Sardonically, though unwittingly, the devil’s own in the White House declares, “Houses of worship are essential places providing essential services. America needs more prayers not less.” King Donald decrees, “I will override the governors” to open the churches (churlishly including mosques and synagogues) this Memorial Day weekend.
Is the future of humanity one in which “we must always be just tapping our canes on the pavement in the fog?” Without confusing prediction with prophecy, can we see what is happening in the world, and what potential future still beckons for humanity?
The world is made, not divinely created. What humans made can be remade with insight, creativity, conviction and courage.
That is especially true when an old order is collapsing, as it is now after one of the last struts has been kicked out by the pandemic. The question is, how deep does the crisis go, and what is an adequate response?
Thomas Hobbes quip that the best prophet is the best guesser is mistaken at every level. The very notion of a ‘false prophet’ implies that there is such a thing as a true one. And a true prophet does merely foresee the inevitable collapse, but articulates and works for a future that can be created if the foundation is poured before complete collapse occurs.
Back in 1999, I was able to get a leading anti-corruption advocate from Kenya, the head of the academic union there, to an anti-corruption conference with then Vice-President Al Gore. This fellow had been imprisoned and tortured twice under the dictator Daniel arap Moi, but continued speak out. He had earned a seat at the table.
Edward and I met afterward in Chicago, where I had arranged to meet the directors of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Edward taught sociology, and also did some counseling after the bombing of the American embassy in Nairobi, the precursor to 9.11.
We stayed in the same room, and I asked about his being arrested and tortured. He gave harrowing details, but said the worst of it was that at first he couldn’t sleep, both because his captors and his own mind wouldn’t let him. He knew he wouldn’t live if he didn’t sleep, so he trained himself to go to sleep in seconds, which he did immediately after we stopped talking.
I lied awake, thinking of his ordeal, and because he was the loudest snorer I’ve ever heard. (Fortunately I brought fitted earplugs or I wouldn’t have gotten a wink that night.)
The next day over lunch and a beer following our meeting, he asked me, “My compatriots in Kenya and I want to know who will win the election, Al Gore or George Bush?”
‘Gore will never be president, I’m sorry to say,’ I replied.
‘Because when he was a senior senator prior to the first Gulf War, he voted for the invasion of Iraq after Bush, Baker and Scowcroft tacitly greenlighted Saddam Hussein to invade Kuwait, as Ambassador Glaspie has testified. That was the ‘good Gulf War,’ but it was the straw the broke the spirit’s back in America. That’s when we lost our soul as a nation.’
Having foreseen and written in this column that both Bush and Trump would win the presidency, and why, and what they would bring with them, I take no pleasure or pride in being right, just persevere in being heard before it’s too late.
An erudite professor tells us that we must remain blind, that “we must accept what we are, in any case, condemned to do in life: tap and step, tap and step, tap and step,” like blind men and women “tapping our canes in the fog.”
That’s not an adequate diagnosis, much less prescription. It isn’t a matter of “knowing what is going to happen,” or the straw man of “litigating the past and demanding certainty about the future.” It’s a matter of opening one’s eyes to what is happening inwardly and outwardly, and of ceasing to move headlong in a self-centered consumeristic direction as the earth and humanity go over the cliff.
It’s true that carbon-fueled capitalism and global financialization, as well as the nation-state system, and the Enlightenment ideals that formed the basis of modern democracy, are collapsing before our eyes. However the crisis is much deeper, in what we glibly call human nature, and more accurately refer to as the cognitive revolution, which gave rise culture and civilization as we’ve known them.
Other than scientific knowledge, which can and should continually expand, cumulative consciousness has run its course and is saturated with darkness. Therefore we face a crisis of consciousness itself based on psychological memory and identification. Man the tribal animal must end for the human being of insight to emerge.
At this point a leap in consciousness simply means stepping out of the old polluted stream. Indeed we are not individuals at all until we step out of the stream of the old consciousness.
We have the capacity, and it is our birthright as human beings to end the old so that there is the space for the new to grow. It’s not a matter of will, but of observation, intent, negation, insight and action as single movement of creation.