Sunday, January 17, 2016

What's become of Berkeley?

"Berit Ashla has been offered and accepted a position with Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors to serve as Vice President for Advisory Services in its San Francisco office. She will be stepping out of her role as Executive Director of the David Brower Center at the end of August. "

Those statements above come from an email I received from the President of the Board of Directors of the David Brower Center in Berkeley, CA.



The statements are remarkable because they are a good example of how Berkeley has become the epicenter of the non-profit industrial complex. The fact that the executive director of an environmental and civic oriented non-profit center and incubator so seamlessly moves through the revolving door to a corporate-funded so-called philanthropic foundation indicates the nexus of capitalist forces at work. Corporate philanthropies such as the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors seek to co-opt and turn to their own benefit, any forces that seek to go counter to capitalistic interests. This includes the environmental movement that David Brower helped grow.


Home to such non-profits as "Center for EcoLiteracy", "Friends of the Earth", "Bay Area Open Space Council", "Earth Island Institute", "International Marine Mammal Project", "Women's Earth Alliance" and "Green Schools Initiative", the Brower Center bills itself as a "civic institution working at the intersection of art, environment and social justice".

Berkeley is home to any number of such non-profit organizations and attracts an idealistic young population with its unique culture and a perceived radical atmosphere. However, the radicalism is carefully orchestrated by the many non-profits that derive their funding from corporate philanthropic foundations.

The offices that the non-profits operate from are not unlike the plush, colorful, bright, ergonomically designed work-spaces that one would find in any corporate campus across the bay in Silicon Valley. These are not the spaces from which revolutions are launched. These are not the spaces in which community develops.







The non-profit industrial complex is vast, beyond the imagination of most of us. Consider 350.org, the environmental non-profit that aims to restrict CO2 concentrations to below 350 ppm. We're already seeing upwards of 400 ppm with no signs of slowing down. And there's a reason for that. Cory Morningstar has done extensive research on 350.org's co-founder, Bill McKibben’s links to big everything – http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/05/17/mckibbens-divestment-tour/

I used to wonder how we humans have managed to destroy the planet the most in the most recent 50-100 years when most of the large conservation organizations were around – Sierra Club (founded 1892), The Nature Conservancy (founded 1951), WWF (founded 1961), Greenpeace (founded 1969). etc.

One way to look at it is – “the damage would have been worse had these organizations not existed, and that they tried their best”. That would give them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps that’s a partially valid position to take on one or two of the organizations or even all of them for the first so many years after founding. And I wanted to believe that. But the more accurate interpretation is, at least a few of them helped the process of environmental devastation and in fact, at least a few of them were created by the powers that be to specifically channel their opposition’s energies into well-defined pathways that such NGOs offer. Rulers have long ago figured out that they need to be in control of dissident voices and energies. And the best way to be in control of them is to create them, or co-opt them and finance them. Let’s just say this is probably something a sociopath elite-in-the-making grasps fairly quickly and early. As far as I remember, they didn’t offer Statecraft 101 in college. So we refer to sources such as http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/ where a number of investigative reports have been published.

I often see these very idealistic young men and women who do really care for nature and what’s happening to her ending up on street corners in ritzy downtowns across Silicon Valley selling memberships to Greenpeace! Idealism watered down, enthusiasm contained, energy absorbed, business as usual continues. I have often stopped to talk to them. They tell me what’s going on in the world. And I also try to tell them what’s going on in the world, and how they are being misled, at which point they say something about making their quotas and having work to do.

Let’s take a look at who’s heading The Nature Conservancy? “The Nature Conservancy is led by President and CEO Mark Tercek, a former managing director at Goldman Sachs, and an adjunct professor at the New York University Stern School of Business.” We have a bankster leading one of the largest, most well-funded environmental non-profit outfits in the world. Tercek came to the Google campus a couple of years back to promote his book “Nature’s Fortune”. In the Q&A period after the talk, I asked him a question which he deftly evaded.

The description of this book at http://www.marktercek.com/ starts off asking “What is nature worth?” and words of wisdom follow – “In Nature’s Fortune, Mark Tercek, CEO of The Nature Conservancy and former investment banker, and science writer Jonathan Adams argue that nature is not only the foundation of human well-being, but also the smartest commercial investment any business or government can make…. Who invests in nature, and why? What rates of return can it produce? When is protecting nature a good investment?”


Another excerpt from the above article

"Co-optation is not limited to buying the favors of politicians. The economic elites –which control major foundations– also oversee the funding of numerous NGOs and civil society organizations, which historically have been involved in the protest movement against the established economic and social order. The programs of many NGOs and people’s movements rely heavily on funding from both public as well as private foundations including the Ford, Rockefeller, McCarthy foundations, among others."

"With salaries and operating expenses depending on private foundations, it became an accepted routine: In a twisted logic, the battle against corporate capitalism was to be fought using the funds from the tax exempt foundations owned by corporate capitalism." The NGOs were caught in a straightjacket; their very existence depended on the foundations. Their activities were closely monitored.

The people’s movement has been hijacked. Selected intellectuals, trade union executives, and the leaders of civil society organizations (including Oxfam, Amnesty International, Greenpeace) are routinely invited to the Davos World Economic Forum, where they mingle with the World’s most powerful economic and political actors. This mingling of the World’s corporate elites with hand-picked “progressives” is part of the ritual underlying the process of “manufacturing dissent”.




Someone asked me recently what I thought of the climate conference in Paris. At a time when bankers are taking over conservation NGOs and promoting new ways of slicing and dicing the last remaining “assets” and putting them up for sale on the chopping block of the free market, futility, fraud and farce are appropriate descriptors of the Paris talks.

As for Berkeley, despite its image as the place where the Free Speech Movement was launched and its connections to the Civil Rights Movement, it's always been under the control of the elites. Gray Brechin investigates the history of the University of California and its connections with San Francisco's elite families such as the Bechtels in his book, "Imperial San Francisco". Today, extensive partnerships and collaboration between the University and industry, including Big Oil, continue - http://yubanet.com/california/Big-Oil-Bankrolls-Research-Bias-at-California-Universities.php#.VptpU_lVhBc

Wikipedia calls Berkeley "one of the most politically liberal cities in the United States." It's easy to forget that the father of the atom bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer, was a professor of Physics at the University of California, Berkeley and the wartime head of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

An excerpt from Brechin's 2006 introduction to his book:

Few also knew of the University of California’s long participation in that incestuous liaison. University scientists had, as I’d written, seen the Manhattan Project to fiery fruition, while its competing weapons campuses in California and New Mexico thereafter designed and promoted successive generations of doomsday machines requiring the most intimate triangulation with arms merchants and the funding government. When infrequently pressed, the University’s presidents and spokespersons insisted that the work was done in the public interest. Three days before Christmas of 2005, the Chronicle announced that the Department of Energy had renewed the University’s contract to jointly run with Bechtel Corporation the Los Alamos laboratories “more like a business whose product is nuclear weapons.”15 The following day, its lead editorial cheered for the home team: “The new seven-year contract is worth up to $512 million, but its greater importance to UC is the scientific prestige.”

And yet, Berkeley calls itself a nuclear free zone! How does that work? Well, it has to, for the sake of its image as a city at the forefront of societal transformation, its image as one of the most progressive and liberal cities in the country, and to maintain such perceptions among the idealistic and energetic young people who're drawn to work at its many nefarious non-profits.



More on Berkeley, California

Thursday, January 14, 2016

What is Life?

The other day, I came across a paper by Erwin Schrödinger , first published in 1944, titled simply, "What is Life?" I didn't read it and have no intention of reading it. And I highly recommend you not read it either!

According to Wikipedia, Schrödinger is known for his "Schrödinger's cat" thought-experiment. He was a Nobel Prize-winning Austrian physicist who developed a number of fundamental results in the field of quantum theory, which formed the basis of wave mechanics: he formulated the wave equation (stationary and time-dependent Schrödinger equation) and revealed the identity of his development of the formalism and matrix mechanics. Schrödinger proposed an original interpretation of the physical meaning of the wave function. In addition, he was the author of many works in various fields of physics: statistical mechanics and thermodynamics, physics of dielectrics, colour theory, electrodynamics, general relativity, and cosmology, and he made several attempts to construct a unified field theory. 

In other words, Schrödinger is an intelligent and accomplished man! Or is he? After all, who are we to question a Nobel Prize winner who has contributed so much to the advancement of Science in the 20th century? I'm not trying to be flippant here. The reason I question his thesis on life is the same reason I question modern civilization and its stories. In his book What Is Life? Schrödinger addressed the problems of genetics, looking at the phenomenon of life from the point of view of physics. And therein lies the problem: looking at the phenomenon of life from the point of view of physics.

I wrote about Scientism before where I question the applicability of Science beyond the world of the hard Physical Sciences. Indeed, it was another Nobel Prize winner, an Economist, who brought this to our attention. Friedrich A. Hayek, who is also Austrian, argued against applying Science to the field of Economics. And just as well, Science is not applicable to an understanding of existential matters.

Schrödinger's thesis on the definition of life falls squarely in the madness of Scientism. How did civilized man decide that Science has an answer to such questions? And how did civilized man even come up with questions like that? I wonder if this is yet another artifact of the process of separation from nature and from our true selves that civilization enables and is enabled by. It wasn't always this way. We didn't ask questions like this before, much less proceed to employ arbitrary tools to answer them.

There is no Scientific explanation for the origin of the Universe... there is the Big Bang theory but what was there before the Big Bang? Rupert Sheldrake jokes about this. He quotes Scientists as saying, "give us one free miracle and we will explain the rest." :)

How did life originate? That's a central question for many Scientists. But first, how does one go about defining "life"? Somehow, we have a definition for what's life and what's not life. And according to modern Science, at some point, ages ago, non-life became life, non-alive chemical molecules got together to have a party and decided to become "alive". One wouldn't need to ponder over this too long before one realizes that the notion of "alive" is rather arbitrary. It's as if we write up a research paper and viola, we have drawn a distinction between what we will now declare to be alive and what we will now declare to be not-alive. So we have taken the creation around us, and drawn an arbitrary line and went around marking things as alive and not-alive. This is the work of fiction, not Science. An indigenous person would laugh at such insanity. He would say, all of creation is alive. Alive and vibrant, every stream, every mountain, every rock, every molecule. Even every electron, as the double-slit experiment amply shows.

Modern man would rather run around in circles trying to explain how life came from non-life, asking for a free miracle, but would never admit that the very distinction between life and non-life itself is rather arbitrary, entirely made-up, conjured out of thin air... OK, right, written up by a civilized Scientist called Schrödinger.

Once we make that distinction, a whole hierarchy starts forming... humans at the top, of course, animals next, plants, multi-cellular organisms, single-cell organisms, etc. Again, who's to say a human being is more alive than an animal? That a cow is more of an animal than a fish? When I tell people I am vegetarian, sometimes I am asked if I eat fish. I tell them no, because a fish is an animal. Then they tell me that a fish doesn't have as many feelings as a cow, so it is more like a vegetable than an animal. Where do people get these ideas from, I do not know! Chickens are less than cows, they say. And plants are the least because they don't move. We're obsessed with categories and hierarchies. Guess that's pretty much the way of Empire. A king is more alive than the commoner, right?

I am not sure we need to make such arbitrary distinctions. The indigenous person who lived in harmony with land for 200,000 years never made such distinctions. The indigenous person is an animist at heart. He saw in things a certain spirit that we don't see. They are alive in their own way. Just like the Earth is alive. Scientists would deny that. An indigenous person wouldn't.

Calling something non-alive or dead points to something in our own psyches, our own consciousness that is dead. Not being able to see the entire Universe as alive and conscious is a symptom of our own impaired consciousness. Calling a rock dead and inanimate points to an ossification of our own minds, a hardening of our own otherwise soft nature. It takes being partly dead to see death.

Things mean a lot to me. I try to fix things before tossing them in the garbage. I reuse paper napkins multiple times, if I have to use them at all. Those things came from living trees. There's hardly a distinction. Everything is made of the same elements which go round and round making one thing today and another tomorrow. Any distinctions we make point to our own fragmented minds.

Things are as alive as people, maybe more so... Love them with all your heart, if you're so moved to! And they will love you back!

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animism:

"Animism encompasses the beliefs that there is no separation between the spiritual and physical (or material) world, and that souls or spirits exist, not only in humans, but also in some other animals, plants, rocks, geographic features such as mountains or rivers, or other entities of the natural environment, including thunder, wind, and shadows. Animism thus rejects Cartesian dualism. Animism may further attribute souls to abstract concepts such as words, true names, or metaphors in mythology. Some members of the non-tribal world also consider themselves animists (such as author Daniel Quinn, sculptor Lawson Oyekan, and many contemporary Pagans)."

We live in a conscious Universe imbued with spirit and we can participate in it just as other life forms do. And everything is alive. This, we have known for a long time. We just need to remember it.

Check out this fascinating film: The Animal Communicator and find out what else we've forgotten.