11.17.11 The power of reality. The power of one.

Over the past two weeks it was reported that Russian cosmonauts emerged from an isolation module the size of a bus, in which they spent a year and a half together sequestered from the rest of the world on a simulated return voyage from Mars. While the men noted their ability to cope well with imposed adversarial conditions, the researchers monitoring the exercise also noted the psychological stress associated with the mock mission, made more bearable through the demands of – like real space missions, a busy daily schedule.

Researchers noted that stress associated with a simulation mission is generally worse than that of a real mission, given the absence of euphoric moments of discovery and achievement. I have to wonder though… how much stress might have been associated from moments realizing that – 14 months in and everything you’re engaged in is essentially pointless? The sacrifice, the attention to detail, the genuine effort toward success… all to serve… well… nothing.

Of course the mission served in an abstract way, the study of certain conditional aspects of what ‘might’ be reality, but for real… every ounce of energy the men put into their daily affairs served only one very real purpose – to survive forced capsule incarceration and emerge alive in 520 days. I bet that felt pretty real when one guy decided he wanted the only window seat the whole time.

Simulations offer an extraordinary opportunity to test responses to anticipated conditions. But what happens when conditions occur outside the scope of anticipation?

Also in the past two weeks, a jet aircraft had to make an emergency landing when the co-pilot radioed to authorities that the pilot had “disappeared into the back” of the plane and the co-pilot was now recieivng directives from someone with a thick foreign accent attempting to access the cockpit. Can you image what that co-pilot must have been thinking? He had no idea of course that the pilot had simply gotten stuck in the bathroom and the person with the accent was merely trying to inform the co-pilot of the situation. Every scrap of simulated training told that co-pilot to be on his toes, and I bet he was seriously considering plan B, which might have included a quick trip to the bathroom himself. Although the plane made an emergency landing in LaGuardia, everything settled down before the fighter jets scrambled.

If you stop and think about it, we simulate a lot things, and not just for training purposes… we engage in facsimile environments relative to everything from social interactions to competitive sports on television-based gaming stations. TV, itself, provides a portal into what looks real, but can be easily manipulated by production means and PR people.

Good grief, even the stock market is simulated wealth and security. Traded speculation kept it hovering (even on a 1700 point loss) at 11,700 on the 17th, even at a time when so much of the country is without jobs, homes, hope for the future.

We simulate health and mood through pharmaceuticals. We simulate food through genetic modification and additives. 

With so much emphasis on what we can design and pass off as real, I’m beginning to think maybe we have forgotten the value of reality altogether.

Given these circumstances, it’s not too surprising that our own federal Congress can no longer recognize even a vegetable. I don’t think some of them would recognize a carrot if it jumped out the ground and sliced itself into their salad. Just today they ruled that pizza is now a vegetable. I know there are a lot of folks out there suffering identity crises – men wanting to be women and vice versa… but I’ve never known a carrot who wanted to be a pizza or vise versa.

Congress can’t even recognize the limits of its own power, and now thinks it can simply proclaim something… as something it’s not… just because they say so.  Congress says the bail out of banks and a failure to prosecute was fine, so we’re supposed to believe it’s fine. Congress says the stock market indicates the economy is fine, so we’re supposed to believe it’s fine. Congress says a pizza is really a carrot, and we’re supposed to believe that. Congress says corporations are people, and we’re supposed to believe that too.

That kind of thinking says a lot about how our fabrications are failing us at every turn. We are now so mired in what we think is real – from education to energy – we cannot recognize the value in things as they are, and work within that framework to preserve and develop the greatest potential within… and that goes for the potential of our systems and the potential of our selves.

All this imitation has cost us our identities – including our flaws and our latent means of overcoming them.  It has allowed us to dwell in a place of dysfunctional and destructive denial. We lose our ability to discern reality as it is. And that costs us personal accountability and the chance to better ourselves and our world as it is serving us or failing us.

So what is real? Andy Rooney passed on over these past two weeks. That was real. He was beloved by so many, and encouraged writers to write the truth. That’s something to remember as real consequences mount against our ability to recognize and embrace them.

Real is the majestic 65 foot tree chopped out of the Sierra Nevada forest on November fifth to whither in front of the US Capitol in a ceremony marking a season of ‘good will’, and incidentally infusing a the Hill with a bumped up round of tourism.

Real is the Occupy Movement’s ‘Move Your Money Day’ in which an idea begun and shared on Facebook translated into 80 million in deposits relocated from big banks to credit unions.

Real is Dorli Rainey, an 84 year old woman drenched in mace by Seattle police on the 16thas she demonstrated what she believed was real… a real opportunity to physically occupy a space in her home town and display real discontentment over real and degrading conditions, really affecting her as granted by the real authority of the US constitution. Real is when just one person stands against mass delusion and challenges the artificial perceptions that define our boundaries, our subscriptions, our applications, our conscious regard and common sense.

As we continue to react to our own perceptions blurred by the inability to recognize what is real and what is imitation, what is natural and what is forced, what is acceptable and what is unconscionable… the challenge to grow beyond what is limiting us grows more complex and challenging.

Full immersion in reality; interaction with the physical; investigation of the holistic and unvarnished truth; our embrace of the flawed and uncomfortable; and, the rejection of synthetics in favor of authenticity – this is what will rescue us from ourselves and our imposed notions of an ideal reality.

Until we do, we are destined for a genuine collapse, and if we aren’t prepared to accept reality as it is today, the eventuality of a harsher tommorrow is sure to impose even an even greater and very real sense of shock.


11.03.11 Accountability and Conviction – Engines of Reform and Revolt

This past week a rare snow storm hit the East Coast widely blanketing the region with snow and challenging the protestors of New York City’s, Occupy Wall Street movement to remain stalwart in their convictions despite being without propane tanks and generators.

The tanks and generators, cited as illegal safety hazards, had been removed under order of Mayor Bloomberg just ahead of the storm. They were dutifully gathered and removed by New York City fire teams, leaving protestors to huddle in tents, under sleeping bags and by whatever manner they may be able to avoid exposure.

It’s interesting that, in this situation, hypothermia isn’t considered a safety hazard, but taking steps to avoid it is.

Really, this bassackward thinking isn’t all that unusual in our modern era. Increasingly, common sense continues to take a back seat to political agenda cloaked as efforts to help ensure public safety and welfare.

After all, propane is a product of natural gas – a resource currently being exploited through all commercialized political channels to the wide exclusion of the development of alternative, sustainable, safer, cleaner energy sources. Domestic drinking water poisoned from natural gas operations somehow assures our energy future even as the fuel itself is being exported to other nations. Somehow, smoking a cigarette in a lounge is unsafe, but a natural gas rig can be erected out your backdoor, belching unmeasured and unreported toxic emissions twenty-four hours a day.

An Iraq war veteran was injured in an Occupy Oakland police riot by a projectile in the course of exercising his Constitutional right to free speech and assembly.  Apparently, his duty in Iraq to defend the merit of our Constitution was in the best interest of the public’s safety, but, his efforts to uphold these rights in his own country was worthy of punishment.

WTF? has never rung truer in the age of asinine, self-serving policy.

The other piece of news that caught my attention this week is based on reports that following the execution of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, his son and other high level officials are seeking refuge in friendly neighboring nations in order to evade prosecution by the International Criminal Court, currently pursuing the former officials for war crimes.

Given the long-established network of allegiances in the dessert borderlands between nations, and today’s shifting murk of international politics, the men fleeing failed governance, revolt and accountability are likely to be safely received.

Just as criminals fromLibya seek to absolve themselves of accountability in order to escape conviction, protesters of Occupy Wall Street are exercising stalwart personal conviction in order to help bring accountability toWall Street, Oakland and elsewhere inAmerica.

Obviously, it is not in society’s interest when people act with impunity, whether as individual dictators or cloaked as corporate persons. There must be accountability for one’s actions.

As Anthony Accetta has noted in his book, You The Jury: How Wall street Cashed in on the American Dream and Nearly Killed it, “What is not deterred becomes an incentive.”

Ignored justice incentivizes corruption which over-pressurizes an otherwise healthy, democratic system capable of absorbing conflict and translating it into productive reform.

When unjust actions persist and cannot be defended against the collective sensibilities of a fair society, then they and those who engage in them are bound to be brought to justice.

The longer the oppressive conditions persist and the greater the systemic resistance to reform, the more robustly fairness and justice will be sought by the oppressed.

When masses rise against a prevailing but failing system, whether that system is one of Libyan, Syrian, American or other making, the reasons behind individual dissent should not be lost through a distorted view of mass revolt, which can cloud resolvable issues and shift the focus from productive action to one of disproportionate defense.

Accountability summoned through conviction… is this not the engine of reform which spontaneously generates from within as well as without?

Conditions giving rise to dissent can be managed and made into a benefit for all stakeholders, simply through the tandem actions of awareness and adaptation.

Unexamined resistance from opposing parties typically confounds forward movement and only compounds conflict.

The telling convergence here is: With or without asylum, with or without generators, the quest for accountability will fuel conflict wherever it goes unmet.