Saturday, January 30, 2016


Hillary Clinton’s Paid Speeches to Wall Street Animate Her Opponents

From the New York Times
 
                 
Hillary Clinton at a campaign event in Burlington, Iowa, on Wednesday. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times                 

Nine months after leaving the Obama administration, Hillary Clinton sat on a stage under the life-size model of a blue whale that hangs in the American Museum of Natural History.
 

For a fee of $275,000, she had agreed to appear before the clients of GoldenTree Asset Management, the capstone of a lucrative speechmaking sprint through Wall Street that earned her more than $2 million in less than seven months.
 
Mrs. Clinton said the Dodd-Frank rules, while unpopular among some on Wall Street, were a necessary response to the financial crisis, according to one person who attended, while making clear she viewed Wall Street as a partner in securing the country’s economic future, not an enemy. We have to win together, she said, not divide ourselves.

The attacks have become one of Mr. Sanders’s biggest applause lines in Iowa, where the median household earns about $52,229 a year. And Republican strategists are testing how to turn Mrs. Clinton’s speaking fees against her in an election defined by rising economic inequality and stagnant middle-class wages. Even some of her supporters are questioning the wisdom of accepting the fees when she knew she might run for the presidency again.
 
Mrs. Clinton has sought to parry Mr. Sanders by highlighting her support for tighter regulation and comparing herself to President Obama, who took millions of dollars in campaign contributions from Wall Street but went on to enact some of the furthest-reaching financial regulations in decades.
But the new attacks strike at what even some allies believe may be one of Mrs. Clinton’s biggest vulnerabilities: not her positions on financial regulation, but her personal relationships with Wall Street executives, along with the millions of dollars Mrs. Clinton, her husband, and their family foundation have accepted in speaking fees or charitable contributions from banks, hedge funds and asset managers. Unlike Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama has never earned speaking fees from Wall Street.
“The reason that Bernie is focusing on the speaking fees is that Hillary can’t use the Obama defense,” said Ed Rendell, a former Pennsylvania governor, who has supported Mrs. Clinton.
 
In retrospect, Mr. Rendell conceded, Mrs. Clinton would have been better off giving fewer such speeches.
 
“Although they needed money, I think that Bill was raking in enough that Hillary didn’t have to do it,” Mr. Rendell said. “To people who earn $200,000 in seven years, it looks ridiculous.”
Photo

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont in Pottawattamie County, Iowa, on Wednesday. He has raised Hillary Clinton’s speaking fees and ties to Wall Street as issues in the Democratic primary race. Credit Max Whittaker for The New York Times

Together, Mrs. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have earned in excess of $125 million in speech income since leaving the White House in 2001, one-fifth of it in the last two years.
Mrs. Clinton’s own speechmaking was a veritable tour through high finance. She gave paid speeches at GTCR, the Chicago private equity firm that the Republican governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, helped found; Deutsche Bank, the German financial services conglomerate; and the investment bank Morgan Stanley, among other companies.
 
Goldman Sachs alone paid Mrs. Clinton $675,000 for three speeches in three different states, a fact Mr. Sanders has highlighted repeatedly.
 
Goldman Sachs also provides very, very generous speaking fees to some unnamed candidates,” he told voters at a winery in Carroll, Iowa, on Tuesday.
 
In highlighting Mrs. Clinton’s ties to Wall Street, Mr. Sanders is tapping into suspicion that remains potent in both parties years after the last Occupy Wall Street tents disappeared from Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan. Donald J. Trump, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, has mocked hedge fund managers as “guys that shift paper around” and “get lucky.” Other Republicans have likewise sought to tap into popular discontent with Wall Street, blaming the Dodd-Frank legislation for letting “the big banks get bigger and bigger and bigger,” as Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, another Republican presidential candidate, put it last fall.
 
Sensitive to the sour public mood, Mrs. Clinton has layered her own speeches with calls to reduce income inequality and overhaul the country’s “rigged” economic system. In what was billed as a major economic speech before a Wall Street audience in July, Mrs. Clinton called for expanding Dodd-Frank and denounced fraud in the financial sector.
 
Dennis M. Kelleher, the president of Better Markets, a financial industry watchdog group, said Mr. Sanders appeared intent on opening a new front on the issue of financial regulation.
 
“He’s got a plan, and she put out a plan. Your eyes glaze over,” said Mr. Kelleher. With his attacks on Mrs. Clinton’s speaking fees, Mr. Kelleher said, Mr. Sanders was trying to “get out of the fight over whose plan is better.”
 
Mr. Sanders’s line of attack is now being bolstered by an unlikely ally: American Crossroads, the conservative “super PAC” advised by the prominent Republican strategist Karl Rove. In recent days, the group has run digital advertisements in Iowa questioning Mrs. Clinton’s Wall Street ties — even though several hedge fund billionaires are among the top donors to Crossroads.
 
“Wall Street made her a multimillionaire,” the ad, titled “Hillary’s Bull Market,” asserts. “Does Iowa really want Wall Street in the White House?”
 
On Wednesday, the group escalated its attacks, targeting Mrs. Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea Clinton, who in her 20s worked for a New York-based hedge fund run by a Clinton friend and campaign donor, Marc Lasry.

"I'm an Angry Old White Guy. Here's Why."
By:Gara LaMarchePresident of the Democracy Alliance 
From Huffpost Politics
 
 

ASSOCIATED PRESS
 
 
 
I keep reading that people like me -- older white guys -- are angry about what is happening to their country. In recent years, their grievances have been voiced by Rush Limbaugh, Lou Dobbs, Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck. Then they found an outlet in the Tea Party. Now they are filling the seats at Donald Trump rallies and perhaps propelling him toward what seemed unthinkable, the Republican presidential nomination.

Trump explained his own anger this way in the last Republican debate he took part in:

I'm very angry because our country is being run horribly and I will gladly accept the mantle of anger. Our military is a disaster. Our health care is a horror show. Obamacare, we're going to repeal it and replace it. We have no borders. Our vets are being treated horribly. Illegal immigration is beyond belief. Our country is being run by incompetent people.

Hey, Donald! I'm angry, too. But the sources of my anger are quite different than yours. Let me explain.

I was born in 1954, just a few months after the Supreme Court, in Brown v. Board of Education, dealt the biggest blow to white supremacy since the beginning of the republic, when a bunch of property-owning white men -- to whom the franchise was restricted at the time -- drafted a constitution in which Black slaves were considered three-fifths of a human being.

When I was in grade school, Betty Friedan wrote The Feminist Manifesto, and the pill liberated women to begin the long and still-incomplete march to full participation in the workplace and in political life. A vibrant and courageous civil rights movement brought about the landmark civil rights acts of the mid-1960s, which also saw the establishment of Medicare and the end of racist immigration quotas. 
 
When I was in high school, the Environmental Protection Agency was established, and the Stonewall uprising marked the dawn of the modern gay rights movement whose arc, yet unfinished, led to last year's glorious Supreme Court decision making marriage equality the law of the land.
When I was in college, the Roe v. Wade decision ended back-alley abortions and affirmed the right of women to control their own bodies and therefore their full personhood.

I'm angry not because all these things happened. I'm angry because they are in jeopardy from the likes of Donald Trump and his fellow Republican presidential candidates. They rail about "political correctness" to justify bigotry and cruelty, when in fact the most vigorous enforcer of political correctness is the far right "base" of the Republican Party and its amen corner in the media. Thanks to them, no candidate may dare buck the NRA's absolutist -- and murderous -- stance against any sensible gun regulation. No candidate may acknowledge the reality of climate change and what is needed to save the planet, or the humanity of immigrants and refugees who deserve a medal for enduring untold hardships to make it to this country -- where they are a vital part of its economy and its very fabric -- not the scorn and abuse that has been heaped upon them.

I'm angry because I'm sick and tired of the lies we have been told. That raiding the Treasury for huge tax cuts for the rich will trickle down to working people, when in fact the gulf between the superrich and everyone else has grown to unsustainable dimensions which threaten the very social compact. That waging a war of choice in Iraq would usher in a democratic resurgence and make us safe, when it has left the Middle East in lethal turmoil, cost the lives of many thousands of young soldiers, maimed many multiples more, and sapped the country's capacity to attend to the urgent needs here at home, like roads and bridges and schools. When my grandson's pre-K teacher tells us that she has to spend hundreds of dollars from her own pocket for school supplies, it makes my blood boil.
I'm angry because the first African American president, elected to do something about the wretched mess he inherited, with a financial system on the brink of collapse and a soaring unemployment rate -- and who has done something about it -- has been opposed and vilified at every turn, from a right-wing which questions his very legitimacy (down to the facts of his biography) and whose most passionate cause is to strip away health security from millions who now have it, thanks to this President, for the first time in their lives.

I'm angry because Black Lives Matter is so necessary, given the epidemic of police murders of Black and Brown people trying to go about their lives. The law, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, may not be able to make a man love me, but it can stop him from killing me. But when it is the law that is killing you, we have come very far from King's hopeful promise.

I understand that many white men -- and women and people of color as well -- who have been left out of this economy, who can't make ends meet, who feel that the American dream is not working for them, are very angry about this, and justifiably so. But I cannot countenance the misdirection of their anger, and the ugly bigotry that has been stoked by opportunistic politicians like Donald Trump. Their anger should be focused on the greedy and lawless and their enablers in politics, not on those who, like themselves, are casualties of a political and economic system that operates for the benefit of a privileged few, not for all of us.

My grandson will grow up in a country in which most people don't look like him, in which people of color and women will be the overwhelming majority. If work hard to restore the momentum toward a just and inclusive society that filled my younger years with optimism and hope about the future, this new majority will take its rightful place in the leadership of our key institutions, from boardrooms to capitols. There will be room for him, too, if we turn this country's priorities around. But he will make his way without benefit of the rigged rules that men of my generation grew up with, where women and minorities were largely excluded from the game. When everyone is included, everyone benefits. That's why I'm channeling my anger into pushing for policies and the candidates who will back them, that make our democracy and our economy work for all people.

Gara LaMarche is President of The Democracy Alliance.




Current films - CONCUSSION

If you  haven't seen Concussion, make it a point to do so.
If you're a football fan, and haven't seen it, do.
The public and the players need to know the risks.



Saturday, June 1, 2013

Renowned Doctor Gabor Mate on Psychedelics and Unlocking the Unconscious, From Cancer to Addiction
 
AlterNet / By Gabor Mate
      

Drug addiction expert speaks on the mind-body connection and the medical and emotional potentials of psychedelics.

Photo Credit: By Gabor Gastonyi (Clare Day) [CC-BY-SA-3.0


(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
 
 
 
 
Gabor Mate, M.D., says the "unconscious mind" can cause medical afflictions like cancer, addiction and trauma. In his speech at the MAPS conference, Mate rejects the assumption that the human mind and body are separate entities, and points to an inherant connection between
psychological/environmental experiences and medical afflictions. He contends that the war on drugs is actually a war on drug addicts, and speaks to the addiction cessation potential of psychedelic substances. He also discusses the potential ability of psychedelic substances, particularly ayahuasca, to reverse medical issues like cancer and addiction when coupled with therapy.The following is the transcript of Dr. Gabor Mate's speech, "Psychedelics and Unlocking the Unconscious; From Cancer to Addiction," which he delivered at the MAPS conference in Oakland Calif., on April 20, 2013.
 
 
My subject is the use of ayahuasca in the healing of all manner of medical conditions, from cancer to addiction. And you might say what can possibly a plant do to heal such dire and life-threatening medical problems? Well, of course, that all depends on the perspective through which we understand these problems.

Now, the medical perspective, the allopathic Western medical perspective in which I was trained is that, fundamentally, diseases are abnormalities that occur either due to external causes such as a bacterium or a toxin, or they’re accidental or due to bad luck, or their due to genetics. So, the causes are outside of the usual internal experience—the emotional and psychological and spiritual life—of the individual. These are biological events, so the medical assumption goes, and the causes are to be understood and the treatments are to be administered purely in a biological fashion.

Underlying that set of assumptions are two other assumptions. One is that you can separate the human body from the human mind, so what happens to us emotionally and psychologically has no significant impact on our health. Number two: that the individual is to be separated from the environment. So, what happens to me if I get cancer? That is just my poor personal, pure personal, misfortune, or maybe because I did the wrong things like smoked cigarettes. But, that my cancer might have something to do with the lifelong interaction which I’ve engaged in with my environment—particularly the psychological social environment—that doesn’t enter into the picture.
But what if we had a different perspective?

What if we actually got that human beings are bio-psycho-social creatures by nature, and actually bio-psycho-spiritual creatures by nature—which is to say that our biology is inseparable from our psychological emotional and spiritual existence—and therefore what manifests in the body is not some isolated and unique event or misfortune, but a manifestation of what my life has been in interaction with my psychological and social and spiritual environment?

Well, if we had that kind of understanding then we would approach illness and health in a completely different fashion.

What if, furthermore, we understood something in the West which has been the underlying core insight of Eastern spiritual pathways and aboriginal shamanic pathways around the world, which is that human beings are not their personalities, we’re not our thoughts, we’re not our emotions, we are not our dysfunctional or functional dynamics, but that at the core there is a true self that is somehow connected to—in fact not connected to but part of—nature and creation.

An illness from that perspective represents a loss of that connection, a loss of that unity, a loss of that belonging to a much larger entity. And therefore, to treat the illness or the symptom as the problem is actually to ignore the real possibility that the symptom and the illness are themselves symptoms, rather than the fundamental problems.

It’s in that perspective then, that I’ve come to understand, quite before my acquaintance with ayahuasca, but that's how I’ve come to understand human illness and dysfunction. Which is to say that illness and dysfunction represent the products or the consequences of a lifelong interaction with our environment, particularly our psychological and social environment, and that they represent a deep disconnection from our true selves.

I mention particularly cancer and addiction, but those are only two examples. Allow me to read you something from an article that appeared in last February’s edition of Pediatrics, which is the major pediatric journal in North America, and this is an article from the Harvard Center on the Developing Child, and it’s called “An Integrated Scientific Framework for Child Development." Here’s what they say:
Growing scientific evidence also demonstrates that social and physical environments that threaten human development because of scarcity, stress, or instability can lead to short term physiologic and psychological adjustments that may come at a significant cost to long-term outcomes in learning, behavior health and longevity.
In other words, that the emotional and behavioral patterns that as young children we adopt in order to survive stressors in our environment allow us to deal with the immediate problem, but in the long term they become prisons. They become sources of dysfunction, illness and even death, if we’re not able to let go of them.

So, in other words, what was a short-term state, or meant to be a short-term state, in a helpful way, when it becomes a long-term state, when it goes from state to a trait, now it becomes a problem.
Let me give you a few obvious examples of that. I myself have been diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactive disorder, a characteristic of which is tuning out, absentmindedness. Now, ADD in North America is seen as a disease, and we see many kids that have been diagnosed with it. Now we have 3 million kids in this country who are on stimulant medications for it. The rates are going up and up and up.

According to the New York Times last week, 20 percent of American boys at one time or another have been diagnosed with it and 10 percent are, at any one time are on medication. Three million at least are on stimulants right now. It’s seen as a genetic disease. It isn’t at all. What the tuning out represents, as we all know, is actually a coping mechanism. Our brains tune out when the stress becomes overwhelming, too much to bear. And at that point the tuning out is a survival dynamic.
The real question is: why are so many kids tuning out? What’s happening in their lives? What of course is going on is that the stress in this society, and the stress in the pending environment are greatly increasing. So, the child’s brain is actually affected by the stresses in the environment.
And here’s further, from the same Harvard article, they talk about brain development and how the human brain actually develops, and here’s what they say about that:
The architecture of the brain is constructed through an ongoing process that begins before birth, continues into adulthood, and establishes either a sturdy or fragile foundation for all the health, learning and behavior that follow.
So, in other words, the architecture of the brain is actually constructed by the interaction with the environment. And they continue:

The interaction of genes and experiences literally shapes the circuitry of the developing brain and is critically influenced by the mutual responsiveness of adult-child relationships, particularly in the early childhood years.
Well, I can’t make this into a lecture on brain development; the point is that which circuits in the brain develop, and which patterns are engrained, has everything to do with the environment, particularly the mutual responsiveness of adult-child relationships. And therefore whatever interferes with that mutual responsiveness will actually interfere with the brain development of the child, including the neurochemistry of the child’s brain as well as the psychological emotional patterns.


Cancer
So then, if you look at cancer and addiction as two adaptations to stress, what do we find? Well, prior to my work with addictions, which is my most recent work —and I did that for 12 years— I worked for seven years as the medical coordinator of the palliative care unit at Vancouver hospital working with terminally ill people. And both in family practice and palliative care I had ample opportunity to see who gets sick and who doesn't get sick. I noticed the people that got ill with chronic conditions invariably followed certain emotional dynamics that were ingrained in them so much so that these were unconscious and compulsive and for that reason all the more difficult to let go of. And, so who got cancer and who didn’t was no accident, nor was it for the most part genetically determined.

And, I’ve collected a few clippings from the Global Mailnewsletterwhich is Canada’s newspaper of record, or at least it thinks it is—and these clippings illustrate the patterns that I found in people who get sick.

And I’m saying all this because in talking about my work with ayahuasca and the potential healing that ayahuasca can induce in people, we have to understand what is being healed here. What is the underlying basis of these conditions?

So, these newspaper clippings, then, illustrate something about what I have found in people who get sick chronically. And when I say chronic illness I mean cancer, I mean diabetes, rheumatic arthritis, multiple sclerosis, ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease, chronic asthma, psoriasis, eczema, almost any chronic illness you care to name.

The first of these clippings is written by a woman who is herself diagnosed with breast cancer. She goes to her doctor, Harold, and you have to know that her husband’s name is [Hye], and [Hye]’s first wife died of breast cancer, and not Donna, the second wife, who’s diagnosed with the same condition. So she writes:

“Harold tells me that the lump is small, and most assuredly not in my lymph nodes, unlike that of [Hye]’s first wife whose cancer spread everywhere by the time they found it. You’re not going to die, he reassures me. ‘But I’m worried about [Hye],’ I say, ‘I won’t have the strength to support him.’”
What you notice is she’s the one diagnoses with the potentially fatal condition and her automatic compulsive thought is, “While I’m getting radiation and chemotherapy, how will I support my husband emotionally?” So, this automatic regard for the emotional needs of others, while ignoring your own, is a major risk factor for chronic illness.

These others are obituaries and obituaries are fascinating to me because they tell us not only about the people who died but also about what we as a society value in one another. And often what we value in one another is precisely what kills us. And the expression “the good die young” is not a mis-statement. Often the good do die young because “good” often represents compulsive self-suppression of their own needs.

So here’s a man, a physician, who dies at age 55 of cancer, and the obituary says:
Never for a day did he contemplate giving up the work he so loved at Toronto Sick Children’s Hospital. He carried on his duties throughout his year-long battle with cancer, stopping only a few days before he died.
So if you had a friend who was diagnosed with the same condition, would you say to him or her, “Hey buddy, here’s what you do: You got cancer, go back to work tomorrow, and not for a moment consider your life, and the meaning of your life, and the stresses that you’re generating. Just continue working while you’re undergoing chemo, radiation or surgery,”?

So this automatic identification with duty, role, and responsibility rather than the needs of the self is a major risk factor for chronic illness.

The next one— [applause] thank you, but if you’re going to applaud every time I say something smart, you’ll be applauding the whole afternoon. The next one, the next obituary, is about a woman who dies at age 55 of cancer.  Her name is Naomi. And this obituary is written by the appreciative husband:
In her entire life she never got into a fight with anyone. The worst she could say was "phooey" or something else along those lines. She had no ego, she just blended in with the environment in an unassuming manner
Now, I’m sure that many of you who are in relationships, sometimes you wish that your partner would blend into the environment in an unassuming manner, but the point is that the suppression of healthy anger that this woman engaged in all of her life actually suppresses the immune system. And I’m not going to go into the details of that, but the science of psychoneuroimmunology has amply shown that you can’t separate the mind from the body and when you’re repressing yourself emotionally you’re actually diminishing the activity of your immune system and therefore you're less capable of responding to malignancy or to invasion by bacteria.

And again this idea that external things cause illness—take a condition like, uh, the flesh-eating disease, Necrotizing fasciitis is the medical term. And we think we know the cause, the cause is a bacterium, the strep bacterium. It isn’t. Because if we did swabs on the people in this audience, we did swabs of the throat or the crevices of the body, we’d identify the strep bacteria in probably 25, 30 percent of the people here. But there’s nobody here with necrotizing fasciitis, nobody here with flesh-eating disease.

In other words, the presence of the bacterium does not explain the disease. What happens is that the self-suppressive patterns in somebody’s life at some point will suppress the immune system, and that bacterium that has been living on your body in perfect unity with your immune system all of a sudden becomes a deadly enemy. It’s not just a bacterium, but the self-suppression that suppresses the immune system that actually causes the illness.

And I’ll leave you with one more obituary, and this is almost too incredible to believe except it is directly from the same newspaper. This is a physician who died of cancer:
Sydney and his mother had an incredibly special relationship, a bond that was apparent in all aspects of their lives until her death. As a married man with young children, Sydney made a point to have dinner with his parents every day as his wife Roslyn and their four young kids waited for him at home. Sydney would walk in greeted by yet another dinner to eat and to enjoy. Never wanting to disappoint either woman in his life, Sydney kept eating two dinners for years, until gradual weight gain began to raise suspicions.
Now, what this man believed, what he actually believed—and notice that there are core beliefs underneath all of this. The first one believes that she’s responsible for her husband’s feelings more than she is for herself. The second guy believes that he is nothing other than his responsibilities and duties and role in the world. There’s no true self there he can actually be with and be touched with. Naomi, the woman, believes, "If I am angry, I am a bad person.” And this man believes that he’s responsible for how other people feel and that he must never disappoint anybody.

Now, these beliefs don’t come out of nowhere. They’re actually coping mechanisms in a certain parenting environment. If the parents can’t handle your anger, if they can’t handle your emotions, if they’re too needy to trouble themselves then the child starts taking responsibility for the parent as a way of maintaining the relationship. In other words, the psychological coping mechanisms of the child then become part of his or her personality, and these same patterns that helped to cope with the original stress now become the major contributors to his or her illness and possibly death. What we’re talking about here are core beliefs that reflect the child’s early experience, that become ingrained into the brain and body as automatic and compulsive responses to the world. That’s my take on chronic illness.

And you begin to see now how some experiences could enlighten you that you are not those patterns, and if it can give you a sense that these patterns are simply adaptations, and that there’s a true self underneath that, and if they can put you in touch with the experiences that led you to adopt these patterns, then perhaps you can be liberated; then, perhaps you can let go; then, perhaps you can find the true self that doesn’t have to behave in those ways anymore. That’s where the liberation is. So, that’s with chronic illness.


Addiction
Now addiction. For 12 years I worked in what’s known as North America’s most concentrated area of drug use, the downtown eastside of Vancouver, where in a few square block radius thousands of people are ingesting, inhaling, or injecting all manner of substances.

And the question again is why do people do that? Why do people do such terrible thing to themselves to the point of risking their health? They lose everything, they lose their wealth, their relationships, their families, their homes, their teeth, their dignity—and they still continue with it.

The North American answer to that question is twofold. The legal answer, the socially sanctioned answer, is that these people are making a choice, they’re making a bad choice, destructive to themselves and harmful to others and the way to deter that choice is to deter them by means of draconian punishments.

The so-called war on drugs.  But there is no war on drugs because you can’t war on inanimate objects. A war on drug addicts is what there is. And as a result of such retrograde social beliefs and governmental practices, the United States which contains 5 percent of the world’s population contains 25 percent of the world’s jail population, which is to say that every fourth person in the world that is in jail is a citizen of the land of the free. And all because of the belief that we’re talking about a choice here.

The other dominant belief, which is not identical—and you’d think would at least obliterate the first belief but it doesn't—and it’s the one held by most medical doctors, is that addictions represent illness of the brain and particularly on a genetic basis.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine considers that up to 50 percent of the predisposition to addiction is actually caused by genetic inheritance. That is more forward looking in a way than our choice hypothesis, because at least you can’t blame people for the genes they either inherit or pass on to others, but it is no more right than the other hypothesis.

Actually, if you look at it closely and if you understand human brain development which I alluded a little bit earlier in my talk you realize that if five percent of addictions are genetic. That’s not radical to say—and I doubt that anything more than five percent is genetically determined. In fact nothing is genetically determined because we know that even people that inherit genes, and there are some, that are predisposed—not predetermined by predisposed to addiction—some people that inherit genes, in the right environment those genes are never activated. Genes are turned on and off by the environment. Therefore, what is in an environment that causes the addiction?

Of course the belief again then, among the many false beliefs about addiction, is that drugs are addictive. But we know that they're not. Nothing is addictive in itself. I mean, is alcohol addictive? If I asked a question, “How many people have had a glass of wine in your life,” most people would put their hand up. Many of you would put your hand up. But if I asked you, “How many of you have had an alcohol problem,” a much smaller minority would put their hands up.

Now if alcohol was addictive in and of itself then anybody who ever tries it could become an addict. So, the power of an addiction does not reside in a substance. Whether that substance is crystal meth, or heroin, cocaine, cannabis, alcohol, or whether it’s behaviors like sexaholism, internet addiction, gambling, shopping, work and so on, it’s not the actual activity or substance that induces that addiction, it’s that internal relationship to it, the susceptibility. What creates susceptibility? It’s very simple: trauma.


Trauma
The drug addicts I worked with in the downtown eastside Vancouver, every single one of them had been abused as children. In the 12 years I worked there, out of hundreds of women I interviewed in the course of my professional work, there was not one who hadn’t been sexually abused as a child. And that’s not just only my personal opinion; it’s also what the large-scale population studies show. Not even controversial. Not controversial, but completely impenetrable to the medical profession and certainly to governments.

So, the people who are in jail—there’s an American psychiatrist Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, many of you may know his work on stress and trauma, and he says that 100 percent of the inmates of the criminal justice system in this country are actually traumatized children.

Now, trauma induces its own set of beliefs and coping styles. One coping style is to shut down emotionally so as not to feel. Now you become alien to yourself. So you don’t feel the pain, and as one patient of mine said very eloquently, pardon the language, “The reason I do drugs is because I don’t want to feel the fucking feelings I feel when I don’t do the drugs.”

And Keith Richards, the Rolling Stones’ guitarist, in talking about his heroin habit in his book on addiction, sorry, book on his life —same thing—uh, [life], he called it, talking about his heroin habit, “It’s about the search for oblivion,” he says. The contortions we go through just not to be ourselves for a few hours.

Now why would somebody would not wish themselves to be themselves for a few hours? Because they're suffering, and why are they suffering? Because the early trauma, early emotional loss, induces certain beliefs. One belief is that “I'm worthless.” Because children are pure narcissists, and I mean narcissists in the pure sense of the word. In other words, when something happens to a child, particularly a young child, it’s happening because to him, and happening because of him. So bad things happen, it's because I’m a bad person. Good things happen because I’m a good person. But if bad things happen, I’m a bad person. If I’m hurt, I deserve it. I caused it. I’m unworthy.

So there’s deep shame at the core of addictions; there’s also a sense that the world is indifferent and hostile, and of course the child who suffers them is abused—the world was indifferent and hostile as they experienced it. But, as the Buddha said it, "it is with our mind that we create the world." But, what the Buddha didn't say was that before "with our mind we create the world," the world creates our minds. And those minds are then shaped by those early experiences.

So, to the addict, the world is hostile—is indifferent—in which he or she has to manipulate and find some way to soothe themselves because there ain’t no soothing in this world, there’s no healing in this world.

Those are some of the core beliefs at the heart of addiction. And there’s a deep emptiness here, because as the spiritual teacher— and this leads me directly to speak about the ayahuasca experience—as a spiritual teacher here in California said, "The fundamental thing that happened, and the greatest calamity, is there was not any love or support," speaking of childhood.

The greater calamity, which was caused by that first calamity, is that you lost the connection to your essence. That is much more important than whether your mother or father loved you or not.
In other words, the greatest loss we endure is the loss of connection to ourselves, and that’s then when we experience a deep emptiness that we’re so afraid of.

And this culture is all about stuffing full of products, and stuffing full of relationships, and stuffing full of activities, and stuffing full of false meaning. But of course the more we do that, the more addicted we become, because these things can never be truly satiating. So, that emptiness can never be filled from the outside. The way through the emptiness is through the inside—is from the inside. And that’s where the spiritual experiences, and the healing experiences, empowered by ayahuasca come into it.

Now, my book on addiction came out four years ago now, and I never heard about ayahuasca until after it was published. While I was writing it I began to get emails and inquiries from people, "What do you know about ayahuasca and the healing of addiction?” and I would say, "Nothing, I don’t know anything about it."A week later, the same question. And this went on persistently for months.
I finally began to be both irritated, and curious. And then it turned out that there was an opportunity to experience ayahuasca up in Vancouver; a Peruvian shaman was coming up and leading some ceremonies, and I did do a ceremony. And I sat there in the dark with my heart open and a feeling of delicious nurturing warmth, the tears of joy rolling down my face, and I got love. And I also got how many ways in my life I had betrayed love and had turned by back on it, which is a coping pattern, because when you’re as vulnerable and hurt as a child as I was as a Jewish infant under German occupation in Hungary, then you close down to love because it’s too painful to be open to it.

The ayahuasca got rid of my coping mechanisms in a flash, and there I was experiencing something, and I knew then that this is something to work with. And within half a year I was working with people shamanically trained in Peruvian Shipibo tradition, and beginning to lead retreats. We’ve led a number now, and the results are increasingly but uniformly astonishing.

So I’m going to read you some communications sent to me by people that have participated in our ayahuasca retreats and then I'll talk about their experiences and why ayahuasca is so potentially helpful. Although, as the previous speaker said, nobody should ever say that it’s a panacea.
So this is Dr. Stuart Krichevsky, who writes about ayahuasca. ...
Decoctions like ayahuasca, similar to many forms of meditation, has salutogenic potential. Salutogenic meaning health-giving potential i.e. can enhance physical mental and spiritual health by calling into play what is referred to as participating consciousness.
So if you can become conscious of your patterns and your beliefs, these core beliefs, and how you attain these beliefs, then you can let go of them. Rigid feeling, thought, and behavioral patterns can unclench; the self can rearrange itself and develop its inner and outer resources more deeply. So there we get to the concept of a true self and one that can be reconfigured, or at least rediscovered with the help of the psychoactive plants, particularly ayahuasca.

So I’ll read you now what some people have said about their experience at our retreats, and I’ll talk to you more about the retreats and how they function.
“The last two nights have been challenging, but I'm getting good practice. Negative thoughts as they come up, under the effect, I can feel the physical sensation of fear in my gut as the thought arises and returns to a safer place."
In other words, when you have a certain thought, like you have a negative thought pattern—when I say negative, I mean a self defeating, self-deprecating, self invalidating thought pattern—that’s not just the thought up here, that’s immediately a physical impact on the body. You feel it in the gut, you feel it in the heart, if affects your whole nervous system, your cardiovascular system, your immune system, and this person is getting in touch with how their thoughts are influencing your body.
"In the past I’ve made many bad, irresponsible choices with hurtful consequences to myself in others. Despite knowing that right now, I’m presented with new choices I can make from a place of love towards myself and the people in my life. It’s hard to push despair aside. The despair that tells me I will continue to make the same poor choices over and over again.
That’s the core belief showing up again that "there’s something wrong with me." But this person at least is conscious of it.

This is a physician, by the way, who has nearly lost his license because of addictions, and his marriage is falling apart, and he came to the retreat. And he thought he had a perfect childhood, by the way, and I won't even go into the details.
“The other very powerful moment I had involved looking at the sense of being too much for my parents. I know no matter how much love they felt for me, they probably were all alone with their own fears and anxiety. Well yeah, the father had a near-fatal heart attack at age 28. I’ve experienced myself as a child when this child was a one-year old. I’ve experienced myself as too much for the world for a long time. I’ve made a grand effort over the years to prove that true, which is why it cracks my heart open so wide to feel welcomed in the hearts of you and the people here, knowing that my feelings, my hurt, fear, sadness, and need for connection are not too much. I feel that the world can hold me, in fact, always has. And maybe I can learn to hold myself. It’s painful to think that Miles, my son, may feel himself to be too much for me. I desperately don’t want that to happen. Much love and gratitude.”


I won’t read you the other experiences, but they’re all the same sort of people experiencing love, gratitude, connection to themselves, experiencing the childhood trauma.

My daughter did an ayahuasca retreat. She said that she revisited all the sad places in her childhood, and because I was a workaholic, and was very stressed, and a very undeveloped adult when I was a father to my young kids, she’s has plenty of sorrow in her life. And she said that she revisited those sad places but did so with the loving consciousness and empathy and the compassion of an adult, and if you look at the brain scans on ayahuasca ... what you see is activation of the temporal lobe, where childhood memories are stored; of the limbic system where our emotions are modulated and they live, and the front part of the brain where insight is made available to us.

We can connect the childhood experience, no matter how traumatic—and it sometimes comes up for people. Some really deeply disturbing, traumatic experiences come up for people during the ayahuasca experience. And those experiences may take the form of direct memory, direct recall of an image, or what happened to them, such as a body invasion, or other kinds of trauma, or it may take the form of really scary images and creatures, but it’s like a dream. In the dream, when somebody’s chasing us, we’re not afraid because somebody’s chasing up—somebody’s chasing us because we’re afraid. In other words, during sleep, the centers in the brain where childhood memories are stored get activated, and then the brain makes up a story to explain the emotion. And I believe that much of the same is true of the scary visions that people have during the ayahuasca experience.

The beautiful images, of course, represent more the core self. We get to see both the experiences in response to which we develop these coping mechanisms that give us addiction or cancer or other form of illness. We get to experience that core self and the beauty of the world, as it actually is, when we don’t see it through a screen of suffering and misinterpretation induced by our early experience. So, we get to see both what we’ve been running from and trying to cope with, and trying to manipulate, but we also get to see that true connection that true love, that true beauty, that true vision, that pure insight, that pure strength, that pure compassion. And when we do that, we realize we don't have to cope anymore. We don't have to run anymore. We can just be right where we are.
Now, that’s not to say that because you have that experience it’s going to stay like that.  That takes work that takes practice. If you don't put in some practice afterwards, if you don't get follow up, if you don't put it into the context of your life, this experience just becomes a beautiful memory. But the impact of it will fade. So it’s transformative, but it’s only transformative if you allow it to be transformative. And it you work with it so that it becomes transformative. But if you do, it can be very, very powerful, it can be life-changing for many, many people.

I have to say something here about context here. I don’t lead ayahuasca ceremonies, I’m not on ayahuasca, I don’t chant, I just participate in the ceremonies. Leading the ceremonies are people who wouldn't call themselves shamans, but I would call them that because their work is that effective. They chant, and they work with people energetically. And they pick up on peoples’ energies in the dark. I don’t do that.  I pick up people’s energies in the light. I hear it in the tone of their voice, facial expression, choice of words. They sit there in the silence while they chant and they are reading the energies of the people as they emanate from each individual in that circle, where they might be 30 of us in the Malacca. And then they chant to people specifically to unblock particular energies, or particular energy blockages.

Like a person with cancer recently—two weeks after she signed up she became diagnosed with breast cancer. I’ve told you my view of breast cancer, or cancer in general: it’s a repression of anger as one of the major dynamics in it. The shaman sits there in the dark and feels the blocked anger in that woman’s breast, and then works with it to unblock that energy. So, it’s not just the chemical effect of the plant, and I’m sure other people have emphasized the same point. ... It’s the context, it’s the responsiveness and supportive interaction of the environment.

Remember what I said when I was quoting from that Harvard article about how the brain develops in response to the mutual responsiveness of child and adult? In the same way the healing benefit of something like ayahuasca is not simply the chemical effect of the plant, although that of course is inseparable from its other effects. It's also the responsiveness of the environment in which people experience the ayahuasca. So, the experience has to be in a safe context, in a context where there’s guidance.

People sometimes have negative experiences, or they think they do because they had an experience they didn't like, and so they resist the experience. And also, the personality has a way of invalidating our essential self.

I’ll give you a quick example of that. There was a woman in a recent retreat who wanted to experience what was blocking her from engaging with life and herself in a full and passionate way. Next she reports with great disappointment and even resentment what she experienced during the ayahuasca ceremony.
“I just got psychedelic colors, for example, there was a psychedelic Indian elephant. I didn't come here to get a trip with Indian elephants.”
The Indian elephant is Ganesh, the god-figure who unblocks difficulties. That’s what she experienced. And in some part of her brain she knew that. But because she was resisting the experience rather than being open to it, she actually missed the point. Now, that’s okay. If you go through it that way you’ll still learn what you need to learn, so I’m not negating her experience. In fact, it turned out to be a beautiful experience for her. But people sometimes need the guidance to understand the experience. It’s not enough, the experience. We have to find the meaning of the experience, and that’s where my role comes in. That’s what I help people with. But that wouldn’t be possible without the astonishing work of the ayahuasceros, the ayahuasceras, that I work with.
So it’s an overall gestalt; the plant, the ceremony, the chanting, the energetic work, and the psychological-emotional preparation beforehand, integration afterwards, and the joint exploration and the identification of meaning.

[applause]
Well, thank you.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Gabor Mate is a Canadian physician, speaker and author of four books. He teaches and leads seminars internationally. He has worked in family practice and palliative care and for 12 years worked on Vancouver's downtown eastside, notorious as North America’s most concentrated area of drug use. For more information visit DrGaborMate.com.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013



The 14 Characteristics of Fascism
by Lawrence Britt
Spring 2003
Free Inquiry magazine

Political scientist Dr. Lawrence Britt recently wrote an article about fascism ("Fascism Anyone?," Free Inquiry, Spring 2003, page 20). Studying the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia), and Pinochet (Chile), Dr. Britt found they all had 14 elements in common. He calls these the identifying characteristics of fascism. The excerpt is in accordance with the magazine's policy.
The 14 characteristics are:
  1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism
    Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

  2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights
    Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

  3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause
    The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

  4. Supremacy of the Military
    Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

  5. Rampant Sexism
    The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy.

  6. Controlled Mass Media
    Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

  7. Obsession with National Security
    Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

  8. Religion and Government are Intertwined
    Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.

  9. Corporate Power is Protected
    The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

  10. Labor Power is Suppressed
    Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed .

  11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts
    Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.

  12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment
    Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

  13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
    Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

  14. Fraudulent Elections
    Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.



Copyright © 2003 Free Inquiry magazine
Reprinted for Fair Use Only.


This article was based upon the article "The Hallmarks of Fascist Regime" by Skip Stone, at www.hippy.com/php/article-226.html.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

It’s the End of the World Unless We All Start Cooking.

From The Daily Beast - By Rachel Khong



Is the way we’re eating going to bring about end of the world?



The way we eat now is having a profound effect on climate change, which certainly threatens to bring about the end of the world as we’ve known it.
 
PD
Michael Pollan at Toronto's Live Organic Food Bar in February 2008. (Keith Beaty)

For better and worse, the industrial food system has made food very cheap. The poor can eat a better diet than they once could. It used to be that only the rich could eat meat every day of the week. Now just about everyone can, three meals a day. Fast-food chains make it easy. It’s not very good meat, and most of it is brutally produced, but it is within reach.
 

But meat has a tremendous carbon footprint: beef in particular because it takes so much grain to get a pound of beef. It takes about 15 pounds of grain to get 1 one pound of beef, and that grain takes tremendous amounts of fossil fuel—in the form of fertilizer, pesticide, farm equipment, processing, and transportation. All told, it takes 55 calories of fossil-fuel energy to get one calorie of beef. The average for processed foods is 10 calories of fossil fuel per calorie of food.
 

Before World War II every calorie of fossil-fuel energy put into a farm—in the form of diesel energy for tractors, and in fertilizer—yielded 2.3 calories of food. That’s nature’s free lunch—the difference between that 1 calorie in and the 2.3 out, which is the result of solar energy. Now, it takes 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce a single calorie of food. It’s absurd that we’re now running an energy deficit with food, the production of which is theoretically based on photosynthesis. It should be the one area in our lives that is carbon neutral or even better, because plants are really the only way to take energy from the sun.
 

Our goal should be to eat from the solar food chain to the extent we can and not from the fossil-fuel chain, which is what we’re mainly doing now. The question becomes: how do you do that? We have some powerful models. Grass-fed beef is basically a system where the sun feeds the grass, the grass feeds the ruminants, and the ruminants feed us. You’re eating sunlight when you eat from that food chain. Re-solarizing the food chain should be our goal in every way—taking advantage of the everyday miracle that is photosynthesis.
 

We’re not doing that, because fossil fuel has been so cheap. Over time, farms have been substituting fossil fuel for human labor as well as the energy of the sun. Fertilizer made with natural gas or diesel was a huge step away from using the sun. It is only in the last few years that people are starting to realize the role food can play in fixing environmental problems, and the fact that we’re not going to tackle global warming without reforming the food system.
 
cooked-pollan-cover
‘Cooked’ by Michael Pollan. 480 pages. The Penguin Press. $27.95.
 

Take, for example, Assembly Bill 32 in California. The law is designed to gradually bring down the amount of carbon emitted by our fuel companies, power companies, and our cars, by capping carbon emissions. But the law doesn’t deal with agriculture. They didn’t know how to deal with agriculture, so they simply left it out. But by not capping agriculture, the state will be playing Whac-a-Mole. As all these other industries’ outputs go down, agriculture’s will continue to go up. We have to learn to deal with the effects of agricultural practices—especially cattle feedlots—or we’re never going to get a handle on carbon. We shouldn’t have as much dairy in California as we do—it’s that simple. It’s a desert, and cows need grass. Re-localizing food economies can—not necessarily, but can—help reduce our reliance on fossil fuel.
 

At what point did we start making food worse instead of better?

Up until the 19th century, the history of cooking was all in the direction of making food more nutritious. But in the late 19th century, we learned how to refine grain and make white flour. In the 1880s, in England, we came up with roller mills, which can cleanly separate the endosperm—the pure starch—from the germ and bran, which is where most of the nutrients are.
 

With that “advance,” we began taking cooking too far. (Around the same time, we learned how to do something similar with sugar—turning cane and beets into pure sugar.) Cooking essentially went overboard. It began contributing to public-health problems. We started to have problems with tooth decay; with obesity; with nutrient deficiencies, because people began to eat lots of empty calories.

We basically got too smart for our own good; we moved from cooking to “food processing.” When people talk about processed food as being unhealthy, what they’re really talking about is cooking as it is performed by corporations. Companies cook in a different way. They’re trying to make food that our bodies can absorb as quickly as possible. You could argue that this process is continuous with the history that I’ve been describing, which is to make food progressively easier to digest. But at that point they’ve removed all the fiber, and they’re satisfying only the most basic desire for glucose, for sugar.
 

We love sugar. We’re hardwired to like sweetness. It’s one of the few food instincts we have. We don’t like bitter, because it’s usually a sign of a plant toxin. Most of the toxins in nature are bitter; they’re alkaloids. We’re attracted to sugar because in nature, sugar is a sign of calories, of concentrated energy. In nature, sweetness is a pretty reliable guide to healthy food. It indicates the presence of ripe fruit, which comes with fiber and lots of important nutrients and phytochemicals. But once you’ve crossed over and you’re making processed sugar, it no longer comes with all those good things.
 

The food industry has established a financial model where you take raw materials—corn, soy, wheat—and you “add value” by creating processed foods from those cheap building blocks.


One of the main problems is that there are really two of us to feed: there’s our brain, which loves glucose, and then there’s our gut—the microbiome—which has very different dietary needs than “we” do. We really like sugar, but the gut really likes fiber and other parts of plants. We got really good at finding sugar, because the brain lives on glucose, but we neglect the fact that you have to feed the whole body, that we’re not just eating for one—we’re eating for the 10 trillion microbes living inside us. So in our cooking, we have to learn to cook for all 10 trillion. But it’s hard for us to listen to the desires of those 10 trillion—the brain is much easier to hear.
 

At the turn of the century, white flour became a huge part—something like 20 percent—of the diet. In the early years of the 20th century, people recognized that white flour was making us sick because of its lack of vitamins. But the beauty of white flour is that it meshes so well with our capitalist economy. It’s a commodity that is imperishable. It is largely indistinguishable: all white flour is white flour. White flour can be transported over great distances; it’s easier to cook with; it lends itself to industrialized baking; it’s a perfect capitalist commodity.
 

Capitalism is most concerned with food not being perishable, being shelf-stable. Whole grains make volatile, perishable flour, so big companies don’t want to rely on it. Instead, they figured out a techno-fix: supplementation. They said, OK, these are the vitamins we lost when we took away the bran and the germ, so we’ll just put them back in in chemical form. Various B vitamins, niacin, thiamine, all those things. And that took care of the problem. Sort of. It took care of the problem for us, but not for the 10 trillion. Your microbes didn’t care much about the vitamins; they wanted the bran.
 

In the history of food processing, you never turn back, you just come up with a technological fix for whatever problems you’ve created. Food gets more and more complex, more processed. The food industry has established a financial model where you take raw materials—corn, soy, wheat—and you “add value” by creating processed foods from those cheap building blocks. So instead of selling nutritious brown rice, we genetically engineered white rice that has vitamin A in it: “golden” rice. The more complex you can make a food product, the more profitable it is. But at the end of the day, all that processing and engineering is achieving is returning what we took out in the first place. Baby formula is the great example. Breast milk is the perfect food, formed by natural selection to have everything the developing child—and its microbiota—needs. We’ve spent almost two hundred years trying to simulate it, because food companies can’t make money when people are nursing their babies.
 

But we still can’t make formula as good as breast milk. There’s still that mystery X-factor because babies raised on formula simply don’t do as well. When we simulate formula, we try to design what the baby needs and once again we forget about the ten trillion. Only in the last ten years or so, did we discover that the oligosaccharides (a kind of sugar) in mother’s milk—a “nutrient” that the baby can’t digest—are vital to a baby’s gut microbes. They encourage the proliferation of bifida, a very important kind of bacteria. It’s human arrogance to think we can outwit nature.
 

How do we go about fixing what we’ve messed up? Is it all bad news?

I sometimes find myself wondering whether we can posit or imagine a food science that is actually improving food in the way that cooking for most of its history succeeded in doing. Theoretically we should be able to do this. We came up with fermentation; we came up with cooking with fire. We’ve had food science and food technology now for a hundred and fifty years, and so far, not so good. So far we haven’t done anything that useful. But we understand a lot more, and we should be able to improve on things, not just make money and entertain people.
 

I can think of some examples of potentially useful food processing innovations. Here’s one that some people are actually working on. For reasons having to do with both our health and the health of our environment, we need really good meat substitutes. So far meat substitutes are really unsatisfying. No one but a vegan can get excited about fake bacon. They seem to think it’s really good. But most people who’ve actually eaten bacon? They don’t really see the point. It’s probably because vegans have forgotten how real bacon tastes, but they have this deep memory of the experience that is stirred by the fake bacon. Mock-meat hamburgers are not very satisfying, either. They’re also much more expensive than real hamburgers, which is odd considering they’re made from vegetable matter.
 

Today there are people using the most sophisticated food science to simulate meat, and it seems to me that if this is done well, it has enormous potential to contribute to our welfare and to the environment. Cheese that is not made with cows’ milk might be something to work on because we’re consuming huge amounts of the stuff, and dairy cows, like beef cows, have an enormous environmental footprint. The whole California central valley—especially Tulare County—is wall-to-wall dairy cows producing low-quality milk for low-quality cheese that’s put on Domino’s pizzas all over the world. Synthesizing this type of cheese is really not a very high bar to hit: all that’s needed is something white and cheeselike that melts. It seems to me that a good nondairy cheese would be a positive contribution to humankind, and something worth working on.
 

As a society this is a very important question we need to pose. How can we cook better—better for our health, and better for the health of the planet? Now we have molecular gastronomy, which is using lots of new techniques. But what has it really contributed? More in the way of novel experiences and entertainment, I would say, and very little toward solving any kind of public-health problem. I haven’t seen anything in that world that says to me, If we popularize this technique, it would have really positive effects. But this is what we need to work on. I have little doubt that if Nathan Myhrvold set that as his goal, he could help solve some of our real nutritional and environmental problems linked to food. But I don’t see that happening right now.
 

Yet there are reasons to feel encouraged. People are much more conscious of food politics and agricultural politics than they were a few years ago. The farm bill used to just be passed without anyone outside of the farm belt noticing. Now we see front-page articles about agricultural policy. We’re making some progress toward politicizing things that were once happening behind closed doors, and that’s a good thing.
 

But we have a long way to go. I want to see the FDA ban antibiotics. I want to see a farm bill that subsidizes healthy food and not just junk food. All that hasn’t come yet. The food movement is still a young movement. I’m optimistic, and I don’t think we should be discouraged. We’re talking about some really entrenched and powerful interests that need to be dislodged. You look at other comparable movements—the environmental movement or civil rights—and you see that change didn’t happen in a decade; it took generations. And this will take generations, too.
 

The food movement needs strong leadership. There are too many writers and chefs, and not enough smart politicians. We don’t yet have the skills we need to organize and force change in Washington. That said, I do think that chefs are playing a really constructive role. They have the cultural microphone right now, and they’re using it to promote good farming and careful thought about food. Part of what we need and what chefs are promoting is the cultural re-evaluation of food: recognizing that food is important both to your health and to your culture, and that it’s worth spending a little money on it if you can.
 

What I’m trying to do in this new book is make a case for cooking as a valuable way to spend your time. I want to lure people into the kitchen with the promise of pleasure, and not because it’s an obligation, or something you should do. I happen to believe cooking is as interesting as watching TV or being on the computer, which is what people seem to be doing with the time they “save” by not cooking. Cooking isn’t drudgery. It takes real mental engagement; it offers sensual pleasures; it’s very enriching to cook. My book has all these detours into microbiology and the science of flavor because truly amazing things are going on when you cook. As a cook, you are a chemist and you are a physicist and you are a cultural historian all at once. And what can seem boring to people is often just a failure to use their imaginations and intellect to understand what’s actually going on, what is at stake. It’s the same with gardening. Cooking and gardening to me are very similar activities on many levels; you could argue that pulling weeds is boring and you’d rather be looking at a screen. But I usually feel better after I’ve weeded my garden than after plowing through another hour’s worth of email. Ironically enough, I think there is actually more mental space for this kind of work now—our lives are so mediated by technology, so mediated by screens, that there’s a real hunger to recover the use of our hands, and our senses.
 

We’re sensorially deprived right now, in modern life. Our eyes are engaged—sometimes our ears—but our bodies? Not so much. These aren’t just bags of bones we’re carrying around. When we cook, when we garden, when we make things with our hands, we’re engaging all of our senses and that has—in ways we don’t really know how to quantify—deeply positive effects on our mental and physical health. We’re hungry for the all the complex sensory information that cooking can provide when approached in the right spirit.
 

An excerpt from the “Apocalypse” issue of Lucky Peach magazine, published by McSweeney’s. To learn more, click here.