therapy journey

My journey to better mental & spiritual health

Tag: society

Entering the vibration.

The purpose of this underground is to find out how to preserve the light, the life, the culture. How to keep things living. You see, I keep thinking that what we need is a new language. A language of the heart. The language was in the Polish forest, where language wasn’t needed.  Some kind of language between people that is a new kind of poetry. It’s the poetry of the dancing bee that tells us where the honey is. And I think that in order to create that language, you’re going to have to learn how you can go through a looking glass into another kind of perception where you have that sense of being united with all things. And suddenly, you understand everything. – My Dinner with Andre, Dir. Louis Malle

What has happened to me continuously throughout this journey so far is a kind of synchronicity, serendipity even. Entering into the vibration of a particular thought, idea or energy has led to more of the same. The current preoccupation with spiritual awakening has been no exception, but in fact has even greater ramifications for humanity. For if we really are waking up, and the law of attraction is causing mass societal change, then what I experience on an individual level has the potential to be magnified many million times over. In fact, it is inevitable.

From my own personal experience, up until last week, I used to run an authenticity group in my hometown. Now I am travelling, the group will be on hold until I settle somewhere new for more than a few days. During the weeks I spent with my group in its first incarnation, I shared some terrifically collaborative moments with the participants. What I utterly loved about the group, was the mix of energy that happened. We channelled each other, whether we were painting silently in a meditative state or writing silly stories, there was the uncanny sense of connecting in a very profound way. A few days ago the activity was writing, and the collaborative, blind poetry pieces had a very coherent theme. They were also extremely fun to write, and I experienced what I’d been missing for a long while – deep belly laughter.

What I found in a significant way through that group was meaningful connection. Although the uptake wasn’t high, the intensity was. I owe it to myself to chase connections that have – as much as I hate the fact I’m overusing this phrase – ‘spiritual significance’. And to let go of those that don’t. I’m becoming stronger in my own self and convictions, and am disdainful the idea of being nice and keeping everyone happy. I’ve rocked a few boats lately, and I’m fine with that, because I have to be true to myself (including my inner bitch).

This recent article by Zen Gardner, published in the Waking Times is yet another in a long line of ideas about, as the title suggests, activism, elevating consciousness, and living with sustainability and awareness in mind. It talks about the fast-approaching tipping point in collective consciousness, and how every blog post and conversation helps to reverse perceived reality. As the machinations of power abuses, control and suppression become more evident in their malevolence, people have the opportunity to step back and see social engineering for what it is and always has been.

The article reports on a theory purportedly proven by scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society. It is essentially the same as the Hundredth Monkey Syndrome, which holds that once a certain number of individuals within a species learn something, suddenly the rest of that species can do it without being shown. They do it purely by instinct. The veracity of this theory has been called into question, however, and all but fallen into the realm of urban legend. However, it remains very interesting with this in mind to see what happens as we grow into what I believe are major, cataclysmic changes with global consequences.

What it all boils down to is the power of the individual. Most people have the erroneous belief that they cannot possibly effect change, as they are just one person out of several billion. But this couldn’t be further from the truth that I believe in. And I write this from my own point of view but this goes for every person on the planet – I have unlimited, infinite power which affects the entire universe across all dimensions.

I have found true freedom in believing in my own power and realising there is nothing at all to fear or doubt. There is only love. From Zen Gardner’s article, ‘Doubt is akin to fear, and its end result is apathy; i.e. disempowerment and inaction’. Sure, sometimes I still have moments of apathy, aggression, frustration and even fear. But I recognise that these are not true states of being, they are merely reflections of a spirit that is not in quite the right space.

I am coming to the end of the first week of my travels and have found myself in Brussels, Belgium. I am aware of the negative energy of this city and it’s not surprising given the significance of this territory to the Illuminati Elite. This capital city is home to the unelected European Union superstate dictatorship, NATO, the Global Elite Krypt computer database onto which information of all the people of the world is allegedly being compiled. If you subscribe to Icke’s theory, this tiny country, a monarchy, was created in 1831 as a centre for Elite Satanist activity and has imposed a ‘reptilian’ line which connects the bloodlines of all European royal and Elite families. Only another day left in this city then on to somewhere I can be less cynical about.

From dream to nightmare.

“I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I’m all out of bubblegum.” – They Live, Dir. John Carpenter

I feel incredibly awakened suddenly, finding out more about the real state of the world. It is one hell of ride and extremely uncomfortable, though exhilarating. Like the main character in the John Carpenter film, They Live, I have taken a chance and put on the reality sunglasses. For the first time, I believe I’m seeing things a little closer to how they really are. I see the subliminal messages which mind-control the masses and the sub-/supra-human overlords that run it all.

Every step I take on this road makes me more certain that this is what my purpose is. I’m finally ready to let go of the regrets of my past. When we look back, it’s easy to see with hindsight where we made a wrong turn, and wonder what the hell we were thinking. What I must remember, for my own sanity, is that whatever decisions I made in the past were thoroughly right for that moment in time. They could not fail to be so.

I’m entering into the vibration of the new part of my life, emerging from the crisis of my age slowly. I’m negotiating the tricky balance between activism and acceptance as I come to accept more startling things I’m coming across. Reading the Icke book The Biggest Secret has made me feel like my life up until now was a dream. What I now know, I can’t unknow. I can’t unf*** the goat, so to speak. (Although the goat symbolism of that phrase has taken on a macabre twist, a phenomenon that I keep finding whatever my eyes happen to settle on out there in the world they run. Now, every symbol is infused with meaning).

The forces that run this world control everything and the vast majority of individuals and they want you to call people like me and other truthers crazy. I’m fine with that and I accept that if I go down this path I’m laying myself open to ridicule. Online, that’s easier to cope with but face to face with people it’s much more unpredictable. That’s why I have to keep bettering myself, strengthening my convictions in the providence of the cosmos, and the love that’s in our souls whether you call it God, intuition, unity, spirit or any other name. It’s the opposite of the Satanism that’s intrinsic to the Illuminati’s rituals. Their Satan is not the Satan of the Bible or anything else for which we have a point of reference. They worship a highly destructive, negative force. Their rituals are a manipulation of human energy, and what people don’t know until they wake up and research this, is that millions of people, especially babies, that never officially existed die each year because of the ruling classes’ needs to feed on human consciousness.

The reason why this and all the rest of it continues is so easy to answer – because the few that rule the world control and own everything, from the news and entertainment media, to pharmaceuticals and the illegal drugs trade, to the military and police, to the organised religions of the Christian, Jewish, Islamic and other faiths, the companies we work for, to the very idea of government and all political ideologies be they communist, socialist, democratic, monarchy, plutocracy – it’s for a greater Agenda. The people that stand there that we call presidents or dictators or queens are not there to enforce their own will. God, no. They are often just mind-controlled puppets, there to further the Agenda. The Agenda has been going on for many thousands of years. Call them the Black Nobility, the Illuminati, the Babylonian Brotherhood, it’s all essentially the same thing.

The external manipulation of the mind takes many forms and the question is not how many are mind controlled, but how few are not. Make no mistake, it takes pure courage to live freely. It’s a great step into the unknown, which is another thing we have been conditioned to fear. I am the living embodiment of transient states of being, rejection of mainstream channels, an alternative sexuality, commitment to truth, absolute faith in my infinite power as a human being, and in time, love for all.

I remember a few years ago during the three-month occupation of the grounds of St Pauls by Occupy London protesters, I took my former boss’s 13-year old daughter there to have a look what was going on. He was horrified I had taken her to a place of the Great Unwashed, although we were both enthralled by what we had seen. Libraries inside tents, people making music, dancing, inspired placards – it was a peaceful, poignant experience. Now, I am more interested in being a part of a subculture like that than a cog in the prevailing, thoughtless culture. Not even a cog, because every cog in a machine is necessary, but something thoroughly expendable.

Yes, I know how it sounds. I’m sitting at home, I’m bored, so I’m scaring myself silly with out-there theories that give me the feeling that I’m doing something important with my life. But of course. The difference however is that I’m willing to be a voice that effects change. I want to devote my time right now to raising consciousness and at the very least, appealing to other people to form their own opinions and see things differently. I don’t know how I’m going to do this, but I have already started in my one-to-one personal outreach programme in the real world, and I’m proud.

Spiritual awakening.

“One of the great transformations we are experiencing is the process of re-awakening or re-connecting to our Higher Self or true self (Consciousness). This Higher Self can be seen as who we truly are. Up until this point, human ego has been at the forefront of driving our world. Ideas of who we think we are, separation, competition, greed, power and survivalism have been sitting in the driver’s seat for centuries and have created a world that reflects these ideals. It is important to realize that these are all illusions” – Julian Websdale, The Waking Times.

The idea of a spiritual awakening has come up so many times in the past few days both in my reading and interaction with people, I feel as if the universe is trying to tell me something. I’m aware of how rare this idea is given that there are so many human-made structures of power and control that have been designed to keep us in our place of blissful ignorance of our higher selves and a more noble way of being. Mainstream society pours disdain and ridicule on those that seek to better themselves in such a way. And that is because this is precisely what you’re meant to think.

Science and religion have conspired over the centuries to keep us in the dark. Religion, though outmoded, teaches us to fall in line so we don’t get punished by a pretty moody God. Our souls are only good in as far as we do what religious doctrine (read: the state) impels us to do. Modern science offers the only acceptable view of the universe and human values today, and that is that what exists is merely a ‘brute fact’ as Bertrand Russell put it, and when you die you cease to exist. This is even worse than the religious view! These apparent opposites both deny the true nature of who we are and that we alone have infinite power including of course, the power to control our individual and collective destinies.

Reading David Icke (I know I shouldn’t), he writes about the idea of mass consciousness growing to an eventual awareness that will set the human race free. While this has been debunked by detractors as New Age hokum, there is something that’s compelling to me that through an inclusive spirituality without borders or confining dogmas, people as one wake up to their interconnectedness and their non-physical selves that continues beyond the body.

But why should such a thing ever happen, when now more than ever, our world is materialistic, people are more divided, and disillusionment with politics and government is running high? Perhaps it’s precisely because of the self-conscious emptiness of our institutions, entertainment and behaviours that a shift is inevitable. Further, according to The Waking Times, one of the biggest victories awaiting us is the shift from polarity (right or wrong) to an understanding that perceptions are neutral, and only our ego terms an experience ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Once we see this, we stop placing emphasis on the ego and expecting prejudice and polarity, and start loving, allowing and accepting which leads to joy, happiness and enlightenment.

A global shift in consciousness might also be related to factors beyond our comprehension such as cosmic rays and solar activity. There is a theory advocated here that the unrest we are experiencing in many parts of the world is symptomatic of the number of sunspots and cycle the sun is in. Russian scientist Alexander Chizhevsky showed that the more sunspots, the greater number of important historical events take place. Within each 11-year cycle, Chizhevsky recognised 3 years of minimum excitability, 2 years of growth in excitability, 3 years of maximum excitability, and 3 years of a decline in excitability. We are in the period of maximum excitability, in which a disproportionate majority (60%) of historical events supposedly occur. The characteristics for our time include, “Discovery of solutions, masses more impatient with status quo, masses unite, new leaders appear.” How I would welcome being part of this change…

However one thing I must remember is that everything is exactly how it should be. This was one of the first things I learned. I do start to feel angry when I realise think too much about ‘the way things ought to be’. Through this awakening, we will learn to love knowing that we don’t have to fix our planet or anyone on it. It’s the work of the ego to presume that it knows better. Instead of resistance, steady alignment. You cannot change other people, although they do change. You can only work on yourself.

awake

Own it.

The things you own end up owning you. – Tyler Durden.

The idea of owning something seems so normal, and indeed property is an ancient notion: but make no mistake, ownership is an invention, and a costly one at that, spawning so much waste and inefficiency which is at the heart of our current money system. It’s wasteful because of the care that’s needed to look after our things. In no small part due to the money system’s inbuilt planned obsolescence. It’s wasteful also because of having to protect our accumulation of things from those who might covet them due to inequality and perceived scarcity in or society which creates what we call crime.

The Earth itself is largely owned by individuals and by national governments. On the whole we have rigid notions of property (‘a thing or things belonging to someone’), and as long as we have the means to pay for something, we can call it ours. When an item becomes waste however, it ceases to be our property – our problem – any longer. If something is abundant or has no use, it has no value and falls into the category of waste. Use creates value when we acquire something such as a plate. But we have no such claim of ownership to our poop, because it is abundant (we can always make more) and has no use (at least not for most people). However the idea of waste is entirely antithetical to how natural ecosystems operate.

The Venus Project’s most recent newsletter picks apart notions of ownership and waste. It’s clear that owning property enhances status is society, because stuff equals wealth equals power. Consider the average car owner in the US. He drives 36 miles per day, or less than one hour. That means his car is not used for 23 hours per day. In this country there are 2.28 cars per household. 35% of households own three or more cars, with 1.2 billion cars in the world and 65 million produced every year. What a waste of the Earth’s resources it is for each car owner to buy their vehicle, store it, take care of it and dispose of it, for the sake of the mere 4% of the time when it’s being used.

With the case of food waste, it’s estimated that 30 – 50% (1.2 – 2 billion tons) of all food that is produced remains uneaten. This is in large part down to the fact that someone owns the food and someone else has to acquire it to gain ownership and the right to eat it.

Our notion of property is the result of cultural conditioning and it is not necessarily the same everywhere even in today’s homogenised world. A remote tribe was brought to a city in the UK and taught the whys and wherefores of our societal norms such as why not to poop in the street or hunt cats. Without such guidance, they would have had no clue how to survive in a modern Western city. In the same way, there needs to be a shift in consciousness for our ownership hang-ups to change, and people might be taught how things could be different. This touching example of cross cultural naiveté that can teach us a lot. On seeing a homeless man sleeping outside an office block, a tribe member remarked, “Aren’t there any places left for this man in these big buildings?” In the tribe’s culture, when an outsider with no home arrives, a new place is built for him or he is welcomed into someone’s hut. The tribe member had no notion of property.

Everything that falls under the money system’s pervasive remit is tainted by overconsumption and waste. Clothes for example. 12.2 million tons of the 14.3 million tons of textile waste generated in 2012 wasn’t recycled. That’s equivalent to three times the mass of the world’s African elephant and blue whale populations combined.

Is the solution to rent rather than buy stuff? No, because waste is a part of the system of overconsumption. Being in business means selling a product or service, if you don’t sell enough, bankruptcy ensues. Also, décor and fashion objects are specifically designed to be owned as they represent social status. Even if we could conceive of a world in which we solely rented our cars, clothes, appliances and only ate in restaurants, it wouldn’t stop the artificially manufactured desire that is created by advertising. We’d be encouraged to rent more, as planned obsolescence would just involve constant updates to our mounds of rented stuff.

The Venus Project’s idealistic solution is a system which monitors all of the earth’s resources, tracking them in real time. In their utopia, there would be no barter or exchange and all products would be easily upgradeable. I would add to this, no ‘thing’ in itself would be seen to make a statement about its user. Without advertising, there’d be no false needs created. Stuff as a means of defining one’s shaky sense of self would disappear.

I would love to discard the mountains of stuff that prevent me from moving around the world at will, and instead use what I needed when I needed, wherever I happened to be. The Venus Project is optimistic about this happening but I think the current system would collapse and be plunged into chaos before mass consciousness voluntarily changes. Yes, the example of the tribe shows it is possible, but this is a small community that has never been bitten by the affluenza bug. We collectively are a tribe of more than seven billion people and a huge proportion of us, whether we live in China, Russia, America, Europe or Australia, know nothing else except buy what you want and trash what you don’t. I suspect near-Armageddon would have to happen before we decide it’s time to stop trashing the planet.

The bottom line is this: when your time comes and your whole life flashes before you, will it hold your interest? How much of the story will be about moments of clarity and grace, kindness, and caring? Will the main character – you – appear as large and noble as life itself, or as tiny and absurd as a cartoon figure, darting frantically among mountains of stuff? It’s up to you, and indeed, it’s up to all of us! – ‘Affluenza’

The system. Activism. Shopping.

It is impossible to escape the institutions that for us, in sum, become the preposterously insane thing that we intuitively call ‘the system’. The institutions that comprise it include those of the economy, kinship, culture and politics. We are all involved in every one of these and they are all completely interconnected. A shift in consciousness is what’s needed.

In The Trajectory of Change, Michael Albert gives three facts in regard to activism:

  • A movement that can win change in international trade relations needs millions and even tens of millions, not merely thousands, of participants.
  • People aren’t really movement participants unless they are doing things in a sustained and ongoing way within the movement.
  • To grow sufficiently enough that we can win, our movement needs to offer things for people to do where they live and in accord with their dispositions and possibilities.

This will take generations of children learning that there are alternatives. Unfortunately we are raised on the notion that despite how bad things are, nothing better is possible. An example from Albert’s book: there are 3 million people in the US without homes to sleep in, though we have roughly 50,000 hotels that are generally only about half full and able to house 15 million people. So, 3 million homeless people and 7.5 million empty rooms that they could, but can’t, occupy. It takes quite a leap of imagination to realise that there are alternatives but then disillusion follows when you realise they simply cannot be implemented in our current system. The robbing of humanity that the system engenders is an integral part of it.

Change is a combination of a sequence of reforms or limited victories that string together in a coherent pattern. A shift in mass consciousness over generations will lead to ringing the changes. Either that or a major catastrophe will force systematic overhaul. Zeitgeist: Addendum recommends peaceful and strategic action in the wake of such a system failure. It urges us to stop supporting the system. The system will have to fail, and people will lose confidence in their elected leaders. The Venus Project predicts that the US will go bankrupt within the next ten years and so a military dictatorship will be installed in an attempt to prevent social breakdown. This will spread to all parts of the world tainted by the global economy. The fractional reserve banking system is reaching the theoretical limits of its expansion, leaving nowhere to go but down, rapidly. Contraction will begin on an unprecedented scale. Before then, whatever happens surely starts at a grassroots community activism level.

But for now, when there is a threat from the masses, the powers that be have responses up their sleeves such as the invention of terrorism, economic collapse, war, manmade disease epidemics, political wrangles, the illusion of democracy, advertising and false wants, to keep us in our place. People are bred to be apathetic and ignorant of alternatives and that is not their fault.

The never-ending and self-perpetuating false wants created by advertising are incredibly powerful social regulators. The title of Lee Eisenberg’s book, Shoptimism: Why the American Consumer will keep on buying no matter what’, says it all. We use our possessions to define ourselves. “Our accumulation of possessions provides a sense of past and tells us who we are, where we have come from, and perhaps where we are going”, writes Russell Belk of the University of Chicago in his essay Possessions and the extended self. Of course the very idea of owning things is itself ridiculous when you get down to brass tacks. Even more absurd is the notion that these things that we drag around with us can somehow define us, make us happy, make others like us. Yet we all fall into this trap, some more headlong than others.

In a paper entitled To do or to have: that is the question by Leaf van Boven and Thomas Gilovich of the Universities of Colorado and Cornell respectively, buys are either experiential (with the primary intention of acquiring a life experience) or material (with the intention of acquiring a tangible object). Guess what? Experience, relative to stuff, allows for greater “positive reinterpretation” – that is we think back on the experiential aspect of life more fondly. Further, experience is “more central” to one’s identity and provides greater social value.

Shopping as an activity is so legitimised in our society it is downright odd to be against it. We shop when we want a little pick-me-up, when we want to feel better about ourselves or when we’re a bit bored. We shop to celebrate, to prepare for life’s big events, to treat ourselves and because we are conditioned to believe we ‘need’ certain things.

What a worthwhile expression of our life force it would be if instead of pandering to needs that don’t exist, filling our homes with more things that it takes further resources to look after, and disconnecting us from nature and our communities, we could take step back from our rabid overconsumption and see what is really in front of us? As more and more of us live in cities, we engage in competitive loneliness rather than conscious engagement. Write Ken Norwood and Kathleen Smith in Rebuilding Community in America, “Like fish who always swim in water and therefore remain unaware of it we live in a toxic fog of frustrating living situations”. Let’s see if we can lift that fog and make our own living situations, particularly if we live in cities, less frustrating. I suggest that any kind of engagement with others in the community will contribute towards a feeling of true value. I may not make changes involving tens of millions of people or even tens of people but this is a life lived authentically.

The land of opportunity.

“We buy a wastebasket and take it home in a plastic bag. Then we take the wastebasket out of the bag, and put the bag in the wastebasket.” – Lily Tomlin, comedian

It’s interesting living in the country where more stuff is consumed and disposed of per capita than any other place on earth, while all the time reading books like The Story of Stuff, Affluenza and watching the Zeitgeist trilogy. This is the country that spends 71% of their $15 trillion economy on consumer goods. The country that spends more on shoes, jewellery and watches than higher education. The country that has more than twice as many shopping centres as high schools. These are surely signs of a sickness, a disease to accumulate more and more while losing sight of what is truly important in life: for me that would be artistic creative pursuits, spiritual development, feeling in harmony with the universe, community living, appreciating nature, experiencing authenticity, being understood by others, living with humility for the Earth’s abundance, giving love and having my basic human needs met and inalienable rights respected.

These aims are noble and rather lofty. Affluenza according to writers de Graaf, Wann and Naylor, is a socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more. It is a virus that, unlike the God virus, I have not managed to avoid. I have succumbed to the ‘need’ to buy something to make myself feel better, or define myself to others. Addiction to stuff is not easily understood. It’s a bubbling cauldron of states such as anxiety, loneliness and low self-esteem. Pathological buying is typically related to a quest for greater recognition and acceptance, an expression of anger, or an escape through fantasy. When we buy, we experience heightened sensations and extreme levels of focus and concentration, similar to drug induced states or orgasm. I think what we need to understand is that for affluenza victims there is no such thing as enough. According to the economist Herman Daly, ‘Consuming becomes pathological because its importance grows larger and larger in direct response to our decreasing satisfaction’. We shop to fill the void but that only makes the void grow larger.

‘Tragedy’, observes Richard Swenson, former doctor turned writer who was interviewed for Affluenza, ‘is wanting something badly, getting it, and finding it empty’. I can relate to that on many levels. I still buy occasionally when I’m feeling down, just to cheer myself up. My purchases may be limited to the Dollar Tree but there is still a guilty buzz I get. I’m conflicted about my relationship to the stuff I own. Yesterday the pain of too much stuff was brought home to me. Coming to the conclusion I had brought too many things to California with me, I thought flitting between accommodations would be simpler if I shipped some of my belongings back to the UK. The $200 price tag to do so was a painful reminder of these things stuff I already have. It takes between 700 and 2,000 gallons of water to produce about a pound of conventional cotton – enough for a single t-shirt. In India, 91% of full time male cotton workers experience major health problems. I’m aware of the earth’s resources that have been pillaged and the workers’ rights that have been violated to get the stuff to me for a low price in the first place. The least I can do is look after it. Right?

Generating more stuff makes me feel uneasy. And yet a big part of what I’m doing here rests on doing exactly that. On Friday last week I took part in an art show which was part of Oakland’s Art Murmur First Friday event. It gave me a huge buzz to hawk my wares in a cleaned-out auto bodywork shop and talk to a wide variety of people (including the wrestler Rocky, who is now an artist himself – only in California), and I sold four pieces of artwork. The feeling I had at the end of the evening was fantastic and I loved to know that my works carry on by giving joy now to my buyers. Ironically the pieces that sold best were from the ‘I do not need more stuff’ series which was delicious to me. I felt that I had the last laugh but not in a cynical way.

What I’m learning is that it really is true that what you transmit, you attract. On the back of that one show and thanks to my good friend whose studio I use, I have four more exhibitions and sales in my diary plus a competition. In four weeks in the states, I’ve furthered my professional art practice more than I had in thirty years in the UK. It seems so easy and fun here and that is addictive – but it’s an enriching feeling, not an empty one.

Monoculture.

Tuesday 4th November 2014

The monoculture tells the story of the time we are living in. Certain patterns of life emerge, rise to the top and dominate culture until they shape every aspect of our lives and we are unable to see an alternative. The monoculture informs our ideas about how the world works, what we can expect from our lives and from other people. In the seventeenth century, the prevalent monoculture was of science, machines and mathematics. Before this, it was a religious age, ruled by the Church, superstition, angels and demons. Our story today is an economic one. It infects every aspect of our lives from work to relationships with the natural world, community, health, education and creativity.

This is research carried out by F.S. Michaels, author of Monoculture: How One Story is Changing Everything, a penny-dropping, jaw-dropping read that seems to connect the dots which create a picture of all-pervading economic beliefs that shape our beliefs, values and assumptions at every level of our society. We are so entrenched in our monoculture that we forget our other stories and fail to see our culture in its totality never mind question it. The associated beliefs of our time include rationality, the ability to analyse, and efficiency. The best choice is always the most efficient option that is self-interested and the least extravagant, least scenic, fastest and pleases us most. Entrepreneurs, a phrase coined by French economist Jean-Baptiste Say, shift resources from one place to another to create higher productivity and greater yield, increasing profits and adding value.

Being part of the economic monoculture means our appetites are never satisfied. We’re driven by the desire for satisfaction, but because our individual wants are unlimited, resources are scarce. The gods that rule over our world are the markets. The forces of supply and demand set prices and wages. Peak efficiency is reached when both markets and the competition that occurs within them are as widespread as possible throughout the world. Anything can be bought and sold, and unless it can be shown to be ‘uneconomic’, its right to exist, grow and prosper is not called into doubt.

Competition on a personal level is of course a vital component of the story on a personal level. You compete with others for jobs and with other buyers for sellers’ goods, and other sellers for buyers’ dollars. Relationships with others in markets are impersonal and transactional. The quality of the information we possess gives us an advantage with which we can make the most efficient choice. Economic growth, measured by GDP, is an unequivocally good thing and translates to better standard of living, even if citizens are unhappy, feel unsafe, or live in areas rife with crime. Choice continues to grow, giving us the illusion of freedom and prosperity. One story changes everything.

For me personally all of this seems incredibly sad, but true. I struggle with buying new things as am often plagued with guilt by having made purchases, the momentary satisfaction so fleeting. I have fallen into the pitfalls just like anyone else – striving to define myself by what I own, giving into desires to buy a big-ticket item or unfeasibly cheap fashion piece that will make my life complete, and competing with others over promotions at work.

Now, the way we work has changed. Gone are the days of loyalty, commitment and reciprocity between workers and their employers. In the increasingly global marketplace, companies want a flexible workforce consisting of employees who are themselves expendable, like the products they peddle. Job security is no longer to be relied upon, and less training and investment is made than previous generations. The companies play a clever game by institutionalising values and investments in environmental, social and arts projects which bring higher stock valuations, a more motivated workforce and a boost in corporate reputation.

Markets encroach on our home time as well. In a society where women go out to work, domestic work is outsourced. Researcher Arlie Russell Hochschild wrote, “Efficiency has become both a means to an end – more home time – and a way of life, an end in itself”. Efficiency and flexibility are key. Family life in its traditional sense runs counter to this, making people less available to service the needs of the markets. The markets in our monoculture want us to remain individuals without close long-term relationships: thus ready to relocate, work harder and longer and less likely to defect due to personal commitments.

As well as community, work, education, creativity, public life and health (there is an enlightening chapter on the changing obligations of medical professionals, not just here in America but all over the world) being treated as markets, even our spiritual needs are being met in the marketplace. A church is an efficient and eager firm that exists to create, maintain and supply religion It operates according to the laws of supply and demand, with no particular code of morals, except what consumer preference demands. We are customers with requirements that might be strictness or permissiveness, exclusive or inclusive, geared towards older people or children. America’s most successful churches model themselves on businesses, with MBA-staffed management teams, strategy teams, consulting services and thousands of customers.

Isn’t all of this deeply cynical? That’s one way of looking at it, but the evidence speaks for itself. I, like many others, feel there is something wrong with our society. Something is rotten. I can’t put my finger on it exactly but it encompasses overconsumption; fakeness of people and things; single-minded preoccupation with accumulation of wealth; over-competitiveness; disengagement from others; and the expectation to be able to define exactly where we are in our lives, who we are and what we ‘do’. We live in a throwaway society, each of us ruled by markets and self-interest, that much is sure.

“[The] independent life begins with discovering what it means to live alongside the monoculture, given your particular circumstances, in your particular life and time, which will not be duplicated for anyone else. Out of your own struggle to live an independent life, a parallel structure may eventually be birthed. […] The goal is to live many stories, within a wider spectrum of human values. This is what it looks like to live free from the economic monoculture’s manipulation, to live the breadth and depth of all our stories, to live with dignity.” – F. S Michaels, ‘Monoculture’.

our way

How to be a social dynamo. And then some.

Thursday 30th October 2014

As part of my ongoing journey which has encompassed research on academic subjects, therapy for mental healing, and ideas for spiritual wellness, my personal development quest has taken me to the realm of social intelligence, and how I can improve mine. My interest was piqued when I heard about a group called Jaunty here in San Francisco that promises social mastery through use and understanding of social science, psychology, the science of attraction, neuroscience and human behaviour. The organisation calls itself ‘Higher education for social intelligence and people skills’ and is run by Eric Waisman.

It’s a really simple premise and one that is definitely in demand in this city – the class participants numbered over 20 and places were filled up well in advance. A lot of these people were at the top of their games in various fields, and wanted that edge that sets them apart. Social anxiety is an increasing problem for many individuals, and is it any surprise with the varied forms of communication in which we all partake, and the resultant disconnect from actual human beings?

It all starts with our old, reptilian brain which is responsible for our basic survival needs – feeding, fighting, flight and f**king. From that we evolved into our mammalian, ‘middle’ brain where love and bonding come from, with a decreased number of young and a long gestation period. Lastly is the newest part of our brain, the uniquely human logical brain which we use to analyse.

To enhance our social intelligence, we need to understand how all of these parts of the brain fit together, and sometimes overcome the more primitive parts which threaten to overwhelm us. For example a car crash seems to happen in slow motion because one’s senses open up, everything is on high alert, meaning you take in visual and auditory information that you wouldn’t normally. This was how it was for me when I was involved in a minor car crash twelve years ago, I remember each and every moment of it like it was yesterday: the other car not stopping, the sunroof shattering, the airbags inflating, the sound of the crash.

With practice we can avoid falling into the traps of the reptilian brain, which evolved to deal with threats to survival in a hostile world. Social intelligence is the ability to connect with and get others to get along with you. Let’s say we meet someone new. At the bottom of the attraction pyramid, the foundation on which everything else rests, is our status and our health. So we look at a person’s relative position in the social group, confidence, skillset and belief system, as well as external status such as wealth, possessions and power. This relates to the reptilian brain. Next up is the emotional connection which encompasses their intelligence, uniqueness and the uncertainty of what could happen, which we thrive on as humans. Right on top is the logical part in which we can apply our own rational analysis of this person. (Just as a tangent, confidence is defined as ‘getting as close as you can to mastering a skill’.)

Interestingly in the online dating game which I have had some experience of, this pyramid of attraction is inverted, as the first thing we use to make a judgment is our logical brain, then we make an emotional connection and finally when we get to meet them we can judge their status, health and hygiene! This theory of social dynamics is to my mind just one of the many reasons why online dating doesn’t work, except if you get two people of matching desperation.

We were taught seven skills which will hopefully help us to be social dynamos. They only work if they are practised regularly as by exercising the skills, you break the neural connections that the old reptilian brain has forged unhelpfully in response to non-existent threats – which results in social anxiety.

1. Body language
Anxiety is betrayed by the way you hold your body. Defensive stances cover and protect our vital organs. Open body language helps other people feel relaxed as well. Humans are contagious!
2. Conversational agility
Always have good stuff to say. It’s only awkward if you make it awkward! People respond to whatever you present them with. Make a situation seem like the most normal thing in the world! People will be like ‘Oh this is how we’re doing it, cool’.
3. Assertiveness
The ability to express your views, opinions, beliefs and feelings while respecting the other person. There’s aggressive, passive and assertive. If you truly have good, respectful intentions you are simply not responsible for the feelings of others. So just be assertive!
4. A sense of humour
5. Magnetism & charisma
The art of storytelling. The use of touch to create bonds. Sexual presence.
6. The approach & introduction
First impressions matter.
7. Mental pattern shifting
Positive reinforcement. The attitude ‘what’s stopping me?’

One thing I was surprised to learn about is the strength in vulnerability. We say snooty people stick their noses in the air but what they are really doing is exposing the most vulnerable part of their body – their throat. Moving slowly and deliberately helps to create an air of dignity and grace. I’m known by my friends for my jerky and unpredictable movements, which says it all really!

The exercises were awesome and this is where it really took off. Standing in a big circle, we locked eyes with someone across from us for a few seconds, then caught someone else’s eye. There was a lot of tittering. Then we paired off and were asked to look our partner in the eye for five whole minutes. A lot of people expressed difficulty at first, and the awkwardness seemed to come in waves before settling down. We were told to put aggression into our stares, then gratitude. We all really felt it, and my partner reported feeling a twinge when I first turned up the aggression. Regrouping in a circle, we repeated the staring-across-the-group exercise. This time, guess what, it was so much easier and everyone was happy because we’d spent five minutes overcorrecting, and thus crossed the boundary that made it awkward.

The next exercise was in verbal dexterity. It was a game of ‘threading’, or using our partner’s last conversational titbit as a springboard into one of our own stories, opinions or trivia on a totally different subject. We would latch onto one word they had said then turn it around on us, using the phrase ‘speaking of…’.Very simple and we all learned a lot even though some people said it felt a little weird to commandeer the conversation rather than overcoming nerves by asking questions about their partner’s conversational subject matter.

The final exercise was a ‘cold-reading’ and quite revealing. This is something you can do to bolster a person’s ego because you get to complement them! We followed a script which began ‘so what do you enjoy doing?’ they answer the question, and then it’s ‘so what is it about that activity that you like?’ And when they’re answered, your response is ‘It sounds like you’re a really [insert incredibly perceptive adjective here] sort of person.’ Repeat to fade. I got a comment back from someone that I was ‘introspective’, which kind of riled me a little because while pretty close to the bone, wasn’t that complementary. I said she was visionary.

I’m not sure if I’ll remember to put all of this into practice in my day to day living but I will try. The energy and the vitality of the group’s leader, touched us all and inspired us. There was something about the zany start-up culture that was evident in the company’s cool offices, way over-subscribed session and Eric’s infectious humour that I aspired to.

start with yourself

Community living & disposable cultures.

Saturday 18th October 2014

I am thinking about my role as a consumer while reading The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard – an essential read that should be on every school curriculum. It is an exposé on the West’s dire overconsumption from a sustainable and human rights point of view, critiquing many of the industrialised processes that we as consumers are not informed about, and lead to our waste being dumped on the doorstep of third world countries, toxic PVC ‘offgassing’ in our homes, and babies being born with over 250 toxins already in their blood. It’s the most disturbing read I’ve experienced in a long time, made all the more scary by the exponential march of what we are forced to term ‘progress’ with its inbuilt planned technology obsolescence, exploitative and cynical practices, human rights violations and moral vacuity.

Reading this book has got me angry – but this time in a good way. There are so many depths to the filthy system we are all trapped in and bound by to whatever extent. What is missing is the social self – the citizen of the local community. The idea of feeling a part of where I live has been on my mind a lot at the moment as I flit from one place to another. I don’t have a fixed abode as such as I am moving around California and have nowhere specific to return to in England. This is a fine situation that I have designed for myself as it allows total freedom but I accept that others may find it disconcerting or unconventional. They may not understand that this is exactly where I need to be at the current time.

I am enjoying slumming it in Oakland, a bosom of enterprise, creativity and the dispossessed. I have never seen so many homeless or hopeless people. Every wall I have seen in my fleabag hotel is pockmarked with dents and craters: scars from murders, scuffles and madness. You would not stay in a place like this unless you had no other choice. Which makes me wonder what the assorted vagrants that pass through are running away from or hurtling towards, that is so terrible that staying at this hotel is their best or only option? One cheerful long term resident gave me some advice to be careful after dark, as one block over is where “murders and injuries happen”. I took heed and wasn’t horrified. I am fascinated by this decrepit run down place, by far the most squalid I have ever visited – and this is coming from someone who has spent her entire adult life thus far in London ghettos in Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Lambeth.

Strangely though, perhaps as a result of being ‘homeless’ myself, I am engaging with this community and this city far more than my previous homes. I am, in true Annie Leonard style, reactivating my inner citizen and I am enjoying the feeling. This place is proud of what it is and there is no pretence there. In amongst the derelict department stores there are reclaimed wood-panelled boutiques and coffee shops that proudly display messages and sell wares declaring civic pride.

This isn’t my city but the idea of my own conscious societal displacement segues nicely with what I am learning about the importance of social relationships. There is evidence to suggest that people with strong social ties live longer and of course feel safer. A small example from Leonard’s book: the filmmaker Judith Helfand made a documentary about a massive heatwave in Chicago which killed six hundred people. She explains that most of the victims were socially isolated and didn’t have trusted neighbours so nobody to check up on them or their facilities at home.

On a planet where we are rapidly running out of resources (since 1986 every year we have been consuming more than the earth is able to regenerate in a year), think how many fewer resources we could consume if only we shared? From cars and vegetables to tools and homes, not only would the planet be saved from having to produce ever more stuff to sustain our insatiable desires, we would enjoy the satisfaction and pleasure that comes from interaction with other humans! Not only a good in itself but it would lead to numerous other benefits like being able to call on each other for favours, having the good company of others, and saving money and time in myriad ways. Participation gives us a warm glow but unfortunately it’s so easy to shun this on the basis that you can’t trust people these days, you haven’t got time (too busy working like donkeys so we can pay for all the meaningless crap we just can’t live without). Or maybe, just maybe, quality of life overall could be improved if we made time for each other and got over our own reserve.

From my vantage point as an elected outsider, I can consider how it might feel to be part of a community. I have never really engaged with my local area before and certainly not considered ways to make local people come together and help each other out. The way I had previously conducted my social affairs was to keep my head down, avoid looking at anyone and set my heart on the next place I’d live, where surely everything would be perfect and I’d have no trouble wanting to play a part socially. The truth is it’s going to be difficult putting myself out there, risking ridicule or worse, being ignored. I might not feel like it. I might be too busy or tired. I might have other problems. But I can try and remember that the community aspect of being human is important to individual and collective wellbeing in conjunction with other socially-aware initiatives.

more stuff