Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Sunday, March 29, 2009
“All that arises passes away” (A Buddhist monk)
Chapter 1: You are not your mind
"The word “god” has become a closed concept. The moment the word is uttered, a mental image is created."
"Does it point beyond itself to that transcendental reality, or does it lend itself too easily to becoming no more than an idea in your head that you believe in, a mental idol?"
"It is only a small step from the word Being to the experience of Being."
"Not to be able to stop thinking is a dreadful affliction, but we don’t realize this because almost everybody is suffering from it, so it is considered normal."
"This incessant mental noise prevents you from finding that realm of inner stillness that is inseparable from Being. It also creates a false mind-made self that casts a shadow of fear and suffering."
"Enlightenment is not only the end of suffering and of continuous conflict within and without, but also the end of the dreadful enslavement to incessant thinking."
"The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive. To put it more accurately, it is not so much that you use your mind wrongly – you usually don’t use it at all. It uses you. This is a disease. You believe that you are your mind. This is the delusion. The instrument has taken over."
"Have you found the “off” button?"
"You also realize that all the things that truly matter – beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace – arise from beyond the mind. You begin to awaken."
"Many people live with a tormentor in their head that continuously attacks and punishes them and drains them of vital energy. It is the cause of untold misery and unhappiness, as well as of disease."
"When a thought subsides, you experience a discontinuity in the mental stream – a gap of 'no mind.'”
"Create a gap of no-mind in which you are highly alert and aware but not thinking. This is the essence of meditation."
"There is one certain criterion by which you can measure your success in this practice: the degree of peace that you feel within."
"So the single most vital step on your journey toward enlightenment is this: learn to disidentify from your mind. Every time you create a gap in the stream of mind, the light of your consciousness grows stronger."
"About 80 or 90 percent of most people’s thinking is not only repetitive and useless, but because of its dysfunctional and often negative nature, much of it is also harmful. Observe your mind and you will find this to be true. It causes a serious leakage of vital energy."
“This kind of compulsive thinking is actually an addiction. What characterizes an addiction? Quite simply this: you no longer feel that you have the choice to stop. It seems stronger than you. It also gives you a false sense of pleasure, pleasure that invariably turns into pain.”
“It is always concerned with keeping the past alive, because without it – who are you? It constantly projects itself into the future to ensure its continued survival and to seek some kind of release or fulfillment there.”
“No-mind is consciousness without thought.”
“The simple reason why the majority of scientists are not creative is not because they don’t know how to think but because they don’t know how to stop thinking!”
“The more you are identified with your thinking, your likes and dislikes, judgments and interpretations, which is to say the less present you are as the watching consciousness, the stronger the emotional energy charge will be, whether you are aware of it or not.”
“If you really want to know your mind, the body will always give you a truthful reflection, so look at the emotion, or rather feel it in your body. If there is an apparent conflict between them, the thought will be the lie, the emotion will be the truth. Not the ultimate truth of who you are, but the relative truth of your state of mind at that time.”
“Often a vicious cycle builds up between your thinking and the emotion: they feed each other.”
“Emotion literally means ‘disturbance.’ The word comes from the Latin emovere, meaning ‘to disturb.’”
“Emotions, being part of the dualistic mind, are subject to the law of opposites. This simply means that you cannot have good without bad.”
Chapter 2: Consciousness: The way out of pain
“The greater part of human pain is unnecessary. It is self-created as long as the unobserved mind runs your life.”
“The pain that you create now is always some form of non-acceptance, some form of unconscious resistance to what is.”
“The mind cannot function and remain in control without time, which is past and future, so it perceives the timeless Now as threatening. Time and mind are in fact inseparable.”
“The accumulation of time in the collective and individual human mind also holds a vast amount of residual pain from the past.”
“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have.”
“Accept – then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it.”
“You can assume that virtually everyone you meet or know lives in a state of fear.”
“The secret of life is to ‘die before you die’ – and find that there is no death.”
Chapter 3: Moving deeply into the Now
“Dysfunction sets in when you seek your self in your mind and mistake it for who you are.”
“To be identified with your mind is to be trapped in time: the compulsion to live almost exclusively through memory and anticipation.”
“The eternal present is the space within which your whole life unfolds, the one factor that remains constant. Life is now.”
“All forms of non-forgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.”
“Presence is the key to freedom, so you can only be free now.”
“Find out if you have any problem at this moment. Not tomorrow or in ten minutes, but now. Do you have a problem now?”
“Problems are mind-made and need time to survive. They cannot survive in the actuality of the Now.”
“It is impossible to have a problem when your attention is fully in the Now.”
“As there are no problems in the Now, there is no fear either.”
“You cannot give your full attention to something and at the same time resist it.”
“In the Bhagavad Gita, one of the oldest and most beautiful spiritual teachings in existence, non-attachment to the fruit of your action is called Karma Yoga. It is described as the path of ‘consecrated action.’”
Chapter 4: Mind strategies for avoiding the Now
“To be free of time is to be free of the psychological need of past for your identity and future for your fulfillment.”
“Anything unconscious dissolves when you shine the light of consciousness on it.”
“Your unhappiness is polluting not only your own inner being and those around you but also the collective human psyche of which you are an inseparable part.”
“The pollution of the planet is only an outward reflection of an inner psychic pollution: millions of unconscious individuals not taking responsibility for their inner space.”
“Once a mind pattern, an emotion, or a reaction is there, accept it. You were not conscious enough to have a choice in the matter. That’s not a judgment, just a fact. If you had a choice, or realized that you do have a choice, would you choose suffering or joy, ease or unease, peace or conflict?”
“How is it possible that humans killed in excess of one hundred million fellow humans in the twentieth century alone? Humans inflicting pain on such magnitude on one another is beyond anything you can imagine. And that’s not taking into account the mental, emotional an physical violence, the torture, pain, and cruelty they continue to inflict on each other as well as on other sentient beings on a daily basis.”
“Once you realize that a certain kind of food makes you sick, would you carry on eating that food and keep asserting that it is okay to be sick?”
“To complain is always non-acceptance of what is.”
“Any action is often better than no action, especially if you have been stuck in an unhappy situation for a long time. If it is a mistake, at least you learn something, in which case it’s no longer a mistake.”
“Are you worried? Do you have many ‘what if’ thoughts? You are identified with your mind, which is projecting itself into an imaginary future situation and creating fear. There is no way that you can cope with such a situation, because it doesn’t exist.”
“It is not uncommon for people to spend their whole life waiting to start living.”
“Gratitude for the present moment and the fullness of life now is true prosperity. It cannot come in the future.”
“When you are on a journey, it is certainly helpful to know where you are going or at least the general direction in which you are moving, but don’t forget: The only thing that is ultimately real about your journey is the step that you are taking at this moment.”
“The sooner you realize that your outer purpose cannot give you lasting fulfillment, the better.”
“Only the present can free you of the past. More time cannot free you of time. Access the power of Now. That is the key. None other than the power of your presence, your consciousness liberated from thought forms.”
“What is essential is your conscious presence. That dissolves the past.”
Chapter 5: The state of presence
“Understanding presence is being present.”
“Zen masters use the word satori to describe a flash of insight, a moment of no-mind and total presence.”
“No civilization has ever produced so much ugliness.”
“Egoic mind has become like a sinking ship. If you don’t get off, you will go down with it.”
“’The teacher and the taught together create the teaching.’”
“Silence is an even more potent carrier of presence; to listen to the silence, wherever you are, is an easy and direct way of becoming present.”
“If you are drawn to an enlightened teacher, it is because there is already enough presence in you to recognize presence in another.”
Chapter 6: The inner body
“The ‘illusion of the self’, as the Buddha calls it, is the core error: to believe that you are nothing more than your physical body and your mind.”
“Don’t get stuck on the level of words. A word is no more than a means to an end. It’s an abstraction.”
“If you focus your attention in the body as much as possible, you will be anchored in the Now.”
“Unless you stay present – and inhabiting your body is always an essential aspect of it – you will continue to be run by your mind. The script in your head that you learned a long time ago, the conditioning of your mind, will dictate your thinking and your behavior. You may be free of it for brief intervals, but rarely for long. This is especially true when something ‘goes wrong’ or there is some loss or upset. Your conditioned reaction will then be involuntary, automatic, and predictable, fueled by the one basic emotion that underlies the mind-identified state of consciousness: fear.”
“What matters is not whether you can attach a mental label to an emotion but whether you can bring the feeling of it into awareness as much as possible. Attention is the key to transformation – and full attention also implied acceptance. Attention is like a beam of light – the focused power of your consciousness that transmutes everything into itself.”
“Place your attention on feeling the emotion, and check whether your mind is holding on to a grievance pattern such as blame, self-pity, or resentment that is feeding the emotion. If that is the case, it means that you haven’t forgiven. Non-forgiveness is often toward another person or yourself, but it may just as well be toward any situation or condition – past, present or future – that your mind refuses to accept.”
“Yes, there can be non-forgiveness even with regard to the future.”
“Forgiveness is to offer no resistance to life – to allow life to live through you. The alternatives are pain and suffering, a greatly restricted flow of life energy, and in many cases physical disease.”
“Non-forgiveness is the very nature of the mind, just as the mind-made false self, the ego, cannot survive without strife and conflict. The mind cannot forgive. Only you can.”
“Feeling will get you closer to the truth of who you are than thinking.”
“When you inhabit your body, it will be hard for unwanted guests to enter. ’Flood’ your body with consciousness.”
“Don’t just think with your head, think with your whole body.”
“When you are listening to another person, don’t just listen with your mind, listen with your whole body. Feel the energy field of your inner body as you listen. That takes attention away from thinking and creates a still space that enables you to truly listen without the mind interfering. You are giving the other person space – space to be. It is the most precious gift you can give.”
Chapter 7: Portals into the unmanifested
“Every sound is born out of silence, dies back into silence, and during its life span is surrounded by silence. Silence enables the sound to be.”
“Everybody pays attention to the things in space, but who pays attention to space itself?”
“Pay attention to ‘nothing.’”
“Nothing could be more awe-inspiring and majestic than the inconceivable vastness and stillness of space, and yet what is it? Emptiness, vast emptiness.”
“When you are utterly and totally present, you encounter it as the still inner space of no-mind. Within you, it is vast in depth, not in extension. Spacial extension is ultimately a misperception of infinite depth – an attribute of the one transcendental reality.”
“Buddhist saying: ‘If there were no illusion, there would be no enlightenment.’”
Chapter 8: Enlightened relationships
“You are waiting for an event in time to save you. Salvation is not elsewhere in place or time. It is here and now.”
“True salvation is a state of freedom – from fear, from suffering, from a perceived state of lack and insufficiency and therefore from all wanting, needing, grasping, and clinging. It is freedom from compulsive thinking, from negativity, and above all from past and future as a psychological need.”
“It is easier to recognize the source of negativity in your partner than to see it in yourself.”
“The romantic love relationship seems to offer liberation from a deep-seated state of fear, need, lack, and incompleteness that is part of the human condition in its unredeemed and unenlightened state.”
“On your physical level, you are obviously not whole, nor will you ever be: you are either a man or a woman, which is to say, one-half of the whole.”
“Every addiction arises from an unconscious refusal to face and move through your own pain. Every addiction starts with pain and ends with pain. Whatever the substance you are addicted to – alcohol, food, legal or illegal drugs, or a person – you are using something or somebody to cover up your pain.”
“Intimate relationships do not cause pain or unhappiness. They bring out the pain and unhappiness that is already in you. Every addiction does that.”
“The greatest catalyst for change in a relationship is complete acceptance of your partner as he or she is, without needing to judge or change them in any way.”
“The bond that connects you with that person is the same bond that connects you with the person sitting next to you on a bus, or with a bird, a tree, a flower.”
“True communication is communion – the realization of oneness, which is love.”
“Whenever your relationship is not working, whenever it brings out the ‘madness’ in you and in your partner, be glad. What was unconscious is being brought up to the light. It is an opportunity for salvation.”
“The relationship then becomes your sadhana, your spiritual practice.”
“If you react at all to your partner’s unconsciousness, you become unconscious yourself. But if you then remember to know your reaction, nothing is lost.”
“Never before have relationships been as problematic and conflict ridden as they are now.”
“If you accept that the relationship is here to make you conscious instead of happy, then the relationship will offer you salvation, and you will be aligning yourself with the higher consciousness that wants to be born into this world.”
“When your partner behaves unconsciously, relinquish all judgment. Judgment is either to confuse someone’s unconscious behavior with who they are or to project your own unconsciousness onto another person and mistake that for who they are.”
“To relinquish judgment does not mean that you do not recognize dysfunction and unconsciousness when you see it. It means `being the knowing’ rather than ‘being the reaction’ and the judge. You will then either be totally free of reaction or you may react and still be the knowing, the space in which the reaction is watched and allowed to be.”
“Instead of fighting the darkness, you bring in the light. Instead of reacting to delusion, you see the delusion yet at the same time you look through it.”
“Being the knowing creates a clear space of loving presence that allows all things and all people to be as they are. No greater catalyst for transformation exists. If you practice this, your partner cannot stay with you and remain unconscious.”
“If you both agree that the relationship will be your spiritual practice, so much the better. You can then express your thoughts and feelings to each other as soon as they occur, or as soon as a reaction comes up, so that you do not create a time gap in which an unexpressed or unacknowledged emotion or grievance can fester and grow.”
“Learn to give expression to what you feel without blaming. Learn to listen to your partner in an open, non-defensive way. Give your partner space for expressing himself or herself. Be present.”
“Accusing, defending, attacking – all those patterns that are designed to strengthen or protect the ego or to get its needs met will then become redundant.”
“Giving space to others – and to yourself – is vital. Love cannot flourish without it.”
“When you have removed the two factors that are destructive to relationships – when the pain-body has been transmuted and you are no longer identified with mind and mental positions – and if your partner has done the same, you will experience the bliss of the flowering of relationship.”
“Instead of mirroring to each other your pain and your unconsciousness, instead of satisfying your mutual addictive ego needs, you will reflect back to each other the love that you feel deep within, the love that comes with the realization of your oneness with all that is. This is the love that has no opposite.”
“The light is too painful for someone who wants to remain in darkness.”
“When the mind took over and humans lost touch with the reality of their divine essence, they started to think of god as a male figure. Society became male-dominated, and the female was made subordinate to the male.”
“You are responsible for your inner space now – nobody else is – and that the past cannot prevail against the power of the Now.”
“If a woman is still holding on to anger, resentment, or condemnation, she is holding on to her pain-body.”
“The stronger the ego, the more distant you are from your true nature.”
“If you then develop a sense of identity based on your gayness, you have escaped one trap only to fall into another.”
Chapter 9: Beyond happiness and unhappiness there is peace
“Seen from a higher perspective, conditions are always positive. To be more precise: they are neither positive nor negative. They are as they are. And when you live in complete acceptance of what is, there is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in your life anymore.”
“Accept whatever comes to you woven in the pattern of your destiny, for what could more aptly fit your needs? (Marcus Aurelius)”
“Through forgiveness, which essentially means recognizing the insubstantiality of the past and allowing the present moment to be as it is, the miracle of transformation happens not only within but also without. A silent space of intense presence arises both in you and around you. Whoever or whatever enters that field of consciousness will be affected by it, sometimes visibly and immediately, sometimes at deeper levels with visible changes appearing at a later time.”
“You dissolve discord, heal pain, dispel unconsciousness – without doing anything – simply by being and holding that frequency of intense presence.”
“Most of the so-called bad things that happen in people’s lives are due to unconsciousness. They are self-created, or rather, ego-created. I sometimes refer to those things as ‘drama.’”
“When you feel guilty or anxious, that’s drama.”
“Most people are in love with their particular life drama. Their story is their identity. The ego runs their life. They have their whole sense of self invested in it. Even their – usually unsuccessful – search for an answer, a solution, or for healing becomes part of it. What they fear and resist most is the end of their drama. As long as they are their mind, what they fear and resist most is their own awakening.”
“Dissolution is needed for new growth to happen. One cannot exist without the other.”
“All conditions are highly unstable and in constant flux, or, as the Buddha put it, impermanence is a characteristic of every condition, every situation you will ever encounter in your life. It will change, disappear, or no longer satisfy you.”
“The most essential kind of knowledge is not yet widely accessible.”
“Happiness and unhappiness are in fact one. Only illusion of time separates them.”
“The whole advertising industry and consumer society would collapse if people became enlightened and no longer sought to find their identity through things. The more you seek happiness in this way, the more it will elude you.”
“To offer no resistance to life is to be in a state of grace, ease, and lightness.”
“Being takes you beyond the polar opposites of the mind and frees you from dependency on form. Even if everything were to collapse and crumble all around you, you would still feel a deep inner core of peace. You may not be happy, but you will be at peace.”
“If ‘you’ – the mind – did not believe that unhappiness works, why would you create it?”
“Once you have identified with some form of negativity, you do not want to let go, and on a deeply unconscious level, you do not want positive change. It would threaten your identity as a depressed, angry, or hard-done-by person. You will then ignore, deny, or sabotage the positive in your life. This is a common phenomenon. It is also insane.”
“No other life-form on the planet knows negativity, only humans, just as no other life-form violates and poisons the Earth that sustains it.”
“I have lived with several Zen masters – all of them cats. Even ducks have taught me important spiritual lessons. Just watching them is meditation.”
“Occasionally, two ducks will get into a fight. The fight usually lasts only for a few seconds, and then the ducks separate, swim off in opposite directions, and vigorously flap their wings a few times. By flapping their wings they were releasing surplus energy, thus preventing it from becoming trapped in their body and turning into negativity. This is natural wisdom, and it is easy for them because they do not have a mind that keeps the past alive unnecessarily and then builds an identity around it.”
“Yes, recurring negative emotions do sometimes contain a message, as do illnesses. Any changes that you make, whether they have to do with your work, your relationships, or your surroundings, are ultimately only cosmetic unless they arise out of a change in your level of consciousness.”
“What is the purpose of irritation? None whatsoever. Why did you create it? You didn’t. The mind did. It was totally automatic, totally unconscious. Why did the mind create it? Because it holds the unconscious belief that its resistance, which you experience as negativity or unhappiness in some form, will somehow dissolve the undesirable condition.”
“Somebody says something to you that is rude or designed to hurt. Offer no resistance. It is as if there is nobody there to get hurt anymore. That is forgiveness. You become invulnerable. You can still tell that person that his or her behavior is unacceptable, if that is what you choose to do. But that person no longer has the power to control your inner state. You are then in your power – not in someone else’s, nor are you run by your mind.”
“Forgive yourself for not being at peace. The moment you completely accept your non-peace, your non-peace becomes transmuted into peace. Anything you accept fully will get you there, will take you into peace. This is the miracle of surrender.”
“When you accept what is, every moment is the best. That is enlightenment.”
“At the level of Being, all suffering is recognized as an illusion. Suffering is due to identification with form. Miracles of healing sometimes occur through this realization, by awakening Being-consciousness in others.”
“Compassion is the awareness of a deep bond between yourself and all creatures. You share the vulnerability and mortality of your physical form with every other human and with every living being.”
“One of the most powerful spiritual practices is to meditate deeply on the mortality of physical forms, including your own. This is called: Die before you die.”
“Nothing that was real ever died, only names, forms, and illusions.”
“On the level of form, you share mortality and the precariousness of existence. On the level of Being, you share eternal, radiant life.”
“To have deep empathy for the suffering of another being certainly requires a high degree of consciousness but represents only one side of compassion. It is not complete. True compassion goes beyond empathy or sympathy. It does not happen until sadness merges with joy, the joy of Being beyond form, the joy of eternal life.”
“Teach through being, through demonstrating peace. You become ‘the light of the world,’ an emanation of pure consciousness, and so you eliminate suffering on the level of cause. You eliminate unconsciousness from the world.”
“Who you are is always a more vital teaching and a more powerful transformer of the world than what you say and more essential even than what you do.”
“Without a profound change in human consciousness, the world’s suffering is a bottomless pit.”
“Make sure that you carry no resistance within, no hatred, no negativity. ‘Love your enemies,’ said Jesus, which means ‘have no enemies.’”
“Once you get involved in working on the level of effect, it is all too easy to lose yourself in it. Stay alert and very, very present. The causal level needs to remain your primary focus, the teaching of enlightenment your main purpose, and peace your most precious gift to the world.”
Chapter 10: The meaning of surrender
“Surrender is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to rather than opposing the flow of life. The only place where you can experience the flow of life is the Now, so to surrender is to accept the present moment unconditionally and without reservation.”
“Acceptance of what is immediately frees you from mind identification and thus reconnects you with Being. Resistance is the mind.”
“A visual analogy is this: you are walking along a path at night, surrounded by a thick fog. But you have a powerful flashlight that cuts through the fog and creates a narrow, clear space in front of you. The fog is your life situation, which includes past and future; the flashlight is your conscious presence; the clear space is the Now.”
“If you find your life situation unsatisfactory or even intolerable, it is only by surrendering first that you can break the unconscious resistance pattern that perpetuates that situation.”
“Surrender is perfectly compatible with taking action, initiating change, or achieving goals. But in the surrendered state a totally different energy, a different quality, flows into your doing. Surrender reconnects you with the source-energy of Being, and if your doing is infused with Being, it becomes a joyful celebration of life energy that takes you more deeply into the Now.”
“Through non-resistance, the quality of whatever you are doing or creating is enhanced immeasurably. The results will then look after themselves and reflect that quality. We could call this surrendered action. It is not work as we have known it for thousands of years. As more humans awaken, the word work is going to disappear from our vocabulary, and perhaps a new word will be created to replace it.”
“No truly positive action can arise out of an unsurrendered state of consciousness.”
“In the state of surrender, you see very clearly what needs to be done, and you take action, doing one thing at a time and focusing on one thing at a time.”
“Acknowledge that there is resistance. Be there when it happens, when the resistance arises. Observe how your mind creates it, how it labels the situation, yourself, or others.”
“Negativity, unhappiness, or suffering in whatever form means that there is resistance, and resistance is always unconscious.”
“If you were conscious, that is to say totally present in the Now, all negativity would dissolve almost instantly. It could not survive in your presence. It can only survive in your absence.”
“Through surrender, spiritual energy comes into this world. It creates no suffering for yourself, for other humans, or any other life form on the planet.”
“Non-resistance doesn’t mean doing nothing. All it means is that any ‘doing’ becomes non-reactive. Remember the deep wisdom underlying the practice of Eastern martial arts: don’t resist the opponent’s force. Yield to overcome.”
“The ego believes that in your resistance lies your strength, whereas in truth resistance cuts you off from Being, the only place of true power. Resistance is weakness and fear masquerading as strength. What the ego sees as weakness is your Being in its purity, innocence, and power. What it sees as strength is weakness. So the ego exists in a continuous resistance-mode and plays counterfeit roles to cover up your ‘weakness,’ which in truth is your power.”
“Time and pain are inseparable.”
“Choice implies consciousness – a high degree of consciousness. Without it, you have no choice.”
“The mind, conditioned as it is by the past, always seeks to re-create what it knows and is familiar with. Even if it is painful, at least it is familiar.”
“The mind adheres to the known. The unknown is dangerous because it has no control over it.”
“As long as your mind with its conditioned patterns runs your life, as long as you are your mind, what choice do you have?”
“How will you know when you have surrendered? When you no longer need to ask the question.”
Saturday, March 14, 2009
This is not only causing a raise in the sea levels, but it is also releasing great amounts of methane gas that has been trapped within the polar ice caps since last Ice Age, around 9000 years ago.
The issue is not whether the planet is heating up or cooling down. Hence, the term "global warming," although related to the increase of the average temperature of the planet, is less accurate than "climate change," which refers to the impact this oscillation in temperature is having on micro and macro ecosystems which the human species is only a tiny part of. Recession or not, dozens of animal and plant species are becoming extinct every 24 hours, nonstop.
I see no reason to get scared. We should have gotten scared 30 years ago. Now we are too late for that. Put in more proactive terms, fear is not going to help us be more effective dealing with this situation. Right now, there are two lines of action to follow: adaptation and mitigation.
It is also too late to expect that mitigation efforts -or tackling the causes of climate change- will prevent humanity from adapting to an unknown and rapidly changing environment. Therefore, we need to assess vulnerabilities worldwide and start helping those most in need in their efforts of changing permanently the way they have been living until now, however comfortably or uncomfortably.
On the other hand, it is preposterous to believe, as some do, that adaptation will be enough, that we can burn all the fossil fuels we want, deforest all we pretend, and contaminate our aquifers further. We can still improve the quality of the Earth's environment for those of us that are still to come. So let's do it.
Perhaps the G-20 gathering early next month in London can be a good setting for the twenty political leaders of the 20 most responsible countries for climate change to do something considerably effective about it. In fact, it could be the last setting in which the 20 suspects of the largest global crime will have a chance to right their environmental wrongs under the delicate state of social cohesion that the world is still in. The recession is only starting, and every new unemployed person is a family without income to support itself. The Economist's dire forecast of today, Friday 13th of March, 2009, is that unemployment by the end of 2010 could reach 10% in developed countries. If we reach that scenario, the "poorest billion", as the same newspaper quotes today, will suffer famine and disease like globalization never expected.
Let's hope then that the G-20 finds leadership within to conduct the group towards virtue, instead of yet another photo opportunity to boost their public relations and opinion polls -well, at least for those leaders whose countries elected them democratically.
Meanwhile, rivers of water that had been frozen for millennia is running free around the clock, as we speak.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
If synergy is the the greater result of an interaction than the sum of its isolated elements, then by definition, one of the elements has to be the environment -because it is only one we all share- and it has to be positive, or at least not negative. Aiming at a human interaction in which there was a negative environmental impact and still hoping to have a positive balance in the equation is neither rational nor sensitive. It would be the equivalent of thinking three friends will set up a business, but from the start they all know that the contribution of one of them will be negative, hoping that, in the end, the result of the interaction will have a positive balance.
Therefore, all ideas, plans, businesses, innovation, policy and any new human creation for better quality of human life must consider the environmental impact. Otherwise, the creation is not virtuous, not sustainable, and clearly not win-win anymore. In fact, a new human creation that deteriorates the environment is a lose-lose situation.
One way to improve this condition is to start building consensus with our counterparts to evaluate if our creation is virtuous and of public interest. Eventually, one day this could become a global best practice: the same way there are certificates for high corporate standards, there could be certificates of global interest to sponsor businesses, policies, innovations, etc.
Likewise, the generation of wealth in the knowledge era has radically altered the purpose behind taxation, which was a retribution by the capitalist to the society, administrated by the government, for the improvement of public conditions as a means to redistribute wealth more evenly.
Today, when a single individual can have earnings of over $1 billion in a year, a 40% taxation falls short of the purpose of more equally redistributing wealth in society. What would happen if earnings over $1 million were taxed with 40%, over $10 million with 50%, and over $100 million with 70%? Is this really a negative incentive for wealth generation? Is this really going to make a difference in the quality of life and purchasing power parity of the individuals and corporations that earn the highest incomes? Is this scenario really so scary as to call it "SOCIALISM?"
In times when the environment, the financial markets, globalization and capitalism are at the intensive-care unit, before switching radically to the opposite side -communist planning and deglobalization- let us try to fix the system we already have so we start generating synergies in human interactions including the environment and the reduction of socioeconomic inequality as two of its advantageous outcomes in the quadruple-win elements.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
The point is not whether globalization works or not. There is no absolute criteria to approve or reject it as a valid hypothesis. We can agree that in terms of telecommunications, information, entertainment, religion, science, tourism, and trade, it works.
We can also agree that there are at least two global processes that seem to be suffering with the growth of the last phase globalization has had in the last 25 years. Those are the global environment and the social inequality standards. Although correlation does not imply causality, two researchers from the University of Siena, Italy, have proposed that these two processes have been deteriorating while globalization has been deepening worldwide. Borghesi and Vercelli have argued scientifically that the depletion and exhaustion of natural resources that has been taking place in the later decades is detrimental to all of us living on the planet. Also, that globalization has resulted in far greater opportunities for further development for those who already have the economic means to develop, say, through more and better training and education, than for those who have less economic means to do so.
Making a long-term projection, the process by which globalization promotes more production of more diverse products to sell in more open markets, tends towards the severe destruction of many ecosystems, some of which are vital for life in the planet. Think about the timber and logging industries that have compromised important forests in Brazil, Africa and Indonesia. Or about the need for biofuels or cattle meat that have also provoked higher rates of deforestation.
If globalization has been valuable for something, it has been for allowing global diagnostics of localized phenomena that a few decades ago we were unable to determine its global impact. Today we know that even though the skies in Europe are cleaner, the fact that they have shipped some "dirty" production overseas does not mean the planet's climate is cleaner.
If the expected economic growth will demand the corresponding growth in energy generation it is expected to require, and if the generation and consumption of energy does have an impact in the condition of the planet's climate, then there are reasons to worry about the tendencies towards global growth.
In terms of social inequality, even though there are more people coming out of poverty because there are more job opportunities where factories are opening and service centers are established to support larger-than-local demand, statistics show that the income gap between the rich and the poor is larger than ever. It is the case in the United States, in Latin American countries (with the fortunate exception of Brazil) and in Asian countries. For example, China. Only thirty years ago, everybody was nearly equally poor. Today, hundreds of millions have come out of poverty. Unfortunately, other hundreds of millions are still as poor as they were thirty years ago, while others are entering the list of the richest people in the world.
Generating wealth is not a problem. In fact, that is the mere virtue of capitalism. The problem is failing to distribute it in a way that deters inequality instead of promoting it. This may or may not be a weak link of capitalism. Perhaps we should start considering Adam Smith's second half of the explanation of what capitalism is and how it should work. He wrote Wealth of Nations and also wrote Theory of Moral Sentiments. Of the latter we know little about.
Truth is, the system seems to be not working well, and a crisis this deep at this time of economic evolution does not allow to argue otherwise.
This does not mean that we should embrace deglobalization necessarily. It means we should carefully revise the system's processes so we fine tune the weak links to make them stronger. In two words, what we need is to focus on sustainable globalization, or ways in which the interaction of all of us in this planet will ensure healthy environmental conditions not only for us and for our children and grandchildren, but for the seven generations yet to come after us. Also, to make sure we can all enjoy the process of global wealth-generation having dealt successfully with social inequality at a local and global level.
Both are insurmountable challenges, yes. At this time in history, when the promises of globalization seem to be failing, while the planet's ecosystems are changing so dramatically that dozens of species are becoming extinct every 24 hours, and where less rich accumulate more wealth than ever before in history, then it might be time to take on the challenges before an unsustainable system breaks down completely.
First and foremost, the presence of a conflict implies a bond between the parties. The Chinese government cannot speak about the issue without referring to its Tibetan counterpart, and the Dalai Lama cannot refer to the conflict without mentioning the Chinese.
Second, both parties have focused more on attacking the Other than on pointing out what they could contribute to the Other's cause. Especially, there has not been a clear will to achieve a harmonious interaction between both parties, being harmony a value shared and promoted by both: Tibetans from a Buddhist perspective, and Chinese from a Confucian approach.
Third, the time dimension of this conflict is the greatest adversary for both parties. So, the sooner they are able to start the process of transformation of the conflict, the sooner they will both start profiting from the process. If the Dalai Lama dies and the process has not began, he will surely become a martyr. As we all know, martyrdom becomes a motivational force that comes from above or from beyond this life. This could mean more -not less- trouble for the Chinese aspirations of controlling the conflict. On the Chinese side, aiming at controlling the situation by the use of force represents a contradiction of its government principles of achieving a "global harmonious society," in detriment of its country-image abroad. Country-image results in perhaps the most important tool for trust-building with other countries and regions worldwide. If and when China becomes a global power, it would do itself much good if it was able to achieve so by peaceful means, distinguishing itself from the world powers that have attempted at dominating the world during the last five centuries.
Fourth, in fifty years of conflict there have been no serious and consistent efforts on behalf of the parties involved to work on a joint diagnosis of the conflict. Doing so will help the parties and the international public opinion understand the dimension of the problem. Only then can it be possible to start elaborating -the parties themselves- proposals for the transformation process necessary to move from this state of conflict to a state of constructive peace.
Fifth, both parties could gain a lot of political capital if there is a peaceful transformation of the conflict. Tibetan Buddhism could represent a valid option of a religion that strives for peace, along with all the positive public opinion it could harvest from this worldwide. China, on the other hand, could show the world, especially the mainstream Western diplomatic community, how to do effective peace-building.
Sixth, it would clearly set a difference between the way of interacting in conflict in Western cultures, and the way of interacting in non-Western cultures.
Who should take the initiative? The party that feels strongest, definitely. As Gandhi said, only the strong can forgive; and only the strong can stretch an open hand as a sign of peace.