It feels like the deck is stacked. While it may be conjecture, anecdotal, it seems like it takes more energy and attention to be happy than sad, disillusioned, angry or depressed. Along with these; happiness, joy, hope and optimism are much more ‘states of being’ than abstract concepts. While appreciating that every thought has a corresponding feeling, I experience concepts in my head. Happiness and depression involve the whole body.

Approaching winter solstice celebrations often brings quiet reflections about self, others and the environment. This pensive predisposition is there as I look out the window at an amber smoke-filled sky from the Thomas Fire, still burning, ashes falling instead of snowflakes. It is there as I scan the morning posts; the threat of nuclear war, dismantling of environmental protections juxtaposed with apocalyptic melting of polar ice, so-called tax reform that leaves less for children and health care in a flag-waving nation that already proudly sits at the bottom in support of children, mothers and families. Something is fundamentally wrong. Mad emperors fiddling while Rome, our homes, literally burn.

Dear all,

Thank you for your love and prayers, we love you back and send our sympathy to everyone whose homes are burned and we invite anyone who needs a place to throw a sleeping bag to come. We are currently in shock and exhausted, but also thankful for life.... and in a still and weird way in complete awe of the force and spirit of fire and the steady flow of water. We are running on leftover adrenalin, and after such an elemental ordeal are still in shock. Nothing seems or feels normal, including sitting here having breakfast to check emails and let you know we are OK. We have had no phone, power or internet for days and have lost track!

On Wednesday we evacuated for the evening and slept in the van. On Thursday morning we drove home because the fire, though burning, was quiet, without wind. But all that changed around 1:00 or 2:00 when billowing smoke rose over the mountains. We made preparations to leave again, putting a sprinkler on the roof, but by 3:00 the fire came with such speed and intensity we didn’t feel safe to drive out in either direction. Thanks to preplanning a gas generator kept garden hoses and tanks full and a gas water pump supplied two fire hoses. We were as prepared as we could be. For three hours we battled the winds, smoke and fire with every ounce of stamina and strength and kept running to our two closest neighbors’ homes with buckets that our hoses wouldn’t reach. Our home and our two neighbors are left standing, but unfortunately a trailer burned as well as four of our neighbor’s homes. As of today, Saturday morning, no lives or nearby houses have been lost but steady vigilance is still needed as the fire consumes the hillsides.

With fire and water and much love

“Climate change is occurring at a faster rate than has previously been predicted, according to a new study which suggests that the most extreme estimates of the effects of global warming are likelier than more optimistic predictions. The study, published in Nature and completed by Patrick Brown and Ken Caldeira at the Carnegie Institution for Science, suggests that the world's "carbon budget" is smaller than has previously been thought and that carbon emissions must go down faster than previous studies have found.”

Julia Conley, Common Dreams

Indeed, something is fundamentally wrong when a government by and for the people denies and removes climate change from its official publications and appoints an outspoken climate-denier, one who sued the Environmental Protection Agency at least 14 times to block rules he is now in charge of enforcing.

As a filmmaker and student of mass-media it was obvious years ago that commercial media channels are not as they appear. I have not owned a television or watched anything close to Fox Not News for thirty years and yet, I consider myself relatively well informed. I made this choice to protect myself and my family from infectious propaganda on a daily basis. Toxic food is harmful. Toxic media is too and it is infectious.

J. Krishnamurti described how our individual consciousness is a myth. My consciousness is the same as yours. We each participate in a collective field that we experience as personal, though it is not. Howard Bloom explored our mass-consciousness in his book The Global Brain. Ah, at least part of this pensive, reflective, somewhat anxious state de jure is resonate in this shared field. I can feel it and so do you.

David Bohm noted that in low states of energy and attention what he called the reflex system roams free. One must gather greater energy and attention to respond to the moment with something other than a reflex. Perhaps this is one reason why it feels like being sad or depressed takes less energy and attention than feeling happy and hopeful. It is easier.

A recent book describes how email has a built in bias to be perceived negatively. Without the subtle feedback gained from facial expressions and tone of voice, we are left with our reflexes which are statistically biased. It takes less energy to be negative.

It feels like the older we get the more we have to complain about. Year after year an invisible balloon grows and grows around us. “It should be this way and not that.” The more experiences we have the more we have to compare and complain about. It is easier.

Without burying our collective heads in the sand, is there a way of perceiving and acting in a world gone utterly mad? Ashley Montagu, during a candid conversation that touched in this very question, offered: “Michael, the only sane position for a pessimist is optimism.” Optimism is a state more than it is an idea. States of being shape what we see and how we respond. Is our glass half full or half empty? One self-world view is positive, full of hope and opportunity. The other is negative, depressed and… But how? Song writer Paul Simon wrote: “These are the days of miracles and wonder; this is the long-distance call.” What is the key that unlocks and sustains this long-distance call? And what about our children?

Generation Zero – America Has Declared War On Its Children
(…and their mothers).

Under the authoritarian reign of Donald Trump, finance capitalism now drives politics, governance and policy in unprecedented ways and is more than willing to sacrifice the future of young people for short-term political and economic gains, regardless of the talk in the mainstream media about the need to not burden future generations with heavy tuition debt and a future of low-wage jobs. American society has declared war on its children, offering a disturbing index of a social order in the midst of a deep moral and political crisis. Too many young people today live in an era of foreclosed hope, an era in which it is difficult either to imagine a life beyond the tenets of a market-driven society or to transcend the fear that any attempt to do so can only result in a more dreadful nightmare.

Young people are not only written out of the future ... but are now considered a threat to the future.

Youth today are not only plagued by the fragility and uncertainty of the present, they are, as the late Zygmunt Bauman has argued, "the first post war generation facing the prospect of downward mobility [in which the] plight of the outcast stretches to embrace a generation as a whole." It is little wonder that "these youngsters are called Generation Zero: A generation with Zero opportunities, Zero future," and Zero expectations. Youth have become the new precariat, whose future has been sacrificed to the commands of capital and the financial elite. Moreover, as the social state is decimated, youth, especially those marginalized by race and class, are also subject to the dictates of the punishing state. Not only is their behavior being criminalized in the schools and on the streets, they are also subject to repressive forms of legislation aimed at removing crucial social provisions. At the same time, undocumented immigrant youth called Dreamers, brought to the United States by their parents as children, are now being threatened by legislation designed to expel them from the United States, the only home they have known since early childhood.

Beyond exposing the moral depravity of a society that fails to provide for its youth, the symbolic and real violence waged against many young people bespeaks to nothing less than a perverse collective death-wish -- especially visible when youth protest their conditions. We live in an era in which there is near zero tolerance for peaceful demonstrations on the part of young and a willingness by the government to overlook the crimes of bankers, hedge fund managers, and other members of the corporate elite who steal untold amounts of wealth, affecting the lives of millions. How else to explain the fact that at least 25 states are sponsoring legislation that would make perfectly legal forms of protest a crime that carries a huge fine or subjects young people to possible felony charges?

Henry A. Giroux

Please read the full interview.
In the same post Henry notes:

Without hope, even in the most dire of times, there is no possibility for resistance, dissent and struggle… When combined with collective action, hope translates into a dynamic sense of possibility, enabling one to join with others for the long haul of fighting systemic forms of domination… Courage in the face of tyranny is a necessity and not an option... What is crucial is the need not to face such struggles alone, not allow ourselves to feel defeated in our isolation, and to refuse a crippling neoliberal survival-of-the-fittest ethos that dominates everyday relations.

We must constantly work to revive radical imagination by talking with others in order to rethink politics anew, imagine what a new politics and society would look like… This points to opening up new lines of understanding, dialogue and radical empathy. It means, as the philosopher George Yancy suggests, "learning how to love with courage."

Rebecca Solnit has rightly argued that while we live in an age of despair, hope is a gift that we cannot surrender because it amplifies the power of alternative visions, offers up stories in which we can imagine the unimaginable, enables people to "move from depression to outrage," and positions people to take seriously what they are for and what they are against.

It is crucial to develop a language in which it becomes possible to imagine a future much different from the present… It would be wise to heed the words of National Book Award winner Ursula K. Le Guin when she says, "We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable -- but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings."

Any viable language of emancipation needs to develop a discourse of educated hope. Naming what is wrong in a society is important, but it is not enough, because such criticism can sometimes be overpowering and lead to a paralyzing despair or, even worse, a crippling cynicism. Hope speaks to imagining a life beyond capitalism, and combines a realistic sense of limits with a lofty vision of demanding the impossible… Reason, justice and change cannot blossom without hope because educated hope taps into our deepest experiences and longing for a life of dignity with others, a life in which it becomes possible to imagine a future that does not mimic the present.

It is easy to complain and see the world through a glass half empty. It is much more challenging to envision new patterns and possibilities and then to gather the energy of educated hope that makes these new possibilities manifest. It is harder to be positive.

In our conversation John Taylor Gatto described how compulsory schooling, by design, often cripples the development of imagination and therefore hope. Joseph Chilton Pearce observed that consumer-counterfeits in the form of media, advertising, and an endless flow of commodities naturally repress the development of imagination and hope throughout childhood. On a mass scale Generation Zero reflects this. This is now part of our collective human consciousness implanted, as John and others have said, by design, which is, of course, another matter.

Without burying our collective heads in the sand, is there a way of perceiving and acting in a world gone mad? I agree with Ashley Montagu and Henry A. Giroux. Educated imagination, optimism and hope are the only sane positions. The content these evoke is secondary. Essential is having these be embodied – embodied imagination, embodied optimism and embodied hope, as Viktor Frankl discovered during the holocaust. What do I mean by embodied? Looking at a map and taking the journey are completely different. Embodied means having imagination, optimism and hope serve as the lens through which we perceive each other and this life we are given. When things happen that are, in fact, negative, see and respond to these happenings with imagination, optimism and hope instead of isolation and depression. "Learn how to love with courage."

Like the proverbial blade of grass sprouting through a slab of concrete, embodied imagination, embodied optimism and embodied hope are there transforming. Realizing this, our individual and collective responsibility as adults is to model this every day for our children. Now, what does that look like?  

Michael Mendizza