Election Reflections

Dear Bioneers:

I want to extend my deep love and compassion to each of you in this grave time of trauma and sorrow. We’ve been snake-bit. Powerful poison is coursing through our body politic.

Let’s not mince words: Trump’s election is cataclysmic. It’s also repulsive. We’ve been slimed by some of the darkest shadows of the human psyche – from the authoritarian will to power to the most flagrant demons of racism, bigotry, misogyny and patriarchy. For this job, we may need the Ghostbusters.

It’s critical that we honor the trauma. Take care of yourself. Don’t be isolated. Let the tears flow freely. Reach out and process it with friends and family. Thank goodness we bioneers exist to meet this moment. I want to thank you for being part of this community of leadership, and for all you’ve done and all you’re going to do and all we’re going to do together to set the world right again.

Remember that the bigger the light, the longer the shadow. We’re in the throes of an epic archetypal struggle between the forces of light and darkness. Any truly transformational experience is preceded by dread. As Rick Tarnas says, “There are no pretend near-death experiences.” This is for real and it’s for keeps. We’re here to put a whole lot of light into the world.

I’d like to offer a few observations and some speculation.

First, let’s be clear. Trump lost the popular vote by a number likely to be well over 2 million votes, with fewer votes than the loser Mitt Romney got in 2012. Not only does Trump not have a “mandate,” we who voted against him are the majority. We need to start acting like it, immediately.

We’ve got to grok the incomprehensibility of this election at large. Surgical hacking by Russia and deranged Wikileaks of the Democrats to tip the scales toward Trump. The FBI’s policy-shattering intervention at the eleventh hour for what proved to be a non-event. Large-scale Republican Party state voter suppression in the wake of the weakening of the Voting Rights Act. The overwhelming of journalism by social media to create a fact-free zone and photoshop political messaging.

Welcome to the new abnormal. As Tom Linzey puts it, “The system is fixed. Let’s break it.”

Our republic is supposed to be based on the “consent of the governed.” As it says in the Declaration of Independence regarding our inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness:

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

I for one revoke my consent from this illegitimate and deeply immoral regime. What about you? #noconsentofthegoverned.

My wife (and Bioneers Co-Founder) Nina pointed out to me that, for years, many of us have wondered if somehow there would be a catalytic, galvanizing event that would awaken and activate masses of people to step up and step out on behalf of nature and the human community. This is it. It has come in the most bizarre package imaginable, but make no mistake: This is fascism rebranded.

Six months ago my mother became traumatized and correctly called the election. Fleeing Eastern European pogroms, she had immigrated to the US with her mother in 1926 at the age of six. She grew up in the Brooklyn Jewish ghetto and she was hearing unmistakable echoes of Hitler and Mussolini in the voice of Trump.

As J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame wrote about Brexit in her June 2016 essay On Monsters, Villains and the EU Referendum, “Nationalism is on the march across the Western World, feeding upon the terrors it seeks to inflame. Look towards the Republican Party in America and shudder. ‘Make America Great Again!’ cries a man who is Fascist in all but name.”

This reactionary whiplash arises from the noxious cocktail of the ravages of corporate economic globalization and the racism and xenophobia the corporate class has long cultivated to deflect attention from the real issues of inequality and democracy. The same backlash occurred in 1968 with “law and order” Nixon after the earthshaking gains of the civil rights anti-war movements. It happened after Lincoln and Reconstruction with Jim Crow. For more perspective on this moment, I urge you to view the video I did with john a. powell on “The Invention of Whiteness” for a larger perspective on this moment.

As Michael Parenti said in the mid-1990’s (still frighteningly relevant today):

“The GOP agenda today is really not much different from the kind pushed by Mussolini and Hitler. It’s fascism without the swastika. It’s fascism in a pinstriped suit. First, break the labor unions. Depress wages. Impose a rightist ideological monopoly over the media. The rest of the GOP agenda: Eliminate cultural dissidence in the arts. Attack the rights of women and gays. Abolish taxes for the big corporations and the rich. Eliminate government regulations designed for worker and consumer safety and environmental protection. Privatize and plunder public lands and enterprises. Wipe out public services. And cloak this whole reactionary agenda in a kind of revolutionary sound. We’ve got a revolution going here in Congress. Some revolution. It’s the same old reactionary class agenda.

“Today in the U.S. we witness some middle-class Americans, like the middle-class Germans of yore, beset by real economic difficulties. They really are facing economic injustices, and they’re turning their anger toward irrelevant or imaginary foes: the immigrants, the Jews, the poor, the welfare mothers, people of color, feminists, gays, atheists and others.

“You convince people that government is the enemy, especially its social democracy aspects, at the same time you strengthen the repressive capacities of the state. You preach the imaginary virtues of the free market.”

We cannot let this Neo-Fascism take even one step without fierce resistance and calling it for what it is, as we witness self-avowed White Nationalists celebrate in DC chanting “Heil Trump.” Meanwhile we need to keep building the movements to create the next world, and have faith knowing the tide will turn, hopefully much sooner than later.

For those of us who are white, we have a profound responsibility to stand in solidarity with communities of color and all those who will be impacted first and worst. I had the poignant experience of being in the middle of the first Intertribal Gathering-Bioneers event outside Santa Fe when the election happened. (We’ll post a report on that soon.)

When I arrived on the morning after the election, shell-shocked and weeping, there was an odd feeling of equanimity among the 130-plus Indigenous people there from dozens of tribes, along with a small smattering of non-Indians. Although Trump’s election was disastrous news for Native Americans as well, they seemed to absorb it as just the latest unsurprising chapter in a 500-year colonial psychosis.

It was an especially acute counterpoint because there’s a renaissance among Native peoples today, and an unprecedented linking of countless tribes and nations into rapidly growing networks of solidarity and support. Standing Rock has been a catalytic event, and innumerable non-Indian allies have stepped up to stand with them, including Black Lives Matter.

As I said at Bioneers 2016, (watch or read remarks) there’s an unprecedented conjunction of movements occurring today, and that’s going to be the key to our prevailing. Our solidarity arises in the recognition that it’s all connected and we’re all connected. This is what beloved community looks like.

It’s critically important to recognize the imperative and living example of nonviolence in our movements. Those of us who lived through the ‘60s learned quickly that most of those espousing violence were police provocateurs. Quite apart from personal ethics, violence alienates the public and justifies the full repression of the state.

Ours are movements born of love and reconciliation. We’ve now reached a point of no return where the very soul of humanity is on the line. This is fundamentally a spiritual and moral moment we face. To be the change is incredibly hard, but that’s our charge.

We’re already witnessing a rising such as has not been seen before, certainly not in my lifetime. It’s coming from every level and corner of society, including many very powerful forces. Countless millions of Americans are horrified, searching for how to act and engage.

Progressive movements have succeeded the most when there is a split in the ruling elites. There are several radical splits today. For starters, Google is not Exxon Mobil. As climate disruption continues to bear down, large sectors of big business have already bet their futures on clean energy and the end of fossil fuels. The markets are speaking loudly and the vast majority of new energy investment is going into renewables because it makes irrefutable business sense. Although a Trump administration cannot bring back coal, it can do inconceivable near-term damage. We need to limit the damage and to act in the areas where we can keep making progress.

Business is going to play a radically more important role in general, and another split lies in the area of diversity, inclusion, and immigration. Quite apart from a human revulsion of racism, big business generally favors inclusion because it has very diverse customer bases and needs diverse workers in a global society. Witness the business backlash when then-Governor Mike Pence of Indiana passed a law allowing businesses to discriminate again gay people, or the severe backlash against North Carolina for its “bathroom bill,” which included the iconic NCAA moving its near-sacred basketball Final Four out of state for 2017. Companies cannot afford the brand of bigotry.

Another key split is in the “sub-national” space that includes cities, counties and states and the large and growing “green blocs” that already exist among many of these entities. By far the most progressive action is already occurring at the subnational level, which Bioneers has been highlighting for over ten years. Examples include our Dreaming New Mexico project and the game-changing model of California’s climate policy. California, the sixth largest economy in the world, is successfully decoupling economic growth from carbon emissions, while embracing environmental justice and racial equity. We need to intensify our efforts in these subnational and bioregional spaces to the max.

But we need to be clear-eyed: There is going to be a full-on political clearcut on the environment at exactly the moment we absolutely cannot afford it. They will strip regulations and criminalize resistance and dissent. There is likely to be severe repression against the environmental community and climate action. It’s going to take everything we’ve got to stop as much as we can. We’ve got a whole lot of people on our side for this one, and we need to mobilize as never before. To do that, we need to radically ramp up our educational efforts including public education through media. Ignorance is still astonishingly high about the kinds of real solutions highlighted by the Bioneers community over the past two decades.

The one thing that Trump and the Republican Party have in common is a plutocratic agenda. During his first 100 days, we can bank on the most extreme plutocratic legislative battering ram we’ve seen in modern times. It will concentrate already extreme wealth even more and secure dynastic wealth. In words often attributed to the Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini: “Fascism should more accurately be called corporatism, because it is the merger of corporations and the state.”

Even here, there is a split in the elites – witness billionaires such as Tom Steyer, Warren Buffett and certainly quite a few others. The Bernie “political revolution” showed how a large progressive base, including parts of the white working class, exists to create a society that works for all. Trump’s election, driven by the white working class, is a masterpiece of misdirection and a ticking time bomb – because of course Trump won’t and cannot deliver on his promises.

During the Great Depression, the New Deal averted what otherwise could well have been an outright class war. Only a Green New Deal is going to avert this same scenario. This is the best-case model that can actually bring people together around meaningful work and large-scale job creation while addressing the critical restoration of nature and our ecosystems. There are many forces already aligning to make this possible. Now a catalytic event has occurred that could actually trigger it into a reality. The solutions are there, as Bioneers has long shown.

There are several other trends that are unstoppable against the inexorable trajectory of history.

The US is well on its way to becoming a majority-minority nation within 30 years, a seismic dislocation of white identity and anxiety that Trump has tapped. We are confronting the most overtly racist and xenophobic administration in modern history. It’s already shaping up as a rogue’s gallery of museum-quality retrograde throwbacks so out of step with the arc of culture and history as to be like soldiers on an island still fighting after the war’s over.

Masses of people are going to be profoundly alienated by its stance, and it’s an extraordinary teachable moment. We need to be reaching out across our differences ever more energetically and skillfully. Occupying public space to create these authentic conversations is crucial, as are media and communications.

Another fault line is the urban-rural divide, which is now extreme and politically untenable going forward. Republicans are able to retain power because of a federal system set up in the 1700s to favor rural communities, even though more people have been living in cities than in the country since 1920. The bottom line is that it’s going to blow because the cultural divide is so severe and the political and economic injustice is absurd. I encourage you to read this first-rate New York Times article for more detail.

The Electoral College, which is just one tool in this reality distortion field, is within striking distance of being abolished before the 2020 election, if a few more states totaling 105 electoral votes opt out. But we can’t wait that long, and several metropolises have already declared themselves “sanctuary cities,” while stirrings of secession are rising in California. It won’t happen, but it indicates how far gone the divide is.

Some other things to watch:

The Republicans have a diabolical predicament on their hands with Roe v. Wade. They know the majority of Americans want to retain abortion rights, and they’ve been content to chip away at the edges and keep their base on board. Now for the first time they’re in a position to actually overturn it. They’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

Trump seems likely to become embroiled in serial scandals, from sexual predation lawsuits to countless legal problems in his finances and of conflicts that are at the scale of a banana republic. Hitler famously devised a new licensing scam called the “personality right” where he made a fortune charging a small fee for every postage stamp sold with his picture on it. Watch for the sequel.

Trump is a loose cannon and the Republicans are likely sharpening their knives in hopes he can be ousted in favor of a President Pence. Pence would be even worse in many ways, as a Christian supremacist and for his anti-woman, anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion positions. But make no mistake: Trump’s base is not really Republican and many of them are thoroughly disgusted with the Republicans. It won’t take much to alienate them.

Within a year or two, it’s very possible Trump’s base will sour on him or he’ll be embroiled in more personal battles than he or the country can cope with. He is a deeply unhinged person who checks every box on the Psychopathy Index. According to Richard Clark, the large preponderance of the military and intelligence community has regarded him as a serious national security threat. We can only imagine the backchannel scenario planning roiling in the Pentagon at the prospect of Yosemite Sam in the Situation Room. Any kind of major terrorist event or other excuse for invoking martial law is a deadly serious concern especially if it’s wag-the-dog political cover to get him out of his personal swamp.

It’s anyone’s guess how he’ll melt down. When engineers test a new machine, they run it at high speed and intensity to see what blows out, where the flaws are. This is a radioactively unstable personality who’s now got a whole lot of thin skin in the game. It’s hard to see how he’s going to survive the pressure very long before the wheels come off.

This is the time to take an unwavering stand. Let’s not kid ourselves about how dire and dangerous this Trump moment is. As Christian Parenti points out:

“The worst-case scenario is that Trump will establish a modus vivendi with the far-right Koch brothers-led wing of the GOP and achieve an historic gutting of the regulatory state, plus a momentary debt, tax-cut and infrastructure-funded economic boom. This could consolidate a new right-wing populist based at least until it all comes crashing down. Or perhaps the Chaos Candidate’s colossal ego, infamously short attention span and apparent pleasure in firing people will produce the Chaos Cabinet and exacerbate divisions within the GOP and paralysis on the home front. Perhaps the Clinton-DNC cabal can be broken up and run off, and the Democratic Party can re-launch on the basis of a neo-Rooseveltian/Sanders-style set of programs.”

At this epic moment, civil society is going to be more important than ever, and it’s also going to be under great threat. One of Trump’s fiscal proposals already includes essentially eradicating tax-deductions for charitable contributions that would delete the social sector with the stroke of a pen.

If you were at the 2016 Bioneers Conference, you know what a jarring experience it has been to come off the high of experiencing the mushrooming reality of genuine transformation, happening at ever larger scales to restore nature and our human communities.

We know this other world is not only possible, but it is rising fast. Now that rising is going to expand exponentially. We don’t have centuries more to change the game. The time is now.

Twenty-seven years ago, a very small band of us came together with a bold vision of spreading visionary and practical solutions to restore nature and our human communities. Today Bioneers has grown into a unique network of networks and a hub of diverse solutions and movements that are already changing the world.

This is the time to radically amplify our movement building. Climate action cannot wait four years. Biodiversity loss cannot wait four years. Racial Truth and Reconciliation cannot wait, nor Gender Reconciliation. Our youth and future generations cannot wait, and they’re counting on us.

Transpersonal psychologist Stanislav Grof relates this moment in humanity’s evolution to the four-stage birth process. In the first stage, the fetus experiences a state of oneness and wellbeing with its first environment, the womb. In the second stage, cataclysmic contractions bring the house down, but there’s no way out because the birth canal hasn’t yet opened. It’s a sense of no way out, of prison, desperation, nihilism, and terror. In the third stage, the birth canal opens and the life-and-death struggle is to reach the light at the end of the tunnel. The fourth stage, if all goes well, is liberation into the world.

Grof says we’re between feeling there’s no way out and fighting for our lives to reach the light. We know that abundant solutions already exist to solve and mitigate humanity’s crisis. It’s up to us to swim toward the light with everything we’ve got.

Revoke your consent and let us declare our interdependence with people and nature. Let us take action together to make liberation a living reality. The one thing we cannot afford right now is Intention Deficit Disorder.

We’ve got to ramp up our work to the maximum we possibly can. More than ever, we need you in order to do this.

I urge you to support Bioneers, as well as the many other invaluable groups doing crucial work at this time – to the maximum you possibly can. Your vision, care, hard work and generosity have brought us to where we are today, and thank goodness our network of networks exists to make this archetypal transformation. You know what profound influence we’ve already had on so, so many people, groups and leaders. Now, with your enduring commitment, we can expand that influence and change the game once and for all.


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