Letters from China, Nov 8, 2020
These are indeed unusual and confusing times. Roughly this bafflement has divided people into two groups from what I can see. There are those that are aware and tolerant of the existing deceptions, and those in denial—continuing to live in ignorance or even benefitting from all this canard. Political lies, false beliefs, conspiracy theories, misleading media, economic falsities and the acquisitive algorithms of Internet search engines are the new ‘realities’ making trustworthy information hard to find.
In striking contrast to these manmade delusions, our evolutionary presence here is based entirely on pragmatic truths and cooperation. 130 Million years ago when the first flower species learned to coexist with the first insects, life blossomed and diversified and as a result achieved its ultimate perceptive achievement so far —us. This perpetual and delicately interconnected struggle to synchronize life with the environment advanced a higher perceptive primate, and this was not by chance. It is in its continuous search to advance communication methods, interconnect progressive knowledge and information that evolution by design, continuously drives a progressive awareness between objects and emerging life. It is a constant search for pragmatic truths in order to advance, survive and harmonize these elements. No wonder then that doomsday and extinction theories are currently emerging, and wisdom is hard to define in a dissonant world.
In trying to define wisdom we can describe it as the ability to discern inner qualities and subtle relationships between things— then translate them into what is recognised as good judgment. So, what gives me or anyone else then the right to act pretentiously in search of wisdom and make wild accusations against the current human condition.
After the release of Spheres of Perception and worried of being caught-up in the totalitarian mindset that may result from the entanglement with the novel concept presented in this book, I ended up in China during the Corona virus outbreak. I am still here and let me explain why. Undeniably sound experience is our best guide to new knowledge and a reciprocal guide to wisdom. Such wisdom then recorded in the numerous writings we inherit from the efforts and experiences of others that came before us. What stands out amongst all this toil is wisdom that continues to inspire us or is of pragmatic value to improve the human condition.
In my case experiences and inspirations were gathered after many years of living in various countries under an array of diverse cultures while practicing as a vet and tapping on all the knowledge and wisdom I could muster. Strangely, I turned my back on the gains of new certificates on the wall from our so called highly rated institutions. I also without much resistance walked away from the easy lifestyle the booming veterinary clinics I established in Australia and New Zealand could offer. I hope to create some understanding why I did so in this short article here.
Recently I stumbled on the work of a much overlooked intellectual, anarchist and socialist Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921). The appeal of his work, besides its undeniable insight, aligned well with my own conclusions here and are as applicable today as it was then. It also severely challenges our current economic hierarchies. Stated in the opening chapter of the book Conquest of Bread, he said:
“On the wide prairies of America each hundred men, with the aid of powerful machinery, can produce in a few months enough wheat to maintain ten thousand people for a whole year. And where man wishes to double his produce, to treble it, to multiply it a hundred-fold, he makes the soil, gives to each plant the requisite care, and thus obtains enormous returns. While the hunter of old had to scour fifty or sixty square miles to find food for his family, the civilized man supports his household, with far less pains, and far more certainty, on a thousandth part of that space. Climate is no longer an obstacle. When the sun fails, man replaces it by artificial heat; and we see the coming of a time when artificial light also will be used to stimulate vegetation. Meanwhile, by the use of glass and hot water pipes, man renders a given space ten and fifty times more productive than it was in its natural state.”
Excerpt From: kniaz Petr Alekseevich Kropotkin. “The Conquest of Bread.
Today we live in a changed world with many new advances, and yet Kropotkin’s wisdom still rings true, in addition we have a vast knowledgebase available at the tips of our fingers (via the Internet). It is impossible for even the smartest man on Earth to absorb all this electronic information in the various disciplines in one lifetime. Yet, all this knowledge, and its potential benefits (only a click away for most of us), does not reach everyone fairly and is not necessarily untarnished and based on reliable experiences or wisdom. We also are not conditioned to associate the intellectually ‘soft’ idea of wisdom with our evidence-based sciences. Complicating matters more than perhaps helping, an abundance of Internet links on various topics masquerade wisdom by claiming peer reviews from prominent institutions. If we declutter our minds, we can perhaps understand the links and the deceptions they can mask better.
Somewhat ‘isolated’ in China due to Google and Facebook restrictions, and away from those deceptive algorithms of social media and misleading news links, Beijing’s crowds and air pollution can inevitably become restrictive. In my own case however, it came with an unexpected bonus. It took me a while to figure out exactly what this new fascination was. It certainly wasn’t the poor air quality, the annoying smokers in the crowded streets, or being isolated from that all too familiar addictive media. Neither was it the false allure of the glamorous buildings and shopping malls in Chao Yang; I lived in Singapore, London, Auckland, Johannesburg and Sydney for long enough to recognize their contradictory appeal.
This new calmness, clarity and refreshed vigor I discovered was hidden in the absence of Google and Social media! Yes, waking up in the morning without these distractions, for the first time in a long while, I could become fully absorbed and drawn into every moment of my day, think more freely, openly and with more clarity. The only news I now exposed myself to was of pragmatic value and came from experience and unblemished sources. Past experiences and knowledge also had a different meaning, with new value and added support.
I recall the grateful faces of the improvised communities I served as seconded vet in rural Africa in my younger days. I recall the cruelty of apartheid in South Africa where I grew up. I can now compare this with the ingratitude and adversity seen in our larger cities, where disparity has been given open reign. Communities where disgruntled children in affluent suburbs are being shipped off in fancy cars to private schools for privileged educations, and the schoolbag carrying maids are being shouted at because the child is late. I notice the striking absence of beggars and homeless people in the city streets where I now live here in China. I witness the ubiquitous selfish demands of the arrogant rich and the desperate subservience and kindness of the poor and the over-mortgaged, in this new apartheid based economic hierarchy we created.
Distracting as these thoughts may be, the first cup of coffee in the morning has changed from what used to be a hurried, annoying and subconscious reflex while attempting to flick through emails and news flashes, to a fully absorbed invigorating experience in days filled with new insights and fascinations. Days, also now with much more time in it. My morning walks are relaxed and filled with trees, parks, gardens, old buildings and interesting new faces. Images and experiences that previously eluded me in the many cities I lived, always distracted by my smartphone, the need to exercise or rushing off somewhere. Currently the experience of the beauty and rich colors of autumn here in Yunnan, embellished by the old buildings of the ancient cities, also have new appeal and meaning compared to my previous hurried visits to the same part of the world while living in Singapore. Above all, I now see the people around me no longer through links on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, ‘foreign eyes’ or the directives of online apps.
The various expressions on faces in the crowds, the crispness in the air with the promise of a cold winter to be here soon, the odors in the streets are real experiences—with no hidden costs, false pretense or links to make purchases attached. Previously, too absorbed in thoughts of how to respond to such and such via email, gather CPD points, grow networks or if my writing or veterinary clinics got any new likes on social media or not, I was somehow always rushing off somewhere (something ‘better’ perhaps?). Life, events and seasons drifted past unnoticed and unexperienced. My weather app was my essential guide to environmental conditions, and social media indicated my state of wellbeing. My presence was set by my laptop, clients, phone, networks, apps, comments on social media and must reads and do’s and yearly tax returns. Now isolated from all those algorithms that previously defined my existence and social status, I suddenly seem to be alive again. I have a new, much more meaningful presence and image, even here in a strange new land as a struggling author and poor currently unemployed vet. Surrounded by real people with sincere needs and real wishes, unaffected by profit-hungry inscrutable computers and their demands new wisdom is to be found everywhere. Suddenly the people I encounter, the books, science and medical articles I now read, are unblemished by misleading media and can’t be bothered about likes, reviews or the need for designer education, institutionalized demands or sales. They have now become self-elected delicacies of wisdom and practical knowledge— based on my own thoughts and unmarred experiences. They serve pragmatic needs, needs interconnected to my new habitat and experiences.
While the global multitude and their pets continue to get sick, die, experience, live, hope, wait, suffer, stare at their smartphones and pray to the different gods they all hope exist, new ideas now surreptitiously appear in my head. The fact that most likely no one will ever have the joy to share the clarity and value of similar unblemished thoughts and experiences make me somewhat sad, yet it does not bother me like it used to. In fact, more concerning perhaps is that I fear I may contaminate my thoughts by re-exposing them to the deceptive guidance of social media under a capitalist ‘democracy’. Gone is that urge to post ideas in a hurry or write to a sale directed audience. Most likely I will eventually submit my writing, if I remember or encounter sincerely concerned parties. One such sincere reader has recently offered to translate Spheres of Perception into Chinese, free of charge, and purely because she thought it had a useful message in it. The silent pleasure of experiencing such sincerity and my own new infant thoughts however is enough for me, and perhaps the ultimate and only reward for the multitude who find escape from all this turmoil in their own writing.
Perhaps it may seem that my self-induced isolation is in defiance of the uncertainty in the untruthful money-hungry and status seeking world we currently live in. The fact is, I possess less and encounter more challenges than I ever experienced before. Yet, I also share more thoughts with pragmatic impact on those around me than I ever did before. Everything I see, hear and read comes with refreshed understanding and new insight. The past now makes more sense and also its value and that of the new experiences and knowledge, where and when it matters untarnished by biases. Is wisdom perhaps closer than ever now?
Take, indeed, a civilized, developed country anywhere in the world you may find yourself today. The vegetation which once covered it have been cleared, the marshes drained, rivers dammed, the climate improved and the population have access to healthcare, large shopping malls, employment and education, they even have a KFC and Starbucks. It has been made ‘habitable’ and ‘secure’. Security itself, particularly with respect to caring better for our environment and basic material needs such as food, water, shelter, healthcare and protection from violence, the essential requirements for freedom, has never been so hard to define and within reach of us all, but is it?
In Kropotkin’s words, “The soil, which bore formerly only a coarse vegetation, is covered to-day with rich harvests. The rock-walls in the valleys are laid out in terraces and covered with vines. The wild plants, which yielded nought but acrid berries, or uneatable roots, have been transformed by generations of culture into succulent vegetables or trees covered with delicious fruits. Thousands of highways and railroads furrow the earth, and pierce the mountains. The shriek of the engine is heard in the wild gorges of the Alps, the Caucasus, and the Himalayas. The rivers have been made navigable; the coasts, carefully surveyed, are easy of access; artificial harbours, laboriously dug out and protected against the fury of the sea, afford shelter to the ships. Deep shafts have been sunk in the rocks; labyrinths of underground galleries have been dug out where coal may be raised or minerals extracted. At the crossings of the highways great cities have sprung up, and within their borders all the treasures of industry, science, and art have been accumulated.”
Excerpt From: kniaz Petr Alekseevich Kropotkin. “The Conquest of Bread.”.
The truth is, health, security, good living, clarity of mind and happiness requires very little and should be a basic human right accessible to all. It also does not have to hurt the environment if we act wisely and are able to interact reliably. It certainly does not need profit searching social media as a guide. What it needs is living experiences, the ability to distinguish between truths and untruths to address the real needs in communities based on trust, releasing the wisdom to care for themselves and the environment they exist in.
And yet we dismally fail in creating communities based on such dependability. The propitious Internet is simply not designated to this task of presenting us with pragmatic truths or developing functional societies. Full of potential to help improve the human condition, it now subtly deprives us of the freedom it promised to open knowledge that can benefit us all equally and be turned into wisdom. Designed to unknowingly lure the innocent to absorb information and make purchases, it concentrates wealth to hidden entities using algorithms purely concerned with selling their products and personal ideas. Most of us are unaware of this artificial redirection of our intelligence when we ‘surf’ the net. What should be more accurately described today as ‘serving’ the net has become the new dictator of how we should live, directing us to the unwise.
Peter Kropotkin again, “….a hundred men manufacture now the stuff to provide ten thousand persons with clothing for two years”
Excerpt From: kniaz Petr Alekseevich Kropotkin. “The Conquest of Bread.”
Today we can add, a few machines and computer software programs are capable of manufacturing enough stuff to clothe, feed and provide housing and transport for all of us for many years to come— fads, property markets, brands and fashion drives aside. And yet again, some of our children walk around in rags deprived of so-called ‘elite’ educations existing on suboptimal diets while a growing number of people worldwide are displaced or homeless. Others in turn have more than they can spend in many lifetimes.
Experiencing the leaning towards natural remedies, simple living and community where I currently am (and previously encountered in other parts of the world), and with my knowledge and in-practice exposure, I can discard the overrated value (and its financial drive) of many of the novel pharmaceutical agents and gadgets on the market today. I have also somewhat changed my overall stance on healthcare. With a healthcare predominantly driven by sales and mind-boggling costs (mostly due to expensive drugs) I am now convinced we should search for alternatives in healthy-social-living to prevent these expensive diseases. These alternatives should focus on how we shape the environment and communities where we live and interact. We should tap on wisdom, personal and local experiences, reliable information and truths to serve and interconnected and pragmatic needs to advance our future communities.
These future communities should be based above all on trust where all resources and new knowledge are fairly shared to constantly improve our world. We must recall here, and as Kropotkin also points out, it took many generations of acquired participation and wisdom with millions dying and living in misery, oppressed and ill-treated by their ‘masters’ until worn out by their toil, to create this immense inheritance of comfort, knowledge and excesses we now have at our disposal. This inherited in a wisdom we should now all be sharing equally. Yet, some benefit greatly from all these inventions and gains while others are still denied the basic rights to the wellbeing this inheritance can offer them. This ‘wealth’ we obtained, now fueled by the hunger of the poor and the constant creation of new ‘needs’ for the middle classes.
Resource sharing, egalitarianism, kindness and communities built on trust with information reliably distributed, will not only reduce the health and crime burdens on governments by cutting the costs of stress, drug dependency and substance abuse in these communities, but it will escalate the overall mental health and ability of the populace. Karl Marx claimed, ‘Property is theft’, after years of rejection and taking quiet pride in my own few ‘wise’ investments in property, I finally understand what he meant. Not only is (especially investment property) stealing from those currently in need but it places an increased burden on all of us. It also is in disregard of all those souls whose toil and suffering brought us where we are today. It does so by constantly creating market increases in a canard of the unwise. Afterall all, we only need one home that belongs to us, and not the mortgage lender, to feel secure. There is perhaps nothing as pitiful as a landlord raking in profits from struggling workers while sitting around doing nothing except catering for personal excesses, all too often encountered in our larger cities with their unaffordable properties. Certainly, also no evolution will be naïve enough to tussle through eons to advance and deliver perceptive lifeforms to survive with a progressive epistemology, giving them the ability to create wellbeing for all, simply to let it be scavenged off and cater for the excesses of an elect few, and then for a few fleeting moments of their lives. Such injudiciousness is clearly in total disregard of the suffering of present and past. It callously and continuously harvests cheap labor from a growing number of desperate unemployed ‘slaves’—slaves now to the cost of living and housing. Yet again, we accommodate, even encourage, such an apathetic hierarchy under the rogue capitalist system we have created and unwittingly bow down to. For most of us today when we talk about security we have only financial security in mind. It is very easy to see how focusing on the maximisation of profit and excesses gets things horribly wrong in attempts to talk about morality, truth and reliability, or when comparing the so called ‘elite’ beneficiaries of the current system to those marginalised by it.
The impoverished Brazilian writer Carolina Maria de Jesus in the 60’s perhaps described this ongoing subservience to the stupidity of the financial markets best. In a few simple words she wrote —'hunger made her unfree’. And today the capital markets system makes us all unfree by constantly creating new shortages and hungers in a world of surplus. A dissonant world where the price of food, housing and healthcare now prevent many from realizing their own desires.
Most of our current emerging mental and physical health issues, such as anxiety, depression, obesity, high blood pressure allergies and cancers can also be indirectly linked to the increased spreading of lies and misinformation, bad housing, noxious environments and poor food quality or false aspirations. It can in turn be prevented by creating interactive communities where resources are reliably shared, and information is trustworthy — and not driven by the profit hungry. These new sources of information should not be directed by greedy Internet search engines, corrupt politicians or large corporations backed by giant advertising campaigns— with their sole aim to promote themselves, their products and personal world views. It should be based on a model where information systems can interact, connect and distribute applicable and reliable information to improve local communities—to benefit all its members fairly and equally. This directive based on real needs and concerns will not only realistically help in the fight against poverty, emerging diseases, unemployment and crime but be motivated to self-sufficiency through expanding pragmatic knowledge to small independent yet reliably interconnected communities. If global security cannot be found by generating large amounts of profits through the creation of mega-corporations (with enough evidence that it can’t), it can only be found in a new form of global trust. I have proposed such a model in Spheres of Perception (2020).
If we dissect ourselves very objectively, based on current day scientific knowledge, we have to stand naked as no more than a transgenerational, delicately finetuned, passage of information. This passage of shared and obtainable wisdom, using DNA as an adaptable mechanism to interconnect and communicate progressive knowledge. Such a DNA, responding to changing demands in rapidly evolving environments, make responses possible by altering a few basic chemical elements. A few chemical rearrangements, so science tells us, is also what makes up all life on Earth. These DNA helixes conducting a few protein structures, are not only sensitive and interactive but ‘aware’ of changes around it— be it on sub-atomic level or complex societies. It also comes with a transgenerational memory and moral duty—all based on communicating truths and reliable information. It gives us the ability to create order out of disorder and think about our actions and pursuits here. Whether or not there is a higher purpose or drive to this transmogrification, is not our interest here, perhaps it is not part of our present design to be able to access such insights. However, what we can realistically claim based on our current knowledge and understanding, is that life is driven to escalating complexity, increased awareness and coexistence.
If I made only one impression here, I hope it is the following: our experiences and how we interconnect and nurture them will affect our DNA and help to grow our understanding in our search of pragmatic truths and reliable information. Ultimately this will determine what we are, our morality and how healthy us and our future generations will be. A workable evolution in a pliable and adaptable DNA simply can’t tolerate untruths and lies.
What you eat, drink, breathe and all your different emotions and interactions with the people around you are real events that shape you. These basic actions can either help create or prevent toxic environments, more lies and suffering from developing and spreading further; a process that will have a significant impact on your own quality of life and impact on all of us and our future wellbeing. We know how Cobvid-19 has impacted on this dissemination of information and knowledge, depending or where and who you are.
If you really care for and nurture your DNA and how it interacts with your surroundings and have an impact on others, and realize how it could affect that of our future generations, try and establish yourself in a healthy environment with dependable communities where information is reliable and justly shared. In a few simple steps you can avoid those ‘patch-up modern drug treatments’, bad environments and toxic search engines leading you to the so called ‘natural remedies’, good investments and false utopias as alternatives.
Based on very simple advice then we can live healthy, happy and productive lives.
This is possibly the most abbreviated no-strings attached health advice I have ever unraveled and cannot sell. It will without a doubt also be rejected and clash with those already addicted to the capitalist’s dream of sales or their own wisdoms in novelty searches and ideas on the Internet:
· Breath fresh air deeply, freely and often— promote your local officials to keep the air quality clean.
· Drink fresh water and again place pressure on local authorities to ensure fresh clean water is a basic human right and need accessible to all.
· Eat simple fresh vegetarian based meals, organic and locally harvested wherever you are, avoid eating meat. Put pressure on producers and authorities to supply local markets before they cater for lucrative export markets.
· Try and establish yourself and your skills in communities where it is really wanted and needed, even for little or no immediate financial returns.
· Avoid getting bank loans or using credit cards, or in current times taking a second mortgage on your family home (if you have one).
· Avoid the following:
- Stress wherever you can, give up high paying stressful jobs and relationships for less stressful work, surround yourself with people that relax you. Consider charity and community work in something you are passionate about — help the poor or save our much-neglected environment.
- Avoid social media, advertisements, politics and watching much TV. Surf wisely and do not serve. Enjoy a good movie once in a while and read all that inspires you to the above!
- The obvious, drugs and alcohol.
- Prescription medicines and natural remedies —take only when there are no alternatives to a cure and after a carefully confirmed ailment by a knowledgeable and wise clinician. Remember anything novel (pharmaceuticals) or in excess will cause subtle changes in your DNA and affect your health in the long run. Avoid medicines that treat the symptoms and not the disease.
· Be kind
· Love those around you
· Trust, this is easy if you are lucky enough to be in a dependable community where information is reliably shared—if not, change your community.
· Live by doing something that will help others, forget about showing a profit.
· Don’t invest in shares markets or read investment news—it isolates wealth and turns your toil into ‘lazy capital’ for the already rich.
· Support socialism and the truth.
Kropotkin’s insight again, “Truly, we are rich—far richer than we think; rich in what we already possess, richer still in the possibilities of production of our actual mechanical outfit; richest of all in what we might win from our soil, from our manufactures, from our science, from our technical knowledge, were they but applied to bringing about the well-being of all.”…
“If every peasant-farmer had a piece of land, free from rent and taxes, if he had in addition the tools and the stock necessary for farm labour—Who would plough the lands of the baron? Everyone would look after his own. But there are thousands of destitute persons ruined by wars, or drought, or pestilence and need.”
To reiterate, be very careful of the new ‘hunger’ and poverty that untruths stimulate and the readjustments of narrow newly laid laws, constantly needed to protect such falsities. Such fabrications mostly subsidized by the large corporations, their puppet-politicians and a drive to accumulate and funnel wealth.
This ideal of ‘idle wealth’ is certainly also not one pursued by the keen to work, honest and insightful— their essential interest to provide for themselves and their families, establish themselves and improve their communities. Similarly, the idea of anarchism (rule based on pragmatic community needs and reliable information) or expropriation will not lure the profiteers of volatile markets, landlords with multiple properties or vulturous investors with the principle aim to maximize profits, flaunt their wealth and promote personalized world views. Should these individuals perhaps be driven mostly by their own fear and a need for security in an uncertain world (not greed alone), it also works against them by creating a volatile divide where disparity and need will eventually be forced to disregard novelty laws and fail to protect them.
Turning to our evolutionary roots then and stripped bare to our DNA, all we can depend on with some element of certainty is that our ongoing search for truths and progressive ability to discern these inner qualities and subtle relationships between objects representing these truths, is still in its infancy. It will only be when maturity is achieved in this ability to value, search and perceive new truths that we can gain progressive knowledge and enough understandings to distinguish between what is right and wrong and also progress morally. Truth and reliable information, giving us then the ongoing wisdom and progressive knowledge that we can translate into what is recognised as good judgment to help each other in this evolutionary process giving us all this awareness we call life.