This week's page from the book
At last we enter the domain of politics:
1 . Side effects :
We are faced with politicians who like nothing more than to legislate. And legislation is nothing less than the administration of political ‘drugs'.
LOVE NOTHING MORE THAN TO CREATE
THEIR LEGISLATIVE MEDICATIONS,
THEIR POLITICAL POTIONS.
AND MOST OF THE TIME WHEN THEY DO SO,
THEY ARE MERELY SUPPRESSING SYMPTOMS,
AND MUCH MORE IMPORTANTLY
KEEPING US THE ELECTORATE QUIET.
“That's right,” says John. “People like Kate and me, who I suppose have to be described as alternative, reckon that governments muck around with us too much.”
“Of course,” we say, “ some drugs are necessary. No-one wants to throw the baby of scientific medical advancement out with the bath water. Likewise, some of our legislation is vital.”
But all this legislating, all this knee-jerk reaction to create bills, to dive into governmental action, to forge restrictions, rules and procedures ad infinitum, is creating such a plethora of legislative side effects, that our lives become dominated by effects that no creator of that legislation, no politician, lawyer, political pundit or spin doctor could have imagined. What sort of lives are we leading, when almost everything we do is conditioned by the miscalculated, unperceived and unexpected consequences of our all-powerful legislatures? (page 79)
Absence or loss of meaning in one's life
The seventh consistent pattern relates to the “existential vacuum” or the suffering that accompanies the absence or loss of meaning in one's life. The lost soul, or wandering person, is very susceptible to illness, primarily because a life devoid of meaning often leads to despair, depression and feelings of worthlessness.
In societies that are increasingly viewed as machines: purpose is at a premium. In societies that increasingly divorce us from the centres of control: intention dies. In societies where true ‘knowing' is denied: our sense of our own humanity becomes all but meaningless.
Without hopes that can rise above material function, without fulfilled intention and the existential imperative of meaning: we begin to die.
The agenda of our times is to divorce us from meaning, is to separate us from purpose, is to integrate us as mere functions of the production and consumer machine: and to then bury the pain of our wound beneath all the hype of a society that has become a scream across the fabric of the Cosmos.
There is only hype, and ridiculous extravagance. It is that extravagance of our sporting heroes who have become mere money earners. It is that extravagance of our salespeople as the latest product is unveiled. It is the extravagance of our politicians as the dry ice drifts across the inanities of their speeches. It is the extravagance of our TV ‘personalities' as ludicrous idea caps ludicrous idea. (page 221)
junkies in our parliaments, congresses and assemblies sit in judgement over us, and administer to our needs as they see them.
It is only lately that we have even accepted that we are unwell: that things are not right with our societies. And of course, as a consequence, the cry has gone up for more curing from our legislatures and governments. It has created a crisis of political allopathic activity that threatens an epidemic of political iatrogenic dis-ease. It is a crisis we rush into at great peril. Yet it is also a crisis that bears within it the most precious seed of all. For as all our legislative and regulatory activity is yet again seen to fail, so will we be prepared to change.
Robert Harris, the historian and novelist saw all this. He wrote in 1996:
But now there seems to be a sense that something has stalled, or even gone into reverse, that new technology has begun to undermine all the things it was once supposed to provide: leisure, security, comfort, a sense of control over one's own life. If this analysis is correct, then we may be moving into a quite different and much less settled political era…
The leisure and security that technology was supposed to bestow have never appeared. Those in work have seldom had to work harder: if anything, they have less leisure than before. They also have less security.
With condition ‘one' met, exploration towards condition ‘two' can at last begin. Not that it will be easy. Most of us are not yet quite ready. Most of us, just now, seek only the easing of our pains. We do not seek the new and self-imposed pains of the journey . We are lodged within our own castles, and see only that we are wounded. Never would we contemplate stepping beyond the castle. Never would we dream of entering upon the quest perilous, seeking the social and political grail that lies beyond the safety of the orthodox paradigm.
But the second condition waits upon us. It waits for the time when we are prepared to take responsibility; prepared to empower ourselves; prepared to confront the pain; prepared to welcome social and political symptoms as signs of the true state of our (page 122)
Iatrogenic illness, that is doctor induced, is a serious problem in the medical world. But it represents a massive crisis in the political. There is little left of our modern societies that is not the consequence, usually unexpected , of government legislation.
Roman Herzog, former President of Germany:
Whoever shows initiative here, and above all whoever wants to strike out in a new direction, is in danger of being suffocated by a mountain of well-meaning regulations. To grasp the extent of the German regulatory mania, one has only to attempt to build an ordinary family house. Although wages are similar in The Netherlands, it is much cheaper to build the same house there, because of Germany 's extra costs.
We are legislation junkies, mainlining on bills and petitions and rules and codes and regulations and controls, and invariably finding that their effect leaves us requiring more of the same: until we have politicians working all hours, news hawks yelling and thinking the universe revolves around them, and belittled citizens left out of focus, off centre and superfluous to everything that is happening.
It may be, for example, that the criminalisation of narcotics is essential. But anti-narcotics legislation has resulted in an explosion of criminal activity without any sustained reduction in drug use. We have parks and streets used as dumping grounds for old needles; HIV infection; sub cultures of drug dependency; squalor; theft and those most deadly ‘iatrogenic' conditions: gang wars and organised crime. Lord Rees-Mogg, former editor of ‘The Times':
The drugs business is enormously profitable, and it is profitable because it is illegal. If cocaine or heroine were ordinary refined agricultural products, sold in the open market, they would be extremely cheap, as cheap as any other processed plants. If they were cheap, no criminal fortunes could be made from selling them, and no one would have a motive to seduce children into addiction...
The average heroine addict is said to steal goods worth more than £40,000 every year. Some police officers who deal with these drug related crimes, (page 80)
“John and I have always been into alternative things,” she says. ”But I've never really thought about the philosophy.”
“But it's all so very marginal,” Mike says. “There can't be many people who actually go in for this mumbo jumbo.”
“It might have been marginal once,” we say. “But you can't describe it that way now. Alternative medical practices are almost respectable these days.”
“Some most definitely are!” cries Kate.
“Have you heard of Marilyn Ferguson?” we ask.
Kate and John nod. But Mike and Sandy look at each other, then shake their heads.
“She wrote ‘The Aquarian Conspiracy',” we say. “She was explaining back in 1980 that a change was underway in medical practices:”
For all its reputed conservatism, Western medicine is undergoing an amazing revitalisation. Patients and professionals alike are beginning to see beyond symptoms to the context of illness: stress, society, family, diet, season, emotions… Hospitals, long the bastions of barren efficiency, are scurrying to provide more humane environments for birth and death, more flexible policies. Medical schools, long geared to skim the cool academic cream, are trying to attract more creative, people-oriented students. Bolstered by a blizzard of research on the psychology of illness, practitioners who once split mind and body are trying to put them back together.
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE IS CREATING
THIS INVOLVES NEW WAYS OF LOOKING AT US;
IN OTHER WORDS, NEW WAYS OF EXPLAINING,
AND DEALING WITH, ILLNESS.
But this new lexicon is also an ancient lexicon. When orthodox medicine was in its ‘heroic' phase, the ancient arts of the herbalist still flourished. Acupuncturists abounded in the east, shamans ‘The Aquarian Conspiracy', Marilyn Ferguson, p264 Acupuncture: Chinese method of curing or alleviating symptoms by pricking often distant parts of the skin with needles. Shaman: traditional tribal medicine men and women. The word is of Siberian origin. (page 42)
The word, then, followed by that preposition ‘of', presupposes that there is something that has to be eradicated or removed. Prepositions govern and usually precede nouns. The emphasis, thereby, is upon the noun or thing that needs to be cured. This ‘ thing ' will not be there when the cure is effected. This is a cut off, bolt on, approach. This is a mechanical exercise, beloved of our orthodox practitioners who hate the paradoxes of the human condition. If curing was everything it should be, we would have a beautifully ordered political landscape by now.
But curing is not that effective.
This is because we are not machines. We can still walk on the wild side, we can still hope and dream, still lash out when we should not, still be heroes when heroism is considered trite, still turn our backs on authorities, still be altruistic, still be bloody-minded selfish, still fall in love against all reason, still carry hatreds against all sense, still laugh at stupid jokes and grimace at clever ones, still support hopeless football teams, and still play cricket beyond tea time. In other words, we can still be human beings, with all the dynamism, daftness and sheer wonderfulness that being us can involve.
Curing, in fact, does not stand a chance. Something different is required for us, something that recognises, and becomes part of, our dynamics.
‘Healing', on the other hand, is invariably defined in dynamic terms. We become healthy or well again. We invariably use the adverb ‘up' in the context of healing, so that we are likely to talk of something that has healed up . It might be a wound. It might be a feeling.
This is nothing less than a dynamic. It is the use of the word ‘heal' with that unprepossessing adverb ‘up' which transforms the meaning. Adverbs invariably modify verbs , which are ‘ doing' words. There is, then, the sense of a process that is not separate and ‘ at war ' with the condition, but is instead engaged in a relationship with that condition. And it is that sense of a relationship that is transformational .
We should not be at war with anything . Neither in the medical field, nor in the political should we be harnessing our (page 106)
The Key And The Journey
This book is about healing our western nations. It shows how politics can be transformed, but is about you and me. It shows how government can be made more efficient, more responsive and more effective, but is about how you and I lead our lives.
It shows us how to work with every symptom that makes our modern nations ‘sick': but it is not about eradicating those symptoms. It reveals for us the fundamental problem that lies at the heart of our social lives, and is about transforming that problem. This book is about healing : healing ourselves, healing our neighbourhoods and communities, healing the very nation states in which we live.
What is being offered here is nothing less than a journey. It is a personal journey and it is a social journey. For in this book the language, the logic, the wonderful and life-enhancing philosophy of healing is transferred into that greater arena of ourselves and our communities.
The effect is startling. All that is wrong with the way we lead our lives is revealed. We see that every time we do something to make things better, we nearly always make things worse. We see that we are always wanting to cure our problems but we never think of healing them. We see at last that socialism and conservatism, communism and fascism, liberalism and radicalism and every single ‘ism' that has been invented to take our problems away, are philosophies that will never solve our problems. Indeed, we see at last, with absolute certainty, that they are the root cause of our problems.
We also see what we have always suspected. That: (page 3)
“We are the only ones who are not mad.”
“I would dance,” Kate muses.
“It is part of the healing way,” we say. “There may not be a magic in the dance. But there is undoubtedly a magic in the effects of the dance. Think of it! You dance with your neighbours. Perhaps you all feast together afterwards. You bond. You laugh.” We lean towards them. “You belong .”
“It would be good to belong,” Kate sighs.
“We are part of the whole,” we say, “yet are dying because we have separated ourselves from that whole. We have our spirit and our future and our wellbeing within an intricate web of relationships, which we have been dismantling and disowning.”
“Could different communities have different ceremonies?” John asks.
“Hopefully. Why would Edinburgh folk do things the same way as in London ? Why should your neighbourhood not be an expression of yourselves?”
“It would be fun,” Kate says.
Sandy nods. “It would help us mothers get to know other mothers. And our children could make more friends.”
“Yes,” says Kate. “But actually doing it would have an effect as well. There is a magic in the dance!”
“There might be,” we say. “But it does not matter. The effects are the thing.”
Sandy hugs herself as she speaks. “Could we have some sort of ceremony to welcome newcomers to the neighbourhood?”
“A wonderful idea!” Kate cries.
“And when they leave?”
“Of course,” says Kate. She looks at Sandy . Her eyes are knowing. “You would be a mother figure for your community.”
“You really would.”
Mike stares at Sandy . “Yes you would,” he says quietly. “Oh god…”
“What?” Sandy asks.
“It would be part of you. But in our present world, that would be denied you. You won't be complete unless there is real community.”
Sandy kisses him. Kate and John stare.
“I think you have just come of age,” Kate says to Mike.
“I understand, but in a different way.”
“You understand it with your heart, not your mind.”
It is Mike's turn to blush. “But I'll still be able to fix the spark plugs in our car, won't I?”
There is silence. It is we who break it, judging that they are ready to move on.
“Let us heal our nations!” we say. “Let us indulge in vast dances of joy and cleansing, great jamborees of sharing and being, intense rituals of togetherness!”
Everything you do that is fun is based on shamanism. Dancing at discos until you go into a trance, screaming yourself into a frenzy at a ball game or music festival, running until you are in an altered state of consciousness: All are shamanic.
There is no cure for the ills of our modern societies. Symptoms will follow symptoms as day will follow night. But we can heal .
Let us acknowledge the fact that we are alive. Let us take ownership of our own potentials. We are not machines, and we need to yell that fact to the stars. We are not mere functions of a mechanistic society and we need to live that truth as we have never lived anything before. We are not entirely predictable, not totally programmable, not quite reducible, and not at all inconsequential.
Cures are external . Space and time play their part. Space and time separate us from the efficacy of the treatment. But the healing journey is different. The healing journey is internal and is immediately transformational. There is no space and time. There is no separation between ourselves and the treatment. We are the treatment.
“We can lighten up,” Kate muses. “And we can dance.”
“We can also mourn together,” says Sandy .
“You will have entered into the truly important parts of your selves,” we say. “You will find that you need to consume less and work less. You will begin to become complete, because that vital part of you that needs to be connected with the whole will no longer be atrophied.”
“I want this to happen,” says Sandy .
“Then let us move on,” we say. “You are all ready in your hearts now, to take control: control of your own lives and communities. You see how healing works? You can understand with the mind. But the real power only comes when you have embraced with the heart.”
“Like how we feel towards our children,” says Sandy .
“Yes. So let us see how we must take ownership: for our children's sake.”