Fascism & Utopia

a poem for extremists everywhere

Blacktop Mountaintop


Fascism is a hair’s breadth from Utopia.

Those who try to force funnel the hard grit gravity ground of everyday into Utopia,
to compel it across the great divide,
turn into extremists, slavemasters, witchhunters.
Naiively they set out to purify the strain, exorcise the demons, exterminate the wrong thinking, abolish the Mixolydians.
They wind up razing the terrain,
sterilising the DNA,
creating mutants and monsters,
which they,
and subsequent generations,
spend their lives chasing,
or running away from.

Pure seeds are so fragile.
Little trees planted in the scarification after the burn.
Acres upon acres,
hectares upon hectares,
kilometres upon kilometres of burn…
God the heat,
the scorching heat on the mountains of burn,
blacktop mountaintops as far as the eye can see.

Here we plant the little tree, the pure seed, the clean gene, the clear clean code,
and wait,
utterly simple single-minded, mono,
for the perfect shoot to grow.




* In my youth I spent summers planting trees.  One season I was in the mountains around Prince George, BC. The mountains had been completely clearcut and then razed by fire, an endeavor so grand in scale that it was, at the time, the only human project significantly visible from space. We planted only one species – one believed to be most profitable 60 years hence when it would be harvested –  to replace the grand diversity that had previously dwelt there for millenium, and returned home each day, head to toe, black in ashes.


What is Translibrium?


The object of the pilgrimage turned out to be a pilgrim.

– Jorge Luis Borges



In 1986 I was involved in a reconnaissance of evolutionary biology. I was doing an undergrad at Trent University with a focus on the origins of consciousness (!?). I had been buried in grand speculators on the history of civilisation; Oswald Spengler, Pitrim Sorokin and Arnold Toynbee, with a nascent sprinkling of Teilhard DeChardin.

Amongst the historians Toynbee stood out for me, in large part because he was reviewed in an obscure book called ‘Experiment in Depth: A Study of the Work of Jung, Eliot and Toynbee’ by a Quaker, PW Martin, which I had stumbled on in a second-hand bookstore. Martin’s premise from reading the three authors was that cultural transformation and renewal were realised by individuals going through a quest-like ‘creative withdrawal’ from society, initiated and guided (called out) by an intrinsic creative source that Martin called ‘the deep centre’, followed by a ‘return’ to society now informed and inspired by a rejuvenated and compelling symbolic language and imperative.

Toynbee’s contribution was through his encyclopaedic survey, briefed in ‘A Study of History’, of the rise and fall of multiple civilisations, by which he derived a theory of ‘challenge and response’ to explain how and why some societies thrive and others don’t. For Toynbee the success of a civilisations was dependent on its capacity to respond to grand challenges. Civilisations succeed “not as a result of superior biological endowment or geographical environment, but as a response to a challenge in a situation of special difficulty which raises [it] to make unprecedented effort.”

From the grand historical syntheses I drifted over to Systems Theory and Cybernetics, and then from there over to evolutionary biology. And it was a first reconnaissance of that field that turned up the central thesis and nom de plume for much of the field, ‘homeostasis’.

The concept of ‘homeostasis’ was first described by Claude Bernard in 1865. Bernard held that the basis of organic survival is ‘internal fixity’. Organisms respond to challenges by returning to their original state; the ‘fixity of the internal milieu’, as he called it.   “The constancy of the internal environment” wrote Bernard, “is the condition for free and independent life.” More than half a century later, following on Bernard, the American physiologist Walter Cannon coined the term ‘homeostasis’ in 1930 to describe the ‘steady-state’ that any system requires to “maintain a constancy necessary for survival.” Internal homeostatic processes resist external pressures to maintain internal fixity. This notion quickly spread out of biology to find applications in the world of social sciences in general, and particularly Systems Theory and Cybernetics.

I had a problem with this notion of ‘homeostasis’ as a description of health.  I was an etymology junky and knew that ‘homeo’ is from the Greek meaning ‘same’ or ‘similar’, and ‘stasis’ means, you guessed it, ‘stasis’.  There was nothing that I had ever observed that could survive by staying the same or static.  So from my perspective, the notion of ‘homeostasis’ – a return to an internal fixity – was an excellent descriptor for the conditions leading to death.

Philosopher/Biologist Henri Atlan provided me with an alternate model and language.  Atlan understood organisms to have the capacity for self-organization; for emergence and newness.  In the language of biology he called ‘challenges’ ‘perturbations’. ‘Random perturbations’ are temporary disturbances to which an organism can react, neutralise, and then return to it’s original state. ‘Structural perturbations’ however are persistent, even terminal, disturbances through which an organism can survive only by elaborating a new structure.  Returning to the original state would result in obliteration.

Organisms need to continuously evolve, and their evolution creates stresses – challenges – for surrounding organisms, which must also evolve. Challenges require responses which will normally require subtle shifts in behaviour.  Greater challenges will require significant modifications, permanent structural shifts, or even full-scale migrations of identity.  Health is not the maintenance of fixity: fixity, and fixation, are fatal.  Health is a dynamic feedback requiring constant alteration, and renovation as well as periodic bouts of drastic innovation and structural transformation to respond to potentially catastrophic disruption.

As Heraclitus (is said to have) said, “You never step into the same river twice.”
And, I would add, we are all rivers.

Translibrium’ is a word I invented as a counter to ‘homeostasis’.
Trans’ comes from the Greek ‘across’, and ‘librium’ is from the Greek ‘libra’ which connotes both balance (equilibrium) and freedom (‘libre’, liberty).  Whereas ‘homeostasis’ assumes a return to an initial state as a descriptor of health, ‘translibrium’ assumes continuous adaptation as a requisite for survival.  Whereas ‘homeostasis’ emphasises returning to ‘fixity’, ‘translibrium’ emphasises a perpetual path of transformation, in response to a basic milieu of emergence and feedback, requiring novel strategies frequently characterised by an increase in complexity.


Addictions & angels

A persons’ addictions are the angels they must wrestle to win their blessing.


Jacob wrestles with the angel - Gustav Doré

Jacob wrestles with the angel – Gustav Doré


Homeostasis, Change, Addiction & Love

This IGNITE Talk (5 mins, 15 secs per slide – GO!) was presented at the Web of Change Conference Sept. 2013, at Balcones Springs just outside of Austin, TX. Huge thanks to the WOCMob for welcoming this errant pitch!

In response to my opening statement “I’m curious why orgs and people fiercely protect outrageous poisonous bullshit that will kill them, while resisting change that is blatantly obviously healthy and liberating.”, I trace an origin of ‘Things’ – conceptual, biological, then psychological – asserting that ego is a ‘homeostatic’ entity. I propose that ego is built up by ‘habits’ cycling around core desires, and that addiction reifies into a ‘cyclostatic’ resistance to change. Addiction is self-generating and delusional, both of which are relatively good descriptions of many orgs resistant to, for example, climate change science. Addictive structures, functioning in denial, are also exceedingly resistant to love, whose nature is revelatory. Situations where love directly encounters addiction are typically ‘apocalyptic’.










Climate change science, Joe Oliver and the pathologies of petro states

Climate change science, Joe Oliver and the pathologies of petro states

“‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'” -Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

All major scientific bodies whose expertise bears directly on the issue of catastrophic climate change concur with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that “the current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is very likely human-induced and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented in the past 1,300 years.” This quote is from the website of that notorious left-wing think-tank, NASA.

The Economist ran an editorial which opens with, “A hundred years from now, looking back, the only question that will appear important about the historical moment in which we now live is the question of whether or not we did anything to arrest climate change.” Meanwhile Joe Oliver, Canada’s Natural Resource Minister, has decided that this is an opportune moment to launch a broadside against one of the world’s foremost climate scientists, James Hansen.

CO2 levels and NASA

There are obviously those who simply don’t buy the science. Many of these will now, after a couple of decades of denying that the climate is warming, agree that climate change is actually happening. They do not, however, accept evidence that it’s humans that are making the planet into a greenhouse for rising sea levels and growing droughts, or that we really need to act on it. The evidence isn’t ‘incontrovertible.’

But as George Craven so elegantly points out in What’s the Worst That Could Happen, given the possible catastrophic consequences — devastation to life on earth for generations to come — the onus is not on the climate scientists, but on the deniers to provide incontrovertible evidence that humans are not having a catastrophic effect on the climate.

If they are wrong, if there is any uncertainty, the price to be paid by future generations is far, far too high. To quote The Economist again, “Everything else — the financial crisis, the life or death of the euro, authoritarianism or democracy in China and Russia, the Great Stagnation or the innovation renaissance, democratisation and/or political Islam in the Arab world, Newt or Mitt or another four years of Barack — all this will fade into insignificance beside the question of whether we managed to do anything about human industrial civilisation changing the climate of Planet Earth.”

In disagreeing with every major serious scientific institution of our era by attributing global warming to sun flares or the agit-prop of environmental radicals, eco-terrorists and socialists, and by building an ‘energy powerhouse’ based on fossil-fuels, the Canadian government is behaving like the first of the three little pigs. We’re going to build our house of fossil fuels, we’re going to toot our flute and not give a hoot, and just hope upon dope that the wolf of global warming doesn’t huff and puff and blow our house of oil up in smouldering droughts.

‘Ethical oil’

 The Canadian government’s current rationale for foisting millions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere via the tar sands is that Canada’s oil is ‘ethical’; more ‘ethical’ than other sellers of oil like Pakistan, or Iraq or Libya.

This premise of ‘ethical oil’ wove its way into the Canadian government’s energy and foreign policy a whole lot faster than tar sands bitumen (the vast majority of which is mined by foreign states or multinationals whose human rights’ records are not always pretty) makes its way along a pipeline without being diluted by light oil (which is frequently purchased from places like … Pakistan). Once the Canadian government decided that tar sands oil was ‘ethical,’ it wasted no time in paving the way to roll out the barrels.

It bailed on the Kyoto Protocol. It barred the passing of Bill C-300 which would have codified rules ensuring Canadian mining companies live up to international human rights and environmental standards. It tarred opponents of global warming as ‘radical ideologues‘ and, ominously, poured billions into the prison system. Dissenting orgs had their funding cutscientists were muzzled, and CIDA funds were funneled from grassroots NGOs to, you guessed it, mining companies.

The Canadian Revenue Agency was given a steroid boost to watch over charitable orgs to ensure that they did not engage in ‘political activity’ (read, environmental advocacy) for which they would lose their charitable status. And now, in a flourish which has given rise to the Idle No More movement, it’s passed Bill C-45 drawing back protection from 90 per cent of lakes and rivers previously protected demonstrating, categorically, that it sees oil as more important than water or the rights of Canadian Indigenous peoples.

Now here’s an irony: while Team Canada busily brands itself as the ‘ethical’ alternative to a dozen other corrupt, violent or regressive petrostates around the world, it is simultaneously beginning to engage in the very practises it claims to so deplore in them.

This is one bad little pig.

The petro state vs renewables

While Canada, in increasing isolation, abandons its global and domestic ecological responsibilities in compliance with the fossil fuel industry, other countries around the world are transforming their energy systems away from the very product that Canada has banked the next couple of generations on selling.

The EU, against an extremely vigorous (and expensive) lobbying campaign from the Canadian government, has upheld the classification of bitumen as ‘dirty oil.’ Germany is reconstructing its energy sector on a scale equal to reconstruction after World War II, and China and India have leaped ahead with massive investments in renewable energy. Norway, in a climate similar to Canada’s, already acquires 61.1 per cent of its energy from renewables while Sweden is at 47.9 per cent.

While other nations move beyond the fossil fuel bubble, diversifying their energy sources, and the technological and employment strategies that follow on that diversification, Canada slogs away in the fossil fuel sludge in an increasingly unlikely gamble — a gamble that is genuinely hostile to its own Indigenous peoples who have opposed pipelines across their territories, to many of its own citizens who believe in future generations and renewable energy, and to the atmosphere of the sole known planet capable of supporting life.

One might fairly ask, as this little pig stands increasingly alone against the world community (willingly collecting its yearly slop of ‘fossil of the year’ awards), the global tide of energy consumption and innovation and, according to all serious climate scientists, life on this planet… has this little pig lost its marbles?

Addiction to oil

Maybe the reason that the little pig appears to have lost his marbles is that little pig is a junky. The actions of addicts, aligned as they are with acquiring their fix by any means necessary, can appear extremely self-destructive, irrational and paranoid.  But their actions, once the addiction is discovered, can be seen to have an irrefutable, albeit self-destructive, logic.

Addiction is, in the words of addiction psychologist and theologian Gerald May, “a state of compulsion, obsession or preoccupation that enslaves a person’s will and desire.” North America is, as former U.S. President George ‘Dubya’ Bush so magnificently declared in his 2006 State of the Union Address, “addicted to oil,” and the tar sands are Canada’s opium fields. Canada is a tar pushing wannabe petro state and its banking its wad that there are still going to be enough junkies out there willing to pay a little extra for its ethical fix.

Addiction is a form of enslavement within a dictatorial system, with the object of the addiction (in this case oil) as dictator. Its relentless modus operandi and inevitable logic is to clear the ways and means of acquiring the object of its addiction. Everything and everyone is simply reduced to an object which either enables, or is an obstacle to, acquisition. It has a highly developed and motile propoganda department which can flood cracks in resistance with a tidal wave of messaging, actively undermining the will towards choices enabling greater freedom. As with any tyranny it becomes increasingly isolated and paranoid, distrustful even of those with the very best intentions.

Within an addictive society values become reversed, doublespeak burgeons, and democracy becomes a tool to be exploited rather than a means of discovering the will of the people. Folks proposing a vision and plan for a sustainable future and who are dedicated to ensuring the well-being of future generations are, to the degree that they threatens the object of the addiction, seen as ‘hijackers’ and ‘radical ideologues.’  The tar sands, globally viewed as a carbon pariah and singled out by ‘Eradicating Ecocide’ as a model to stage a mock ‘ecocide’ trial in the Supreme Court of England (the Tar Sands were found guilty), is seen as the flagship of ‘Ethical Oil.’

When pushing an oil addiction to a planet in the midst of catastrophic climate change is called ‘ethical,’ we have indeed entered a very Orwellian world, where words come to mean their opposites. Calling Canada’s oil more ‘ethical’ is precisely as logical as saying my crack dealer is more ‘ethical’ than yours.  If I was buying crack I might buy Canada’s ethical crack but crack addiction is, not uncommonly, a terminal affair.

Canada needs to kick being the most savvy fossil fuel pusher in the world. It needs to start pulling its weight on limiting its carbon output. If it wants to live up to its claim of being ‘ethical’ in its resource extraction industry it needs binding legislation to ensure that Canadian mining companies live up to international human rights and environmental standards. It needs to accept opponents of global warming as concerned and decent citizens of our democracy. It needs to offer renewables the same kind of subsidies that the fossil fuel industry receives so that they can compete in a fair market.

Canada needs to affirm that dissent is healthy in a democracy, that federal scientists require free speech, and that mining companies don’t need to supplement their profits with federal funding previously targeted to development aid. The steroid boost given to the Canadian Revenue Agency needs to be directed to offshore tax evasion and a financial transaction tax, not towards promoting the controversial ideological agenda of a single political party.  It needs to respect the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, which it signed in 2010, affirming the need for the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of Indigenous peoples with regard to the use of their land and resources.

Most of all our first little pig needs to get it’s rump into rehab. But our first little pig is a fossil fuel junky; as myopic, paranoid and self-destructive as any other addict. I think we know what it will say to that suggestion: “No, No , No.” I think we know how that sad that story goes.

So, a final question: what does a Canadian fossil fuel intervention look like?

“Disappointment is the best chariot on the road of the dharma”

If, as Chogyam Trungpa wrote, “Disappointment is the best chariot on the road of the dharma”, does that mean that enlightenment is best defined as ‘ultimate disappointment’?



‘Big Oil’ comments

A mild rant in response to someone trolling comments in Tzeporah Berman’s article ‘Let’s Stop Catering to big Oil’.

socialism for the rich

John Sherffius

“’Climate Change’. A Chicken little story so bad they had to change the name from ‘global warming’ to something that must always happen; climate change.”
The debate over human caused climate change is over. There is clear *INTERNATIONAL SCIENTIFIC CONSENSUS* on this (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_opinion_on_climate_change). The folks who don’t believe it are either people who do not believe in science, or people who are in denial, still in the thrall of a fossil-fuel addiction. The first group need to be ignored, the second need to get into fossil-fuel rehab, and then join the rest of us trying to change the course of history. Which one are you JKnox?

‘Privileged Enviro-Marxists’?
The biggest privileged Marxists conspiracy in this country are government subsidized fossil fuels (ht.ly/cIRlX).  The Cdn government *pours* money into oil companies, and offers them outrageous tax breaks, leaving innovation firms with an impossible competitive disadvantage. O, and lets not forget who’s buying up the Tar Sands: CNOOC, China’s state controlled oil company (www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/chinas-oil-sands-deal-will-have-lasting-impact/article1357620/).   And what political affiliation is the state of China?
Take away the massive government subsidies given to the fossil fuel industry and level the competitive playing field for renewable.

“Reliance on fossil fuels”
Yes, developed societies currently rely on fossil fuels, although that is already changing.  But once upon a time developed societies relied 100% on coal, and once upon a time salt was the most important trade commodity, and once upon a time bronze was a pretty big deal.  Societies change, and change dramatically, sometimes very quickly.  The industrial revolution took less than a hundred years, and the computer revolution has taken less than twenty.  Given the current speed of human transformation (have a cell phone in your pocket? reading this on the internet?) we have the capacity to completely transform our ‘reliances’ in a decade.
A couple of people in these posts have claimed that people won’t purchase anything if it costs more (ie. renewables). Hogwash. Every major human innovation has cost more to start with, and people have been willing to pay if they see a future in it. There is no future in oil, any more than there’s a future on this planet if we keep pouring fossil-fuel based carbon into its atmosphere. People are willing to pay for a future. Why do you think folks buy war bonds? Because they think it will be profitable? No, because they want to survive.

“Who pays for oil spills?”
No oil company has ever payed even remotely the full cost of an oil spill.
What is the price of a fisherman’s entire career, the loss of his home, the uprooting of his family and community?
How many livelihoods were permanently disabled by the Exxon Valdez? How many more by the BP spill?  This is not to mention the thousands of communities around the world which we know little about that have had their habitat, and hence livelihood, wiped out by oil operations (try Niger Delta).  How could Enbridge ever ‘pay for’ a significant spill on the west coast?  The concept is absurd.  The oil company cleans up what is most obvious so long as the media keep hounding them and the legal bills merit a little effort.  After that they’re off to the next spill.  It’s factored into the cost we pay at the pump, and they’re making record profits.

Addiction is freedom from choice.

Addiction is freedom from choice.

cf. Sartre’s “You are condemned to be free.” + Dostoyevsky’s ‘Grand Inquisitor’

there’ll be hell to pay….

“there’ll be hell to pay.
just put it on my tab.”

Dalla – Perfect Photo

The Wisdom in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean III’

“For certain you have to be lost to find the places that cannot be found.”
Captain Barbossa

“It’s not getting to the land of the dead that’s the problem, it’s getting back.”
Captain Barbossa

“For what we want most, there’s a cost must be paid in the end.”