Thurman’s spirituality was grounded not only in the beauties of the black experience, but grounded as well in the terrors of the black experience, as only someone living in Florida and Georgia could know them in 1915 and 1920 and 1930. At the same time, it was a spirituality that says: “And knowing all that, I also know that all human beings are one.”
This kind of strange combination of spiritual truth with hard political social truth led one young man in the 1930s to say this about Howard Thurman: “I’m disappointed in him. We thought we had found our Moses. And he turns out to be a mystic.” That’s the spirituality that gets people all riled up.
Imagine being Joe Schmo on main street in 1964… Sitting outside a drug store (not a Starbucks) but the fake wooden streetscape of our earlier mental conjuration still remains the same. It’s a time before ‘real’ commercial airline travel — the first flight of a 747 is still 5 years away. The closest thing Joe has to the idea of air travel is a 1st generation airliner like a De Havilland Comet and only then because he heard about it on the radio (My Grandpa worked by the way on the De Havilland Comet decompression investigation), and Black and White TVs are still sold more than colour.
Meanwhile, you tell him this: there exists a separate world of classified technology and just one of those things is a Mach 3 Stealth Plane that can fly to the edge of space.
Do you think you could tell Ol’ Joe this without his hackles being raised? Do you think he’d believe you? There would be much shaking of heads and remonstration. I’m not sure Mr Schmo would accept it at all. It would just bounce off the carefully constructed bubble of Red Reality that he’s unknowingly internalised. At the time it would be indistinguishable to him from UFO reports.
Our current hierarchical view of ourselves and of our consciousness (with “I” at the apex, and “my ideas, my emotions, my experiences, and accumulated skills, etc.”, below) can now be shown to be fundamentally incoherent in a number of ways—the central contention being that in actual fact there isn’t and there can be no centre to our consciousness the same way that there is no centre to a river. Breaking away from the cul-de-sac of the this current/common hierarchical view, this chapter outlines a new model in which conditioned responses of memory—in the form of holarchically ordered, fundamentally interconnected basic assumptions and emotional attitudes—provide a continually shifting structure of consciousness (akin to the changing (infinite, yet finite) structural patterns which may arise in a kaleidoscope)..
Remember this the next time you find yourselves mesmerized by the antics of the 2016 presidential candidates or drawn into a politicized debate over the machinations of Congress, the president or the judiciary: it’s all intended to distract you from the fact that you have no authority and no rights in the face of the shadow governments.
More and more people (although not nearly enough) are coming to recognise that humanity cannot continue on its current trajectory, as the limits we face become ever more obvious, and their implications starker. There is a growing realisation that the future must be different, and much thought is therefore being applied to devising supposed solutions for that future.
These are generally attempts to reconcile our need to make changes with our desire to continue something very much resembling our current industrial-world lifestyle, with a view to making a seamless transition between the now and a comfortably familiar future. The presumption is that it is possible, but this rests on foundational assumptions which vary between the improbable and the outright impossible. It is a presumption grounded in a comprehensive failure to understand the nature and extent of our predicament.
We are facing limits in many ways simultaneously – not surprising since exponential growth curves for so many parameters have gone critical in recent decades, and of course even more so in recent years. Some of these limits lie in human systems, while others are ecological or geophysical. They will all interact with each other, over different timeframes, in extremely complex ways as our state of overshoot resolves itself (to our dissatisfaction, to put it mildly) over many decades, if not centuries. Some of these limits are completely non-negotiable, while others can be at least partially mutable, and it is vital that we know the difference if we are to be able to mitigate our situation at all. Otherwise we are attempting to bargain with the future without understanding our negotiating position.
The vast majority has no conception of the extent to which our modernity is an artifact of our discovery and pervasive exploitation of fossil fuels as an energy source. No species in history has had easy, long term access to a comparable energy source. This unprecedented circumstance has facilitated the creation of turbo-charged civilization.
From the 1500s to late 1800s, European slave traders imported more than 12 million slaves from Africa to the Western Hemisphere to work on plantations. Slavery was a massive, intricate economy that built modern capitalism. Along with performing other services like domestic work, slaves were exploited to grow cash crops like cotton and sugar, and to produce commodities that were sold in international markets for profit – a key component of capitalism. Slaves, themselves, were also considered property and traded on international markets. The slave system fueled the US economy for generations and enriched many slave masters, capitalists and other wealthy people.
Numerous financial institutions benefited from slavery. In fact, Wall Street was initially built as a slave market in the 1600s. Aetna sold insurance to slave owners who wanted to protect their “investments” in case a slave died aboard a slave ship. Slave owners were also compensated for losing their “property” – i.e. human slaves. Wachovia and JP Morgan Chase’s predecessor banks gave loans to slave owners and accepted slaves as “collateral.”
Slavery was a transfer of wealth from unpaid, exploited Black labor to White European slave owners, capitalists and other White people who benefitted from the system. As a slave state and plantation colony, Maryland was a key part of this system. Slavery not only laid the foundation for modern capitalism, but it also ensured that Black people would be at the bottom of the socioeconomic totem pole, while White people were at the top, for generations after slavery’s demise.