneficiaries, into increasing dis-ease with ourselves, one another, and the planet on which we live.

I doubt anyone can even explain or understand what this item called a “dollar” actually is, or represents, or is based on. It’s a fiction, a lie agreed upon. We must consume faster than we save in order to increase our wealth and pleasure. The interest on the debt we incur to do this rises exponentially like a tsunami which races across the trackless ocean and then suddenly rises to crash to shore leaving death and destruction in its wake.

The solution is to reject fear and despair and inaction and to embrace the Light of God's love within and with our fellow men and planet. We are invited to change our lifestyle to one of harmony and sustainability with our own souls, our bodies, and with the divine life which is this creation.