Perspectives On The Current Global Crisis – A conversation with Ralph Metzner

Ralph latestIn this conversation with journalist Will Shonbrun, we first discuss at some length the current global crisis, in light of my writing in the revised edition of The Expansion of Consciousness.

We then discuss the most promising current research and application projects involving psychedelic drugs. The interview has been published on the website of Project Censored, founded by Peter Phillips.

Richard Wolff on the Greek and European Economic Crisis

Here’s the best analysis I’ve seen of the current economic catastrophe happening in Greece and the rest of Europe. It’s from Richard Wolff, an American economics professor and an avowed Marxist – one of the very few in the US. He does weekly radio commentaries on current economic events on KPFA, which are very insightful, and has two websites of his own: http://www.rdwolff.com  and  http://www.democracyatwork.info.

Appropriately and necessarily, Wolff provides a Marxist historical perspective, situating the current Greek crisis in the history other economic crises in Europe over the 20th century, including how Germany was bailed out of total collapse after WWII, when the Western powers simply cancelled all its accumulated wartime debt – allowing it a fresh start, which was then lauded an “economic miracle”.
http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32380-deja-vu-germany-tightens-its-economic-power-over-europ

Alongside the Greeks, many other Europeans now grasp what awaits them too in the “unified Europe” that German leaders are constructing and using. Yet the Portuguese, Irish, Spanish, Italian and other poorer (relative to Germany and France) people want a differently unified Europe. With troubling historical echoes, German leaders once again seek to force a particular kind of capitalist unity onto Europe. The weapons this time are economic and political instead of military, but they too provoke
resistance. Europe risks severe divisions and disunity with serious ramifications for the world.

German capitalism in its way replicates the fundamental mistake of capitalists elsewhere. It does not know how or when to stop overstepping the limits of what the rest of society will endure and allow. No matter whether opposition comes from Greeks suffering absurd privations, from Germany’s only real opposition party, Die Linke, from Pope Francis or from rising questions and challenges of capitalism per se around the world, German capitalism pushes ahead oblivious. It ignores especially its own past lessons about recasting internal economic problems as the fault of other, lesser people who deserve harsh punishment. Europeans everywhere recoil, again, from German foreign economic policies and their modes of articulation. Their worries about the sort of European unity Germany’s economic dominance will yield are changing into opposition and resistance. Something ominous is underway, and the unfolding Greek tragedy-cum-resistance expresses it profoundly.

New Edition of “Zig Zag Zen” Just Published

zigzagzenI have a Chapter in the lavishly illustrated new edition of Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics, which has just been published by Synergetic Press.

Zig Zag Zen contains an expanded display of stunning visionary artwork including new pieces from Alex Grey, Android Jones, Sukhi Barber, Ang Tsherin Sherpa, and Amanda Sage, as well as the work renowned modernists Robert Venosa, Mark Rothko, Robert Beer, Francesco Clemente, and others.

The book includes new essays on ayahuasca’s unique influence on Zen Buddhism, a recent interview with Rick Doblin, founder of MAPS, my essay  “New Look at the ‘Psychedelic Tibetan Book of the Dead,'” and a public dialogue on mixing dharma and psychedelics, with James Fadiman and Zen monk, Kokyo Henkel.

“Entheogens have entered Buddhism to stay; there can be no turning back from the point that has been reached. Nor can the issue any longer be swept under the rug. The facts that bear on the matter are contained in these pages, as are the leading theories that try to make sense of the facts. Compelling visionary art and vivid accounts of personal encounters lace the facts and theories together in ways that make for a gripping experience. This book will be a landmark for years to come.” – From the Preface by Huston Smith, author of The World’s Religions.

Foreword by Stephen Batchelor  |  Preface by Huston Smith
Allan Badiner, Editor  |  Alex Grey, Art Editor

From a Review of Zig Zag Zen by “Harvard Psychedelic Club” Author Don Lattin:

The psychotherapist Ralph Metzner pens another one of this edition’s original essays: “A New Look at the Psychedelic Tibetan Book of the Dead.” He is the author (along with Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert) of the influential 1964 book The Psychedelic Experience, a manual on how to take an LSD trip. Metzner, Leary, and Alpert based their tripping manual on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, a self-styled English translation of texts popularized by the American Theosophist W.Y. Evans-Wentz, first published in 1927. Whether or not The Tibetan Book of the Dead reflects ideas that are authentically Tibetan or Buddhist, Metzner and his coauthors helped establish the idea that a psychedelic drug trip was another route to the mystical insights one could achieve—with much more work—through the discipline of Buddhist meditation.

 

 

The Next System Project – Comprehensive Thinking About the State of the World

thenextsystemThis multi-year initiative brings together leading activists, scholars and policy systems thinkers to review long-term threats and concerns around economic inequality, ecological threats and political dysfunction.

More than 350 key institutional, academic and community leaders have joined Gar Alperovitz and Gus Speeth to launch this project and endorse its aims.

See thenextsystem.org to watch the launch video and add your name.

“Signaling the need for a serious national conversation about the deep long-term challenges facing the United States, including urgent needs to address compounding wealth inequality, avert looming environmental disaster, rebuild democratic governance and undo persistent racism and discrimination…”

In a paper on New Economic Possibilities for the 21st Century that can be found on this website the authors describe a number of the most innovative and creative alternative systemic approaches that they have identified. These include: worker-ownership and self-management, localism in food production, social democratic governance systems, participatory economic planning, “beyond growth” ecological economics, socialist-style reclaimed public ownership of public lands and assets, bioregionalism (my own favorite life-supporting systems approach to food and farming) and several others, with many variations.

Overall, this is a worthy set of initiatives into which to invest our creative and productive energy – a set of antidotes to the loss of hope and initiative that afflicts so many of our fellow citizens in all countries in view of the escalating planetary disasters looming before us.

New Book Exposes Links Between The Drug War and Transnational Capitalism

drugwarcapitalismA new book – Drug War Capitalism – by Canadian investigative journalist Dawn Paley, exposes the hidden but intrinsic connections between the so-called “war on drugs” and the southward spread of transnational US and Canadian corporations. In a review of the book and interview with Paley, Mark Karlin writes in Truthout – “Paley exposes it (the drug war) as a pretext for extending US militarization to, and control of, nations to enhance transnational business opportunities and prevent populist uprisings.”

As Paley writes “This war is about control over territory and society, and market share, cheap labor, mineral rights and profits, much more so than it is about cocaine or marijuana.” She joins a number of other analysts who have pointed out the “war on drugs” is really a smoke screen cover for what is is an integral part of the multinational capitalist class exploitation and domination agenda.

Paley writes that the so-called “war on drugs is really a war on people”, specifically, lower class, poor and minority groups, who make up the majority of those incarcerated or killed in the context of the drug war. Drug abuse and addiction is not an issue that can be solved by militaristic means – sociological studies have demonstrated again and again that drug war politics, in Mexico, the US or elsewhere, like SE Asia have never resulted in a decrease in drug use. Drug abuse and addiction are public health issues, like alcoholism, and need to be addressed as such. But the power of international drug cartels and their pernicious influence on US and Latin American policy cannot be reduced by a “war on drugs” – on the contrary, prohibitionist policies and drug abuse support each other.

paley

Dawn Paley

Karlin and Paley in their discussion make the point that 85% of drug cartel profits are generated in the US cocaine market – and this money is in turn invested in the US economy in various ways. The war on drugs is actually a cover for excavation and expropriation of basic minerals, oil and lumber and the creation of marketing environments for multinational corporations – reducing labor costs, increasing the prison population, i.e. extending and increasing the power and wealth of the military-prison-industrial complex.

When our current newspapers are filled with terror stories about the increasing lawlessness and terror regimes in Mexico and Columbia, we can understand Paley’s analyses of the “structural elements that allow this kind of killing and terror to take place. Certainly US-funded militarization is a key component. There’s the media and the government, which blame victims for their own deaths by linking them with drug trafficking. Then there is the impunity, the fact that those responsible for criminal acts not only get away with their crimes, but various levels of government are actively involved and thus also cover their tracks.”

Paley’s book is an important contribution to an ongoing, indeed intensifying, out of control system of state-supported terror in Central and South American countries, in which the US plays a decisive and collusive role. All under the pretext and cover of combating a “drug problem” – a problem created by the very forces who are engaged militarily to combat it.

Kill the Messenger and CitizenFour: Two Powerful Historical-Political Films

Both of these films relate to historically important journalistic actions that pose radical challenges to the corruption of the existing political order. Both films came out this year, are currently in movie theaters and have been positively reviewed and received. The difference is that the events depicted in Kill the Messenger occurred in the 1990s and the film is a historical documentary of a story that is finished – whereas CitizenFour depicts actions that have occurred within this past year and a plot line that is currently continuing to unfold in real time, with as yet unknown, open-ended outcomes. Thus, I like to think that the production and release in theaters of these two films now represents a kind of concentration and sharpening of focus on political-historical realities – that portends positive developments. I recommend everyone sees them both.

killthemessengerKill the Messenger is an American drama thriller directed by Michael Cuesta and written by Peter Landesman. It is based on the book of the same name by Nicholas Schou and the book Dark Alliance by Gary Webb, who is the courageous and ultimately doomed hero of the film. (Nicholas Schou also wrote Orange Sunshine, a history of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love.) Webb was the reporter for the San Jose-Mercury News who wrote a series of articles in 1996 about CIA involvement in cocaine trafficking in the US. Webb uncovered that Nicaraguans linked to the CIA-backed Contras were smuggling cocaine into the US to raise money for the Contras. Their smuggled cocaine fueled the crack epidemic sweeping through many US cities in the late 1990s.

According to Webb’s research and articles, the CIA and Reagan administration knew of the shipments of drugs into the US and shielded drug dealers from prosecution in order to help fund the contras. Webb convinced his editors to run his story, which was explosive. Initially hailed as a hero, Webb soon met with overwhelming skepticism. The New York Times and The Washington Post start picking at aspects of the story, and then attacking Webb himself. The movie depicts a media culture so embedded in the establishment that it doesn’t even have to be coerced into serving the interests of the powerful. Webb was reduced to write dog stories and the newspaper retracted major aspects of the story. Though his family remained supportive, two years later he committed suicide. Ten years later the CIA publically admitted Gary Webb’s revelations had essential been correct – but by then few people remembered what it was all about.

citizenfour_posterCitizenFour is a documentary in real time about Edward Snowden and his explosive revelations of the mass surveillance by the NSA and other intelligence agencies on millions of US and other citizens. The film is directed by Laura Poitras, one of the two journalists first selected by Snowden to publish his findings and features Snowden himself, filmed at first in Hong Kong and then after his flight into exile in Moscow.

It also features Glenn Greenwald, the other journalist, working for The Guardian, who lives in Brazil and who continues to publish stories based on the vast trove of documents Snowden extracted from the NSA. Greenwald wrote his own account of events in a book, No Place to Hide. The film also features short appearances from other whistle-blowers, including Julian Assange, and other journalists, such as The Guardian’s Ewen MacAskill, who are publishing parts of the stories from the Snowden files.

Knowing that it was filmed in real time as the real events unfolded with uncertain outcomes makes watching the film an incredibly tense yet absorbing experience.  Nevertheless, listening to and watching Snowden calmly and sincerely expound to his journalistic allies on his reasons for doing what he did at enormous personal risk to his person – is an inspiring experience, giving one hope for the survival of the basic human instincts for respecting the liberties of one another.

 

Brilliant YouTube cartoon video on the history of fossil fuels

300 Years of Fossil Fuels in 300 Seconds

First released in late 2010, this video, which features Richard Heinberg describing the rise and fall of fossil fuel economies, went on to win the 2011 Youtube/DoGooder Nonprofit Video of the Year award and has since been viewed over 1,500,000 times online, at film festivals, and in classrooms. It’s also been translated into nearly a dozen languages.

My recommendation: watch it, share it, watch it again, share it some more, encourage everyone you know to watch it and share it.