Tag: Chris Hedges

Mind Raped by the Christian Right

Source: TruthDig, via Alternet

Author: Chris Hedges

“Noel Lyons, a member of the U.S. Ski Team from 1976 to 1981 and once one of the country’s top professional skiers, found herself in a Vail, Colo., hospital in the spring of 2010 after another round of binge drinking. “I had given up on myself,” she would say later. Her boyfriend and sister decided she needed rehabilitative help. Because their resources were limited, they turned to the free Total Freedom Program, a Florida ministry for women and men that identifies itself as Christian.

Cate Iannello, the wife of the leader of Total Freedom Program, “Pastor Guy,” met Lyons in July 2010 at the Orlando airport and drove her to what she called “the girls’ house,” a yellow ranch house in a nondescript neighborhood of nearby Ocoee. Lyons says she arrived “scared out of my mind” and holding a decorative pillow with the image of a buffalo on it. Because the pillow had “past associations” that could evoke demons, she was soon told to put it in the trash.

Lyons walked into the living room with the pastor’s wife. She met a woman there who introduced herself as Connie Prince, “the house mom”—a position Lyons herself would assume eventually. She was introduced to about five other “girls,” all white and ranging in age from the 20s into the 50s, who lived in the house.

The house mom rifled through Lyons’ bag of clothes. She pulled out particular garments and told her, “Well, you won’t be wearing that.” Prince confiscated the small amount of money Lyons had, her Ambien sleeping pills, cellphone and phone card.

“Later on I found out it was inappropriate or had accursed symbols,” Lyons said of the confiscated clothes when we met at the home of a friend outside Philadelphia where she was staying.

Lyons, now 50, toured the group house with a woman named Susan. Susan, in her early 20s, showed Lyons the bedroom the two women would share. It had bare walls and three beds with mismatched sheets, three dilapidated dressers and one closet. Lyons was then taken to the kitchen, where she sat with other women at a table for prayers and dinner. Afterward the women went into the living room for Lyons’ “praying in” ceremony. She was instructed to sit on the floor. The women sat in a circle around her.

“Then they make sure I had no tattoos, which are accursed items,” Lyons said. New arrivals with tattoos had to be specially anointed to excise the demons that the ministry claimed were embedded in tattoos.

The circle of women prayed over her, including in the gibberish of “tongues,” and anointed her with oil. The women walked through the house after the ceremony. They said more prayers in tongues to rid the house of demons. They dipped their fingers in oil and marked the doorjambs with the sign of the cross to drive out evil spirits. “It’s called the Housecleaning Prayer,” Lyons said. “And a lot of times they’ll put a cross over the beds where our heads rest.”

Lyons began to speak to me in a stream of nonsensical sounds to imitate praying in tongues. She instinctively crossed her arms over her chest. “It’s like in chanting,” she said. “I’m holding my heart because I believed that the enemy was trying to get my heart. So I’m always covering my heart.”

She was given a rules handbook and told she had to sign an “intake form” promising to obey the community’s edicts. She read in the handbook that she would be forbidden to contact anyone except her immediate family for nine months, which distressed her because of her relationship with her boyfriend in Vail. The form said she would forfeit the right to sue the ministry, which she found odd. She refused to sign the form without a lawyer. She went to her room distraught and frightened, unsure of what to do. She could not sleep. In the middle of the night she went outside and thought about hotwiring one of the cars in order to leave, but, she said, “I had nowhere to go, and I had no money. I had no contact with anyone.” At 5:30 a.m. she was told it was time for the ritual morning prayers.

“The house mom leads the prayers and everyone has to be in unison with the prayers.” She called these “the paper prayers” because they were printed out on sheets.

“You say your warfare prayer, your deliverance prayer, your third dimensional warrior prayer, it’ll make sense to you later on,” she explained. “It’s all warfare praying.”

Lyons was told to go to a designated spot in the house “where you’re supposed to communicate with God and have your ‘David cave time’ with him.” Before the start of her “David cave time,” Lyons, frustrated by being unable to do her normal physical workout, did sit-ups and push-ups in the living room. As she exercised, “people are just walking by, not talking to me,” she said.

Lyons was told she was allowed only one cup of coffee a day. She was told that she was permitted to speak by phone only with immediate family members and only when a person of the community monitored the conversation.

Every resident, she found, was expected to be an informant if she or he saw someone break the rules. Many of those at the ministry compound had recently come out of prison and were in the facility as a halfway house requirement.

The female residents “become a posse,” Lyons said. “Remember, a lot of these people came from prison. None of the people are qualified to do anything. A lot of these people are supposed to be in a house that transitions them to the real world.”

Breakfast was served at 6:30. And on her first morning in Ocoee she was taken to “morning intercession,” which would occur every day for the three months of Lyons’ initial indoctrination. It was held in a place called the “war room” in another house on the cul-de-sac where the group owns four or five houses. The war room was open and lined on two sides by single rows of folding chairs. The men sat on one side. The women sat on the other. Lyons was told when she entered the war room that she was not permitted to talk to or have eye contact with the men either there or outside. Segregation of the sexes was rigidly enforced. Courtship and relationships could be carried out within the community only if they were approved and mediated by the pastor. Relationships outside the community were forbidden.

All new arrivals during their first three months spent every morning and every afternoon in the war room “doing teachings,” which consisted of listening to recordings from Pastor Guy Iannello’s Eternal Library of 800 Teachings. They were required to take copious notes. Lyons showed me a stack of about a dozen white legal pads filled with her notes. After three months, if program approval was granted, a resident was permitted to get an outside job to help support the ministry. By that time, residents typically had severed ties with most friends and relatives.

The morning routine included recorded religious music followed by prayer. There were prayers for orphans, single mothers or fathers and those who had been abandoned. Then the group prayed in tongues. She wondered: “What does this have to do with helping me with my problem?”

At 8:30 a.m. on her first full day at the compound she was taken to the office to see “Mom,” the pastor’s mother-in-law. She was given a lengthy form and told to circle all her “sins,” such as sex before marriage, lesbianism, sodomy, masturbation, adultery, oral sex, abortion, vanity, self-pity, swearing or cursing. She circled the words that applied to her. It was only later, she said, that she was told that each of these sins was “identified as a demon.”

Lyons, who during our meeting had a box of literature, videos and other materials of the ministry, handed me a tattered red book titled “Prayers.” She opened the book to Page 36. I read the four pages known as the “Sin List.” It included hundreds of sins, among them “loving to curse,” “killing,” “Baal worship” and “sacrificing children to demons.”

Lyons complained to Mom that she could not speak in tongues, to which Mom replied: “Yabba dabba doo. Just start saying, ‘Yabba dabba doo,’ and the Holy Spirit will help you. Fake it until you make it.” Mom told Lyons she was “being rebellious” and that “rebellion is witchcraft.” “That was a huge thing that they played on,” Lyons said, “that whole rebellion thing.”

She still refused to sign the forms. She was ushered into the pastor’s office to see a video called “You Can’t Fight What You Can’t See.” All who were inducted into the community were required to watch it. She met with Iannello on the second day. He told her to sign the forms and give the program two weeks. She signed.

Because Lyons’ second night at the compound was a Tuesday, she was taken with the other members of the community to Way of Grace Church in Ocoee. The eight female residents of the Total Freedom Program community sat on one side of the church, and the 20 male residents sat on the other. About 15 outsiders joined them. Lyons listened to a sermon on obedience to God. Mom told her later that God had put the message in the preacher’s heart to address Lyons’ rebelliousness.

On Friday nights the group held services in the sanctuary of the Ocoee Oaks Church.

During the daily indoctrination Lyons sat in the war room from 8:30 to noon listening to recordings and taking notes. She went back after lunch to sit there from 1 to 4. During the rest of the day she was confined to her house.

“I was trying to do some [physical] exercise,” Lyons said. “They’re like, ‘You can’t do that. You have to put God first. If you get done with God, then you can exercise.’ ”

She repeated to me the core of the pastor’s message: “You came here thinking you had a problem with drugs and alcohol, but this is a Holy Spirit stickup and this is Holy Spirit boot camp. You’re going to find the Holy Spirit. You’re going to find your hope and your faith. You’re going to find God. You’re going to find that which you didn’t have. You’re going to be disciples of God.”

“The constant theme is a chain of command, of authority, God being the ultimate authority,” Lyons said, “and that he [God] assigned people to you to watch over you, your spiritual father.”

“It’s very much like boot camp in the Army,” she said. “Pastor Guy used to be in the [Navy]. He also used to be a big drug lord. Then he got saved, supposedly. So now he has this ministry on the cul-de-sac. A lot of the programming is to get you thinking there’s obedience and there’s rebellion—[and rebellion] is what caused your problems in the first place. They get you hooked into a different way of thinking that your problem is demons.”

“They made me get a food stamp card,” she said, handing me a copy of her application for food stamps. “Then when I got my food stamp card it went to the house mom. The house mom who bought the groceries used all of our food stamp cards.”

By the end of the three months Lyons was broken and obedient. She was permitted to look for an outside job. She wanted nothing to do with those who had been her friends before she went to Florida. She believed they were heathens and conduits of demons into her life.

She was assigned to work in the group’s office promoting ministry events. She called merchants and asked them to donate items or services for silent auctions. She worked in the office for two months. She then took a job at a Dillard’s Department store. She would work there for more than two years. The ministry took rent, her tithe—10 percent of her income—and utility costs from her pay. She also had to pay the ministry $5 a day to be driven to Dillard’s, four miles away. “They [were] nickel-and-diming me to death,” Lyons said.

Lyons said that those who did not work at outside jobs worked for the ministry as “slave labor” and never could save “enough money to leave.”

During her time in Total Freedom Program she saw herself as a part of the ministry. She dutifully confessed all urges, defined as sins, to her prayer group. She was given greater responsibilities within the ministry, including being a house mom. She was filled with self-loathing for “everything that was natural in me.”

“Anything that comes before God is an idol,” she said. “Exercise, my whole past experience, friends. I started to feel like I had this Job experience, this lose-everything experience.”

Lyons had been turned. She was terrified of demons, which other church members said they could see around her in the form of lizards. She fervently recited the litany of required prayers. She dutifully attended the meetings and services. She imposed the rules on others. At night, during her required “Bedtime Warfare Prayer,”she would repeat to herself:

Father, I come to you in the name of Jesus and repent every thought, spoken word, deed, that was displeasing to You and any uncompleted vow that I committed to.

I break every curse that was placed on me either self-imposed or put by any demonic source and anything spoken over me that was not from You.

I curse every corruptible seed that was implanted in me and I command them to wither and die and I loose myself from every spirit associated with those seeds. Allow your righteous seeds to grow and bear fruit for Your glory.

I apply the blood of Jesus over my house upon the roof, walls and floors, upon all members, possessions, automobiles, and my spirit, soul body and dreams in Jesus Name.

I bind up any spirits of terror, fear, nightmares, or torment, every mind-binding, evil, foul, lying and unclean spirit that may try to come and torment me in any way tonight and I muzzle the voice of the stranger. Satan, you and any evil spirit in your kingdom that could be in or around our properties, I bind you and drive you out in the Name of Jesus. Any astral projections or soul travel spirits that could be in or around our property, I command you, in the Name of Jesus, to go back where you came from.

Father, please send Your warring angels to watch over me and to hold back the forces of Satan and his kingdom while I sleep. Send your ministering angels to come and minister to me as I sleep. Holy Spirit please come and flow though me, giving me dreams, visions, health, supernatural rest and let me wake up refreshed. I pray all this in Jesus name.

Patrice, a woman who had left the community, began to talk to Lyons outside the compound. She urged Lyons to get out of the group because it was “unhealthy.” Lyons during a visit from her sister managed to pack her belongings and flee the compound. The group, unable now to hold her, told her she could leave but would fail in the outside world.

After she moved out, Lyons’ job went sour because she failed to make sales quotas. She had few friends at work because her indoctrination had made her “a freak,” she said. She did not engage in what the ministry called “secular talk.”

She gravitated to Christian megachurches that she now calls “sub-cults.” The trauma, emotional abuse and manipulation Lyons suffered at the hands of Total Freedom Program were familiar to me because of the two years I spent investigating the Christian right for my book “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.” In the closed world of the Christian right, pastors, “disciplers” and “prayer partners” define all doubt, questioning or “backsliding” as a sin and the work of Satan. Submission to authority becomes the only proper way to serve God. Critical judgment is abolished. Religious clichés shut down independent thought. All other ways of living become a compact with the demonic. A persecution mentality is pounded into adherents, making them deeply distrustful of outsiders. It is an ideology of fear and abject obedience to authority. And all those who walk away are condemned and branded as apostates. Lyons’ story is the story of millions of Americans who live or have lived inside these hermetically sealed systems of “Christian” indoctrination.

Eventually, Lyons recovered enough of herself to leave Florida. Before she departed she packed documentation of her stay at the Iannello complex, hoping some reporter would tell her story as a warning to others. Through friends she contacted me.

When Lyons drove out of the Ocoee area last week—in her 1991 Honda Civic, with some 236,000 miles on it and duct tape holding up the dashboard—it was emotionally wrenching for her. She repeated over and over to herself in the car: “I’ve got to keep going, I’ve got to keep going. I gotta get out of here now. I gotta get out of here now.”

She continues to be haunted by the indoctrination. She is struggling to shake off a belief system that defined as evil her natural instincts, her thoughts, and her desires for personal happiness and independence. Her speech remains infected with the jargon of the ministry. She says her fight now is to become whole.

The experience with the program “sucker-punched me,” she said. “They took away my self-respect and my self-esteem. They eviscerated me. They took the life out of me. Any natural instinct I had was condemned. I’m doing better [now], but I maintain a certain numbness because of the damage. I never fought so hard, once I realized my predicament, to get myself back.”

Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, is a senior fellow at the Nation Institute. He writes a regular column for TruthDig every Monday. His latest book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.

Emphasis Mine

see: http://www.alternet.org/belief/mind-raped-christian-right?akid=10718.123424.hd-b3u&rd=1&src=newsletter872561&t=7

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We Need Free Thinkers Or Society Will Shrivel Up and Die

From AlterNet

By Chris Hedges, Truthdig

“Cultures that endure carve out a protected space for those who question and challenge national myths. Artists, writers, poets, activists, journalists, philosophers, dancers, musicians, actors, directors and renegades must be tolerated if a culture is to be pulled back from disaster. Members of this intellectual and artistic class, who are usually not welcome in the stultifying halls of academia where mediocrity is triumphant, serve as prophets. They are dismissed, or labeled by the power elites as subversive, because they do not embrace collective self-worship. They force us to confront unexamined assumptions, ones that, if not challenged, lead to destruction. They expose the ruling elites as hollow and corrupt. They articulate the senselessness of a system built on the ideology of endless growth, ceaseless exploitation and constant expansion. They warn us about the poison of careerism and the futility of the search for happiness in the accumulation of wealth. They make us face ourselves, from the bitter reality of slavery and Jim Crow to the genocidal slaughter of Native Americans to the repression of working-class movements to the atrocities carried out in imperial wars to the assault on the ecosystem. They make us unsure of our virtue. They challenge the easy clichés we use to describe the nation—the land of the free, the greatest country on earth, the beacon of liberty—to expose our darkness, crimes and ignorance. They offer the possibility of a life of meaning and the capacity for transformation.

Human societies see what they want to see. They create national myths of identity out of a composite of historical events and fantasy. They ignore unpleasant facts that intrude on self-glorification. They trust naively in the notion of linear progress and in assured national dominance. This is what nationalism is about—lies. And if a culture loses its ability for thought and expression, if it effectively silences dissident voices, if it retreats into what Sigmund Freud called “screen memories,” those reassuring mixtures of fact and fiction, it dies. It surrenders its internal mechanism for puncturing self-delusion. It makes war on beauty and truth. It abolishes the sacred. It turns education into vocational training. It leaves us blind. And this is what has occurred. We are lost at sea in a great tempest. We do not know where we are. We do not know where we are going. And we do not know what is about to happen to us.

The psychoanalyst John Steiner calls this phenomenon “turning a blind eye.” He notes that often we have access to adequate knowledge but because it is unpleasant and disconcerting we choose unconsciously, and sometimes consciously, to ignore it. He uses the Oedipus story to make his point. He argued that Oedipus, Jocasta, Creon and the “blind” Tiresias grasped the truth, that Oedipus had killed his father and married his mother as prophesized, but they colluded to ignore it. We too, Steiner wrote, turn a blind eye to the dangers that confront us, despite the plethora of evidence that if we do not radically reconfigure our relationships to each other and the natural world, catastrophe is assured. Steiner describes a psychological truth that is deeply frightening.

I saw this collective capacity for self-delusion among the urban elites in Sarajevo and later Pristina during the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo. These educated elites steadfastly refused to believe that war was possible although acts of violence by competing armed bands had already begun to tear at the social fabric. At night you could hear gunfire. But they were the last to “know.” And we are equally self-deluded. The physical evidence of national decay—the crumbling infrastructures, the abandoned factories and other workplaces, the rows of gutted warehouses, the closure of libraries, schools, fire stations and post offices—that we physically see, is, in fact, unseen. The rapid and terrifying deterioration of the ecosystem, evidenced in soaring temperatures, droughts, floods, crop destruction, freak storms, melting ice caps and rising sea levels, are met blankly with Steiner’s “blind eye.”

Oedipus, at the end of Sophocles’ play, cuts out his eyes and with his daughter Antigone as a guide wanders the countryside. Once king, he becomes a stranger in a strange country. He dies, in Antigone’s words, “in a foreign land, but one he yearned for.”

William Shakespeare in “King Lear” plays on the same theme of sight and sightlessness. Those with eyes in “King Lear” are unable to see. Gloucester, whose eyes are gouged out, finds in his blindness a revealed truth. “I have no way, and therefore want no eyes,” Gloucester says after he is blinded. “I stumbled when I saw.” When Lear banishes his only loyal daughter, Cordelia, whom he accuses of not loving him enough, he shouts: “Out of my sight!” To which Kent replies:

See better, Lear, and let me still remain
The true blank of thine eye.

The story of Lear, like the story of Oedipus, is about the attainment of this inner vision. It is about morality and intellect that are blinded by empiricism and sight. It is about understanding that the human imagination is, as William Blake saw, our manifestation of Eternity. “Love without imagination is eternal death.”

The Shakespearean scholar Harold Goddard wrote: “The imagination is not a faculty for the creation of illusion; it is the faculty by which alone man apprehends reality. The ‘illusion’ turns out to be truth.” “Let faith oust fact,” Starbuck says in “Moby-Dick.”

“It is only our absurd ‘scientific’ prejudice that reality must be physical and rational that blinds us to the truth,” Goddard warned. There are, as Shakespeare wrote, “things invisible to mortal sight.” But these things are not vocational or factual or empirical. They are not found in national myths of glory and power. They are not attained by force. They do not come through cognition or logical reasoning. They are intangible. They are the realities of beauty, grief, love, the search for meaning, the struggle to face our own mortality and the ability to face truth. And cultures that disregard these forces of imagination commit suicide. They cannot see.

How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,” Shakespeare wrote, “Whose action is no stronger than a flower?” Human imagination, the capacity to have vision, to build a life of meaning rather than utilitarianism, is as delicate as a flower. And if it is crushed, if a Shakespeare or a Sophocles is no longer deemed useful in the empirical world of business, careerism and corporate power, if universities think a Milton Friedman or a Friedrich Hayekis more important to its students than a Virginia Woolf or an Anton Chekhov, then we become barbarians. We assure our own extinction. Students who are denied the wisdom of the great oracles of human civilization—visionaries who urge us not to worship ourselves, not to kneel before the base human emotion of greed—cannot be educated. They cannot think.

To think, we must, as Epicurus understood, “live in hiding.” We must build walls to keep out the cant and noise of the crowd. We must retreat into a print-based culture where ideas are not deformed into sound bites and thought-terminating clichés. Thinking is, as Hannah Arendt wrote, “a soundless dialogue between me and myself.” But thinking, she wrote, always presupposes the human condition of plurality. It has no utilitarian function. It is not an end or an aim outside of itself. It is different from logical reasoning, which is focused on a finite and identifiable goal. Logical reason, acts of cognition, serve the efficiency of a system, including corporate power, which is usually morally neutral at best, and often evil. The inability to think, Arendt wrote, “is not a failing of the many who lack brain power but an ever-present possibility for everybody—scientists, scholars, and other specialists in mental enterprises not excluded.”

Our corporate culture has effectively severed us from human imagination. Our electronic devices intrude deeper and deeper into spaces that were once reserved for solitude, reflection and privacy. Our airwaves are filled with the tawdry and the absurd. Our systems of education and communication scorn the disciplines that allow us to see. We celebrate prosaic vocational skills and the ridiculous requirements of standardized tests. We have tossed those who think, including many teachers of the humanities, into a wilderness where they cannot find employment, remuneration or a voice. We follow the blind over the cliff. We make war on ourselves.

The vital importance of thought, Arendt wrote, is apparent only “in times of transition when men no longer rely on the stability of the world and their role in it, and when the question concerning the general conditions of human life, which as such are properly coeval with the appearance of man on earth, gain an uncommon poignancy.” We never need our thinkers and artists more than in times of crisis, as Arendt reminds us, for they provide the subversive narratives that allow us to chart a new course, one that can assure our survival.

“What must I do to win salvation?” Dimitri asks Starov in “The Brothers Karamazov,” to which Starov answers: “Above all else, never lie to yourself.”

And here is the dilemma we face as a civilization. We march collectively toward self-annihilation. Corporate capitalism, if left unchecked, will kill us. Yet we refuse, because we cannot think and no longer listen to those who do think, to see what is about to happen to us.  We have created entertaining mechanisms to obscure and silence the harsh truths, from climate change to the collapse of globalization to our enslavement to corporate power, that will mean our self-destruction.   If we can do nothing else we must, even as individuals, nurture the private dialogue and the solitude that make thought possible. It is better to be an outcast, a stranger in one’s own country, than an outcast from one’s self. It is better to see what is about to befall us and to resist than to retreat into the fantasies embraced by a nation of the blind.

Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, is a senior fellow at the Nation Institute. He writes a regular column for TruthDig every Monday. His latest book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.


Emphasis Mine
http://www.alternet.org/story/156227/we_need_free_thinkers_or_society_will_shrivel_up_and_die

The Sky Really Is Falling and Our Only Salvation Is the Rapid Dismantling of the Fossil Fuel Industry

This article first appeared on Truthdig.

The rapid and terrifying acceleration of global warming, which is disfiguring the ecosystem at a swifter pace than even the gloomiest scientific studies predicted a few years ago, has been confronted by the power elite with two kinds of self-delusion. There are those, many of whom hold elected office, who dismiss the science and empirical evidence as false. There are others who accept the science surrounding global warming but insist that the human species can adapt. Our only salvation—the rapid dismantling of the fossil fuel industry—is ignored by both groups. And we will be led, unless we build popular resistance movements and carry out sustained acts of civil disobedience, toward collective self-annihilation by dimwitted pied pipers and fools.

Those who concede that the planet is warming but insist we can learn to live with it are perhaps more dangerous than the buffoons who decide to shut their eyes. It is horrifying enough that the House of Representatives voted 240-184 this spring to defeat a resolution that said that “climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for public health and welfare.” But it is not much of an alternative to trust those who insist we can cope with the effects while continuing to burn fossil fuels.

Horticulturalists are busy planting swamp oaks and sweet gum trees all over Chicago to prepare for weather that will soon resemble that of Baton Rouge. That would be fine if there was a limit to global warming in sight. But without plans to rapidly dismantle the fossil fuel industry, something no one in our corporate state is contemplating, the heat waves of Baton Rouge will be a starting point for a descent that will ultimately make cities like Chicago unlivable. The false promise of human adaptability to global warming is peddled by the polluters’ major front group, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which informed the Environmental Protection Agency that “populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological, and technological adaptations.” This bizarre theory of adaptability has been embraced by the Obama administration as it prepares to exploit the natural resources in the Arctic. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announcedrecently that melting of sea ice “will result in more shipping, fishing and tourism, and the possibility to develop newly accessible oil and gas reserves.” Now that’s something to look forward to.

“It is good that at least those guys are taking it seriously, far more seriously than the federal government is taking it,” said the author and environmental activistBill McKibben of the efforts in cities such as Chicago to begin to adapt to warmer temperatures. “At least they understand that they have some kind of problem coming at them. But they are working off the science of five or six years ago, which is still kind of the official science that the International Climate Change negotiations are working off of. They haven’t begun to internalize the idea that the science has shifted sharply. We are no longer talking about a long, slow, gradual, linear warming, but something that is coming much more quickly and violently. Seven or eight years ago it made sense to talk about putting permeable concrete on the streets. Now what we are coming to realize is that the most important adaptation we can do is to stop putting carbon in the atmosphere. If we don’t, we are going to produce temperature rises so high that there is no adapting to them.”

The Earth has already begun to react to our hubris. Freak weather unleashed deadly tornados in Joplin, Mo., and Tuscaloosa, Ala. It has triggered wildfires that have engulfed large tracts in California, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas. It has brought severe droughts to the Southwest, parts of China and the Amazon. It has caused massive flooding along the Mississippi as well as in Australia, New Zealand, China and Pakistan. It is killing off the fish stocks in the oceans and obliterating the polar ice caps. Steadily rising sea levels will eventually submerge coastal cities, islands and some countries. These disturbing weather patterns presage a world where it will be harder and harder to sustain human life. Massive human migrations, which have already begun, will create chaos and violence. India is building a 4,000-kilometer fence along its border with Bangladesh to, in part, hold back the refugees who will flee if Bangladesh is submerged. There are mounting food shortages and sharp price increases in basic staples such as wheat as weather patterns disrupt crop production. The failed grain harvests in Russia, China and Australia, along with the death of the winter wheat crop in Texas, have, as McKibben points out, been exacerbated by the inability of Midwestern farmers to plant corn in water-logged fields. These portents of an angry Gaia are nothing compared to what will follow if we do not swiftly act.

“We are going to have to adapt a good deal,” said McKibben, with whom I spoke by phone from his home in Vermont. “It is going to be a century that calls for being resilient and durable. Most of that adaptation is going to take the form of economies getting smaller and lower to the ground, local food, local energy, things like that. But that alone won’t do it, because the scale of change we are now talking about is so great that no one can adapt to it. Temperatures have gone up one degree so far and that has been enough to melt the Arctic. If we let it go up three or four degrees, the rule of thumb the agronomists go by is every degree Celsius of temperature rise represents about a 10 percent reduction in grain yields. If we let it go up three or four degrees we are really not talking about a planet that can support a civilization anything like the one we’ve got.

“I have sympathy for those who are trying hard to figure out how to adapt, but they are behind the curve of the science by a good deal,” he said. “I have less sympathy for the companies that are brainwashing everyone along the line ‘We’re taking small steps here and there to improve.’ The problem, at this point, is not going to be dealt with by small steps. It is going to be dealt with by getting off fossil fuel in the next 10 or 20 years or not at all.

“The most appropriate thing going on in Chicago right now is that Greenpeace occupied [on Thursday] the coal-fired power plant in Chicago,” he said. “That’s been helpful. It reminded people what the real answers are. We’re going to see more civil disobedience. I hope we are. I am planning hard for some stuff this summer.

“The task that we are about is essentially political and symbolic,” McKibben admitted. “There is no actual way to shut down the fossil fuel system with our bodies. It is simply too big. It’s far too integrated in everything we do. The actions have to be symbolic, and the most important part of that symbolism is to make it clear to the onlookers that those of us doing this kind of thing are not radical in any way. We are conservatives. The real radicals in this scenario are people who are willing to fundamentally alter the composition of the atmosphere. I can’t think of a more radical thing that any human has ever thought of doing. If it wasn’t happening it would be like the plot from a Bond movie.

“The only way around this is to defeat the system, and the name of that system is the fossil fuel industry, which is the most profitable industry in the world by a large margin,” McKibben said. “Fighting it is extraordinarily difficult. Maybe you can’t do it. The only way to do it is to build a movement big enough to make a difference. And that is what we are trying desperately to do with 350.org. It is something we should have done 20 years ago, instead of figuring that we were going to fight climate change by convincing political elites that they should do something about this problem. It is a tactic that has not worked.

One of our big targets this year is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is the biggest front group for fossil fuel there is,” he said. “We are figuring out how to take them on. I don’t think they are worried about us yet. And maybe they are right not to be, because they’ve got so much money they’re invulnerable.

“There are huge decisive battles coming,” he said. “This year the Obama administration has to decide whether it will grant a permit or not for this giant pipeline to run from the tar sands of Alberta down to the refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. That is like a 1,500-mile fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet. We have to figure out how to keep that from happening. The Obama administration, very sadly, a couple of months ago opened 750 million tons of western coal under federal land for mining. That was a disgrace. But they still have to figure out how to get it to port so they can ship it to China, which is where the market for it is. We are trying hard to keep that from happening. I’m on my way to Bellingham, Wash., next week because there is a plan for a deep-water port in Bellingham that would allow these giant freighters to show up and collect that coal.

“In moral terms, it’s all our personal responsibility and we should be doing those things,” McKibben said when I asked him about changing our own lifestyles to conserve energy. “But don’t confuse that with having much of an impact on the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere. You can’t make the math work one house or one campus at a time. We should do those things. I’ve got a little plaque for having built the most energy-efficient house in Vermont the year we built it. I’ve got solar panels everywhere. But I don’t confuse myself into thinking that that’s actually doing very much. This argument is a political argument. I spend much of my life on airplanes spewing carbon behind me as we try to build a global movement. Either we are going to break the power of the fossil fuel industry and put a price on carbon or the planet is going to heat past the point where we can deal with it.

“It goes far beyond party affiliation or ideology,” he said. “Fossil fuel undergirds every ideology we have. Breaking with it is going to be a traumatic and difficult task. The natural world is going to continue to provide us, unfortunately, with many reminders about why we have to do that. Sooner or later, we will wise up. The question is all about that sooner or later.

“I’d like people to go to climatedirectaction.org and sign up,” McKibben said. “We are going to be issuing calls for people to be involved in civil disobedience. I’d like people to join in this campaign against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It’s very easy to sign up. If you don’t own a little business yourself, you probably shop at 10 or 20 of them a week. It’s very easy to sign those guys up to say the U.S. Chamber doesn’t speak for me. We can’t take away their [the Chamber’s] money, but we can take away some of their respectability. I would like people to demonstrate their solidarity with people all around the world in this fight. The next big chance to do that will be Sept. 24, a huge global day of action that we’re calling ‘Moving Planet.’ It will be largely bicycle based, because the bicycle is one of the few tools that both rich and poor use and because it is part of the solution we need. On that day we will be delivering demands via bicycle to every capital and statehouse around the world.

“I wish there was some easy ‘end around,’ some backdoor through which we could go to get done what needs to be done,” he said. “But that’s not going to happen. That became clear at Copenhagen and last summer when the U.S. Senate refused to take a vote on the most mild, tepid climate legislation there could have been. We are going to have to build a movement that pushes the fossil fuel industry aside. I don’t know whether that’s possible. If you were to bet, you might well bet we will lose. We have been losing for two decades. But you are not allowed to make that bet. The only moral action, when the worst thing that ever happened in the world is happening, is to try and figure out how to change those odds.

“At least they knew they were going to win,” McKibben said of the civil rights movement. “They didn’t know when, but they knew they were going to win, that the tide of history was on their side. But the arch of the physical universe appears to be short and appears to bend towards heat. We’ve got to win quickly if we’re going to win. We’ve already passed the point where we’re going to stop global warming. It has already warmed a degree and there is another degree in the pipeline from carbon already emitted. The heat gets held in the ocean for a while, but it’s already there. We’ve already guaranteed ourselves a miserable century. The question is whether it’s going to be an impossible one.”

Chris Hedges is a weekly Truthdig columnist and a fellow at The Nation Institute. His newest book is “The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress.”

Emphasis Mine.

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/151148/the_sky_really_is_falling_and_our_only_salvation_is_the_rapid_dismantling_of_the_fossil_fuel_industry?page=entire