• Making course corrections

    by  • August 19, 2008 • Personal • 1 Comment

    Deep reexamination of my field of projects, figuring out what stays and what goes, what prospers and what should be killed.

    I’m feeling very close to the end of this round of work on household infrastructure and called back towards the state level infrastructure stuff – State In A Box, not just the Identity Services Architecture but things like the property rights registers which govern the perimeter of the state, and (of course) the geolibertarian / georgist stuff which has caught my eye for some time.

    I mean… conceptually, the tech is done. It needs a few years to mature and a few more to productize, but it’s just not that hard. We’re really waiting for the network and for e-banking in the developing world so people can actually pay us for stuff. If there was banking infrastructure there would be product, and banking infrastructure is coming fast.

    Is it time to go back to working more on consciousness? On teaching people how to remove the ignorance which makes them uncaring about their fellow beings? I don’t know. I alternate between thinking that it’s important that people study, and knowing that at a fundamental level, anybody can awaken to any degree if they choose – the deep part of us which knows is sleepless and deathless.

    The other possibility is that I write the book. I’m not sure that political conditions in America are bad enough for it to be meaningful to write a book about the post-American reality – even if my sense of the situation is correct, until it’s actually fully visible, who wants to read a book about how the cold war has retarded some areas of global political progress by nearly 60 years, and what to do about it, while the situation has not changed?

    I guess that’s my major issue right now, actually. I’m going to miss America really, really badly, but the America that I loved, that I considered my country at the most fundamental political level, is already dead. Land of the free, home of the brave, if you are to be found, you are to be found abroad.

    I am a Hindu. I am against any belief in hell in any form, particularly eternal hells, or hells to which one is consigned at birth and which require external salvation. I see the black-and-white, hell-centered forms of Christianity turning the beautiful religious balance and freedom of the old America into a theocratic state in which one must profess belief in the more extreme forms of Christianity to enter the White House. And a white house which you must swear religious fealty to enter might as well be a Vatican. The separation of Church and State was the crown jewel of American liberty. And, as a Hindu who was once an American, it hits me hard. In a Christian theocratic state, I will always be a second class citizen, a poor benighted darkie who’s going straight to hell when Jesus comes home.

    To have that kind of thinking enshrined in government… I’m better out, frankly. I’d cause trouble if I was in.

    Imagine the 14th century Vatican with nuclear weapons.

    As an individual there is little I can do to change the world. I’ve found a lot of leverage in working on open source appropriate technology, and in using my peculiar knack for dealing with apocalyptic scenarios to get government to pay attention to the potential of simple solutions to complex contingencies. The idea that horrific political bottlenecks sometimes have technical solutions hasn’t gotten as much traction as I wish it had, but it’s hard to grasp from the inside.

    But now my instinct is to batten down the hatches. If the shit really hits the fan in America, and it looks more likely day-by-day, I don’t think anybody is going to be investing massive resources in overhauling US govt. approaches to refugee issues, and even groups like the Red Cross will grow much more conservative. I’ve got some ideas about software for representing complex ideas coming along nicely (Processing, thou art a wonder) but even then, in a dollar == twenty cents scenario, new ideas find few friends.

    The other option is to teach. Specifically, to teach the traditional practices in westernized forms, to help people tap their inner resilience to face what looks like a very significant upcoming crisis, and maybe even to find their own potential greatness, to squarely face the situation at hand, and do what needs to be done.

    The place of greatest stress in times of extreme change is the mind. While it’s unlikely there will be mass starvation in a collapsed global economy, at least in the west, the relative peace and plenty of the past forty years are poor preparation for a generation that may be called to rebuild the world. People are going to need help, and that work is going to need to be done right alongside all other efforts because people who are paralyzed by change can’t do anything, not infrastructure, not policy, not politics.

    So maybe that’s the key to the next phase of the work: teach people how to keep their minds clear and their heads above water in the stormy seas of the uncertain future. To teach resilience, from first principles.

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    Vinay Gupta is a consultant on disaster relief and risk management.


    One Response to Making course corrections

    1. August 26, 2008 at 12:07 am

      Hi, Vinay,

      Thanks for your post. I’ve been thinking along similar lines as I watch the collapse from the inside (via the silver price and latest episode of the federal bailout bonanza).

      For me, it has become overwhelmingly clear that the question is not at all a matter of doing, but in the tradition of Gurdjieff, a matter of being. No one will listen to me if I lack substance with regards to what I might say. Likewise, if I possess enough substance to actually *be*, likely I will have to beat them off with a stick.

      So structurally, the issue is exactly what all spiritual traditions say it is: God first, the Self first. Yogananda: “Everything else can wait. Your search for God cannot wait.” Yeshua: “Seek ye first the
      Kingdom of God and His Righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” The more radical version, of course, is that there is nothing BUT God. All else is an illusion.

      This, of course, does not imply monkhood, but merely provides a context for practice. As I stood on the roadside yesterday with my thumb out, I thought about what I was really doing. Was I hitchhiking? Well, yeah. But only as an exercise. It was only incidental to my main activity: meditation–maintaining attention on the Self–as well as prayer for the occupants of every car that passed me.

      Whatever “exercise” you end up engaging, Vinay, may Universe continue to support your every movement. I’ve found it a pretty good show so far. Maybe we’ll meet on the other side of this mess someday.


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