|Chiesa di San Giorgio, Ragusa|
I arrived late in the afternoon and found myself unexpectedly traversing La Valle dei Templi, the Valley of Temples. I was drawn to the remains of il Tempio di Giove Olimpico, the Temple of Zeus. There were no gates, no fences, no tour guides, no visitors apart from myself. I wandered slowly through the mass of abandoned ruins, fingering pieces of broken vessels and scattered pottery that had been shaped by ancient hands. Most of the supporting columns had long since collapsed and the perimeter of the massive central stone floor of the temple was littered with immense blocks and cylinders of weathered stone.
I felt a profound sadness in the face of the forgotten and untold stories that surrounded me. I sat in stillness for some time and then, near instinctively, reached for the well-travelled copy of the I Ching in my back-pack. I drew Hexagram 55, Feng, Abundance [Fullness]. The Judgement read:
"Abundance has success. . . .The commentary on the Judgement continued:
Be not sad.
Be like the sun at midday."
"It is not given to every mortal to bring about a time of outstanding greatness and abundance. . . . Such a time of abundance is usually brief. Therefore a sage might well feel sad in view of the decline that must follow. But such sadness does not befit him. Only a man who is inwardly free of sorrow and care can lead in a time of abundance. He must be like the sun at midday."
|Temple of Zeus, Agrigento|
As the first stars began to appear, I laid out my sleeping bag on the stone platform in the ruins of the old temple and prepared for a long night.
Lengthening Shadows, Deepening Wounds
The forty years since have seen an intensification of all the signs of dissolution that were then evident and the emergence of many more portents of decline and impending collapse. All the while, we in the Western world have continued to fill our already-full larders and feast on the fruits of an unprecedented time of abundance and prosperity. As Australian author and activist Clive Hamilton recently observed:
"The dominant characteristic of contemporary society is not deprivation but abundance. By any standard, the countries of Western Europe and North America, plus Japan and Australasia, are enormously wealthy. Most of their citizens want for nothing. Average real incomes have risen at least threefold since the end of the Second World War. Most people are prosperous beyond the dreams of their parents and grandparents."Yet this abundance and the freedoms it has bestowed appear to have benumbed rather than sharpened our capacity to perceive and to interpret the divided reality that underlies our illusions of comfort and prosperity.
|Reactor 3. Fukushima, April 2011|
On October 10th 2011, both the Australian Federal Government and the South Australian Government obligingly rubber-stamped a massive industrial development at the Olympic Dam mine complex at Roxby Downs in South Australia that will, over the next 10 years, see an additional 19,000 tons of uranium oxide (yellow cake) produced annually for export every year. Australia already exports over 10,000 tons of yellow cake every year.
This mammoth project will result in the creation of the world's largest open-pit mining operation. It is projected that immense quantities of copper, silver, gold and uranium will be extracted using energy-intensive methods for the next seventy years. South Australian Mineral Resources Minister Tom Koutsantonis has described the project as "the largest undertaking in mining in human history."
The expansion of the Olympic Dam mine will require massive infrastructure changes that include the construction of a new town to house the additional 10,000 workers needed for the project, a new gas-fired power-plant and additional electricity transmission lines from Port Augusta 270 kms away to power the project, a new airport, and a new 105 km long rail line to link the complex to the national rail network. Also slated is the construction of a new desalination plant in the Spencer Gulf and 320 kilometres of pipeline through which desalinated water will be pumped to the new mining complex.
|Olympic Dam, South Australia|
On October 12th 2011, two days after the decision to approve expansion of the Olympic Dam mine, environmental commentators around the world applauded the triumphal passage in the Australian Parliament of the highly disputed Clean Energy Bill or "carbon tax." This bill has the ambitious aim of reducing carbon emissions in Australia by a miserable 5% by 2020.
Virtually every adult Australian citizen was aware of the "carbon tax" due to the rancorous opposition to its passage by the Liberal Party and its leader, Tony Abbott. Very few, however, were aware that at much the same time, a project had been set into motion that made a complete mockery of any pretensions to act in an environmentally responsible manner. Like Canada and the US, Australia has enthusiastically embraced the suicidal ethos of industrial development at all costs and joined the horde of lemmings rushing towards the abyss.
Those who seek to awaken their fellow citizens to the counterfeit values projected by large corporations now find themselves demonised and reviled by the dominant media and by "law and order" politicians. In both Melbourne and Sydney, supporters of the Occupy Movement were recently forcibly removed from public spaces where they had gathered to address issues related to corporate manipulation of public discussion and political process.
The constant refrain voiced by media commentators and parroted by many within the general community was that the protesters "appear to have no clear aims." What is reflected in such comments is a failure to grasp the inchoate nature of this global uprising that has seen hundreds of thousands of people protesting in 900 cities throughout North America, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand in recent weeks.
|Occupy Wall Street General Assembly|
Three and a half weeks after the Occupy Wall Street protest began, the General Assembly issued a Declaration that began with the following statement: "The future of the human race requires the co-operation of its members." Much of the rest of the Declaration detailed the specific conclusions that were drawn during the discussions.
The Declaration generated at Zuccotti Park provides a compact, coherent and holistic statement of principles from which action can emanate. It draws particular attention to the role and influence of large corporations and financial institutions:
- They have poisoned the food supply through negligence and undermined the farming system through monopolization.
- They determine economic policy despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.
- They have directed large sums of money to politicians who are responsible for regulating them.
- They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.
- They have purposefully kept people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.
- They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts.
The Declaration ends with the following call to all of like mind:
- Exercise your right to peaceably assemble, occupy public space, create a process to address the problems we face and generate solutions accessible to everyone.
The Next Turning
We are here witnessing a harnessing of the highest aspirations of a humanity that seeks to restore the principles of fairness, sensitivity, balance and co-operation in a world that is riven by the pathologies that corporate and industrial greed have spawned over the course of the past century.
The abundance enjoyed by many within the Western world has come at a great cost. One of those costs is a moral dereliction that ignores the inequality of living standards around the world. Film Director Philippe Diaz has graphically documented the fact that over a billion people live in slums in the developing world and that 16,000 children die daily from hunger and from hunger-related diseases. While the economies of Western nations have been steadily growing over the past four decades, the number of people suffering from malnutrition has grown from 434 million in 1970 to 854 million in 2008.
A similar moral dereliction is evidenced in the intensification of such activities as the extraction of oil from tar sands in Canada, the expansion of the Olympic Dam mine in Australia, and the preparations for large-scale exploitation of oil, gas and mineral reserves in the Arctic region as the ice cover progressively recedes.
The Occupy Movement reflects a growing realisation that the processes of democracy that nominally serve to protect the rights and freedoms of individuals have been usurped by the corporate Behemoths that hold the invisible reins of governments everywhere. It also reflects the growth of an integral consciousness that is mindful of the need for freedom and autonomy for oneself and others, that acknowledges the need to interact sensitively with the cycles of the natural world, and understands that our planet can no longer withstand the assaults of an increasingly destructive industrial civilisation.
Only by becoming more conscious of these realities can we begin to release the active forces necessary for restoration and renewal, contribute towards the creation of new ways of being on the earth, and learn to shine through the ruins.
Vincent Di Stefano D.O., M.H.Sc.