It's my personal soapbox, a place for me to express thoughts and feelings, musings and rants, reflections and recollections; to have fun with words -- about things spiritual, environmental, social, political, economic, and, from time to time, personal. And of course about peace. Soapboxes are in public places (as London's legendary Hyde Park) on purpose, and so I invite conversations with you, for it is through civil discourse that we can gain some perspective on the seeming chaos of these changing times and learn together how to shape a positive future for ourselves, our communities, and the generations to come.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

When Positive News Isn't by Michael Nagler

Michael Nagler is president of the Metta Center for Nonviolence, a long-time scholar and teacher of Gandhian nonviolence, and founder of the Peace and Conflict Studies Program at UC Berkeley. His recent Metta Center blog post, "When Positive News Isn't," raises several issues regarding the cultural trend of violence and demeaning of Nature that we have been on for the past few centuries. In response, I posted the following thoughts on the Metta Center blog page.

I agree heartily with Michael Nagler's thoughts about this, including about putting our own society in the same rogues gallery as other despotic regimes from “Bahrain to Burma.” And, yes, the deep cultural trend he refers to has indeed been taking over our worldview, a slippery-slope trend that dates at least from as far back as Newton and Descartes.

But there is another, counter-cultural trend taking place, perhaps dialectically, that is unstoppably bringing us back to our senses and Nature back to life. Unstoppable because the other leads to certain destruction and possible extinction of the human species. In the latter event, Nature will take back her planet, possibly with  a shout of “good riddance” over her shoulder as she continues on to a loving and peaceful future while we humans lay amoldering in the dustbin of archeological history. Also, Nature is not really dead, anyway, only in our predominant worldview, and a worldview at odds with reality cannot survive, nor those who insist on holding it.

Though this all sounds rather grim, I am convinced the counter-culture trend toward a culture of peace is on the rise and rapidly approaching the tipping point, which is what gives me hope and even eager anticipation of what’s to come. In fact, this latter trend is largely what I intend to comment and invite conversation on in The Green Pen.


  1. I don't know who made this observation, but a friend sent it to me. It says a lot about our current life style and way of thinking when it comes to our relationship with Mother Earth.

    I remember wellֲ…

    In the line at the store, the cashier told the older woman that plastic bags weren't good for the environment. The woman apologized to her and explained, "We didn't have the green thing back in my day.”

    That's right, they didn't have the green thing in her day. Back then, they returned their milk bottles, Coke bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, using the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. But they didn't have the green thing back in her day.

    In her day, they walked up stairs, because they didn't have an escalator in every store and office building. They walked to the grocery store and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time they had to go two blocks. But she's right. They didn't have the green thing in her day.

    Back then, they washed the baby's diapers because they didn't have the throw-away kind. They dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts - wind and solar power really did dry the clothes. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that old lady is right, they didn't have the green thing back in her day.

    Back then, they had one TV, or radio, in the house - not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a pizza dish, not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen, they blended and stirred by hand because they didn't have electric machines to do everything for you. When they packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, they used wadded up newspaper to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

    Back then, they didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. They used a push mower that ran on human power. They exercised by working so they didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmill that operates on electricity. But she is right, they didn't have the green thing back then.

    They drank from a fountain when they were thirsty, instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time they had a drink of water. They refilled pens with ink, instead of buying a new pen, and they replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But they didn't have the green thing back then.

    Back then, people took the streetcar and kids rode their bikes to school or rode the school bus, instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. They had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And they didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.
    I wonder what we are willing to sacrifice in order to save the planet? Would it help us to slow down, smell the roses, and enjoy each other in ways that have long been forgotten?


  2. Your friend is very eloquent, Libby. Thanks so much for sharing that wake-up perspective.

    It's also a perfect example of the "dialectic" I referred to in my comment above. That is, "the green thing" is a synthesis of the old ways, which weren't called green "back then" but were just how things were, and the intervening antithetical ways of wasteful-in-the-name-of-whiz-bang-technology efficiency.

  3. P.S. I meant to add that "the green thing" is not just a way of saving the planet but of saving ourselves,as well.