Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Four Pillars and economic Yoga!: Saving the World is More Than an Idea


= The Four Pillars of True Power in Respectful Confrontation. An important caveat when referring to power:

"a distinction needs to be made between true power and brute force... [The] old-fashioned view of power is not what I would call true power but rather a strategy to use brute force to impose one's will and ensure one's success at the expense of others. George Washington, ... said, "Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused by licentiousness."" - Joe Weston (link to the program website, which I highly recommend in order to feel and and experience the technique.)

As an electrophysiologist, the Four Pillars brought to mind a mechanical model I'm familiar with: the vibration isolation tables that are critical for stable recordings of ion channel and neuronal or muscle fiber activity. (Another intuitive analogy might be the shock absorbers and tires on a car.) When one of the four pillars is overinflated, the vibration isolation function is compromised. A truck or train going by outside, or even someone closing a door down the hall, rapidly spells disaster for the experiment.

Building on meditation and martial arts traditions, the Four Pillars were designed with the intention of improving communication. That is to say communication in conventional linear mode — those times in face-to-face conversation when it's important to be heard.

For the purposes of this post, I'm expanding the model to include the world as described by the parameters presented in "on a World that isn't Round," namely, the Earth (grounding), politics (focus), the global economic system (strength), and all of us (flexibility).

Using the Four Pillar model of the world it's easy to see what the majority of us intuitively know. The economic 'pillar' of our world is overinflated (1). The non-linear model of Mitra et. al. (2015) is undoubtedly, a more accurate descriptor for the complexity of cause and effect, though computing power is required to use it.

No amount of fiddling with human behavior to adjust health, effectiveness, satisfaction and the meeting of needs will be successful at bringing the world back from precipices of crisis, climate or otherwise, without simultaneously reducing the over-inflation of economics. It is only in the context of changing the nature of the economic system that individual efforts to improve communication and life will begin to change the dynamics of our world. No matter where specific needs are situated on Maslow's hierarchy, due to economic stressors individual needs aren't being met and inequalities continue to be reinforced.

"It is the very 'nature' of alienated labor that one has no choice but to work against the interests and needs and desires of one's own being." - McKenzie Wark in Anthropocene Denial Bingo

My prescription for our world based on the above observations is economic Yoga.

economic Yoga is individuals and, more importantly, institutions and governments slowly and carefully releasing 'air' out of the economic system ― the over-inflation of which has disabled function of our politics, institutions, individuals, and the planet.

Because they are working from within the economic 'pillar,' efforts of Wall Street, big banks, and the Fed aimed at keeping the economical system and corporations 'afloat' have done little to correct the height of the economic pillar relative to the others. That's because of the basic assumption that our current economic system is the only way to manage the exchange of goods and services. One result: over-compression of other pillars and not enough 'air' in the cogs and joints of individuals for individual efforts to correct the imbalance. Another result: depriving 'third world' countries of the richness of their own resources by forcing them into the existing system.

As things are, because of our dependence on the inanimate indifferent intermediate of the dollar, individual efforts and the decisions and actions of politicians, institutions and the global aid industry often exacerbate, rather than heal, existing inequalities and imbalances between nations, races and genders.

My vision of what economic Yoga looks like isn't The Man Who Quit Money, Daniel Suelo, giving up money entirely and living alone in a cave ― however laudable the individual asethetic effort may be. When I ask myself what the end point of economic Yoga might look like, I am reminded once more of Donna Haraway's imaginary of the Chthulucene:

"the dynamic ongoing sym-chthonic forces and powers of of which people are a part, within which ongoingness is at stake." Because "Right now, the earth is full of refugees, human and not, without refuge."

Donna Haraway recognized the need to reconstitute refuges:

"to make possible partial and robust biological-cultural-political-technological recuperation and recomposition."

Like the name Chthulucene implies, Haraway offers little practical beyond the idea of returning to cultural habits more appreciative of the Earth and "making kin," which does appear to being happening on the Internet in a perverse sort of way (2).

My vision for economic Yoga addresses problems most of us face in the way our economic system and lifestyles are currently structured. It provides an alternative with which to augment existing social services (or Universal Basic Income). economic Yoga would reconstitute community, provide opportunities for training in multiple disciplines, and prevent some of inequalities the pursuit of a single career path and the definition of success in our society encourage.

economic Yoga is a reawakening of the practice of apprenticeship. The idea is an extension from community gardens, 'family projects' from my younger years, and house and barn building projects from days before I was born, as well as my time at Antaiji and Green Gulch Farm. As previously recognized, there aren't enough monasteries in the world to accommodate all those involved in meditation practices, nor should religion, philosophy, or race be a requirement. Moreover, the types of apprenticeships in typical monastic settings — the few that remain — are limited in the type of training and a greater diversity is necessary if apprenticeships are to be more broadly applicable.

Some proposed details for economic Yoga include shifting to a three-week work month, the fourth week to be spent on a community apprenticeship project. It should begin at an early age (12?) and represent a service payment towards social services including housing, food, health care, day care and an additional contribution to retirement. economic Yoga should also provide a path distinct from higher education and/or military service for some of the same types of positions. Community projects could include gardens, projects and services approved via small grant applications; apprenticeships could include apprenticeship employment with a variety of institutions and firms. People in high level positions should take time to work at more manual, though different tasks; unemployed or underemployed should be given priority for institutional and corporate apprenticeships - in this way we all benefit from interacting with a broader range of people.

In addition to reconstituting community, economic Yoga increases opportunities for interdisciplinary innovation both between individuals via the creative flux inherent in interactions across disciplines, and within the same individual because of exposure to a greater diversity of thought and life modalities.

(1) My definition of inflation and deflation are intuitive and do not necessarily correspond to the classic definitions.

(2) I consider the possibility that the 'sense' of perversity is an emotional reaction to the limits of our cognitive capacity to 'grasp' the non-linearity of cause-and-effect which via the Internet is increasingly perceptible. Those with strong ties and responsibilities in daily life perceive these identities and events as correlations because of the focus of their attention. Those with weaker ties in daily life have cognitive space in which to perceive the sometimes-visible-sometimes-not shimmering strands of cause-and-effect.

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