Deep thought – headlines

August 22, 2013

Click on the headline (link) for the full text.

The Perennially "Unusual" Yet Somehow Ubiquitous Left-Right Alliance: Towards Acknowledging an Anti-Establishment Center

Sam Husseini, Posthaven
The AP reports: "The House narrowly rejected a challenge to the National Security Agency’s secret collection of hundreds of millions of Americans’ phone records Wednesday night after a fierce debate … The vote was 217-205 on an issue that created unusual political coalitions in Washington, with libertarian-leaning conservatives and liberal Democrats pressing for the change against the Obama administration [and] the Republican establishment…" The New York Times writes "disagreements over the program led to some unusual coalitions." Similarly, NBC opined the "amendment earned fierce opposition from an unusual set of allies, ranging from the Obama administration to the conservative Heritage Foundation." [Emphasis added throughout.]

And, when the NSA story broke, the Washington Post Express headline [June 11, 2013] read: "Recent revelations have given even the most ardent political foes a common target: government overreach." AP wrote of the "odd-couple political alliance of the far left and right" [June 12, 2013] with the Edward Snowden revelations making "strange bedfellows." [New York Daily News, June 11, 2013]

…As documented below, the meme in the media and elsewhere is a permanent note of surprise, when it should be an established aspect of U.S. politics: There are in fact two "centers" — one that is pro-war and Wall Street (the establishment center) — and another that is pro-peace and populist (the anti-establishment center)…

(23 July 2013)

The Death of Imagination

Dave Pollard, how to save the world
Imagination is the capacity to conjure up ideas, stories, prose, poetry, music, images, and ways to deal with problems and predicaments, seemingly out of nothing. It is the ability to be open to possibility, to let something emerge within you, and give it voice.

Creativity, by contrast, is a crafter’s art. It is the capacity to realize, to make real, either your own imaginative possibilities or those described or specified by others. It is a different skill entirely, and while some people are both imaginative and creative, there are many more creative people today, I think, than imaginative ones.

Why should this be so? Why is the world, challenged as it is by a host of intractable problems and emerging crises that have led us to the brink of civilizational collapse and ushered in the sixth great extinction of life on Earth, suffering from unprecedented imaginative poverty at exactly the time we most need imagination?

A good imagination requires a combination of (a) innate qualities (sensitivity, lateral thinking capacity, openness to “let things come”, and the mental agility to integrate, suspend judgement, synthesize and, for want of a better word, dream), and (b) capacities learned from practice (composition, editing, articulation, reflection, perseverance, critical thinking, attention and play). The former (the innate qualities) have often been discouraged and disparaged as flakiness or weirdness; artists have almost always been under-appreciated. But the capacities that come from imaginative practice have, I think, only recently become rare. I’d argue that this is in part because we don’t really value practice of anything anymore (it’s too much work, takes too much time and in our modern world nothing is expected to last anyway). It’s also, I think, because so many of our modern recreations (hackneyed mainstream films, formulaic popular fiction and TV, insipid popular music and derivative video games) require no imagination at all, either to produce or to participate in. So we get little practice imagining. Almost nothing is left to the imagination anymore…

(19 August 2013)

Towards Peaceful Adaptation
Rhys Kelly and Ute Kelly, Peace Studies Journal

Our aim in this article is to articulate and consider a number of questions concerning the future purpose, scope, and practice of peace studies. Our premise, set out in the first section, is that the current era of growth and globalisation will necessarily give way to some degree of social and economic contraction, as the limits to growth implied by the interacting forces of ecological change and resource dependency are encountered. Against this background, we suggest that ‘peaceful adaptation’ could be an appropriate concept to guide consideration of and responses to future challenges associated with building more sustainable forms of society in a context of ‘less’. The remainder of the paper works through a series of questions regarding the meaning of ‘peaceful adaptation’, and the potential roles of peace researchers and educators, taking into account the need for peace studies not only to study and contribute to adaptation processes, but to also to respond to the prospect that current systems for knowledge production, dissemination and maintenance may themselves be vulnerable. In each section, we point to examples of existing work that provide promising starting points for engagement, but also highlight some issues and questions that need further attention, especially from the more normative standpoint(s) of ‘peace’.


Towards ‘Peaceful Adaptation’

Adaptation is an attractive but ambivalent concept (Smit & Wandel, 2006). A focus on adaptation accepts the premise of change. It implies a dynamic, continuous process of response to changing conditions. A focus on adaptation also necessarily implies some acknowledgement of limits; of things that cannot easily be changed. It suggests some accommodation to existing conditions. For these reasons, it might make sense to foreground adaptation as a realistic, pragmatic approach to the unavoidable conditions of change and uncertainty that climate change and peak oil generate. Yet, at the same time, many types of response to these conditions could be considered ‘adaptive’, from different standpoints. For example, it might be considered ‘adaptive’ (in the short term, at least) for some countries to address their dependence on foreign energy resources through military means, including war. Adaptation also might be deemed an overly conservative or pessimistic concept, suggesting a strongly deterministic vision of the future which we have little or no power to influence.

The concept of peaceful adaptation, however, might address these limitations. It would encourage reflection on whether responses to limits and/or changing conditions are more or less congruent with a set of normative principles – for example, that measures to promote adaptation would not cause foreseeable violence, or that they are consistent with the need to protect ecological systems. Here there is also potential to consider the relationship between adaptive measures and more ‘positive’ concepts of peace; whether changes bring about conditions that not only prevent violence, but (for example) enable and promote beneficial relationships and increased resilience. Ultimately, what we mean by ‘peaceful adaptation’, not just in general terms, but under the anticipated conditions of contraction, must be worked out. This constitutes a major agenda for peace studies, one that will itself evolve as the specific features of change become clearer, and through engagement in actual experimentation…

Tags: creativity, imagination, peaceful adaptation