Monday, January 25, 2010

Lessons from MINO

I feel like I've turned a corner over the past week. It's been a long time coming. Ever since I began to realise the nature of the predicament that Humanity is in, I've been searching for a solution. I just knew there had to be one. It was "like a splinter in my mind".
One of my favourite films is Chicken Run. It has a lot of parallels to what I was trying to do. It's about a group of chickens who, at the instigation of a very determined hen called Ginger, are trying to escape from the farm. They try plan after plan and things are looking bleak, especially after they realise that the farmers are planning to change their end product from eggs to chicken pies. In one scene, Ginger is trying to enlist the help of a rooster called Rocky Rhodes, who is on the run from a circus:

Ginger: Mr. Rhodes, perhaps I didn't explain our situation properly. We lay eggs, day in and day out, and when we can't lay any more, they kill us.
Rocky: It's a cruel world, doll-face. You might as well get used to it.
Ginger: Which part of "they kill us" do you not understand?
Rocky: Hey, I've got my own set of problems to worry about. Besides, this bird cage can't be that hard to bust out of. In fact, watch me.
Ginger: It's not so hard to get one chicken out of here, or even two, but this is about all of us.
Rocky: All of you?
Ginger: That's what I've been trying to tell you.
Rocky: Wait a minute. Let me get this straight. You want to get every chicken in this place out of here at the same time?!
Ginger: Of course.
Rocky: You're certifiable. You can't pull off a stunt like that. It's suicide.
Ginger: Where there's a will, there's a way.
Rocky: Couldn't agree more. And I will be leaving, that way.

All along, the solution I was seeking was for everybody. After years of obsessing over the problem, I did finally find it. The pay-offs were huge. It also required no effort or cost on most people's part, only agreement in principle. TPTB could not prevent it. I actually thought it would fly. I thought if people saw a way out, they would get behind it. Either that, or it would start a discussion that would lead to something even better. I thought the widespread apathy and hopelessness was due to a lack of ideas. I posted the plan on Evolver, and I thought people would get it. Almost no one did, and some that responded were actively hostile to it. Silly me. I failed to see that most people don't want to be free.

It's funny because everybody loves freedom, right? Or rather, they say they do. It is constantly celebrated in stories and films, in songs and speeches. It's champions are cultural heroes. And yet... when faced with the possibility of actual freedom, those same people recoil in horror. It turns out, they will do anything to avoid it, pay any price. They justify it by claiming that we don't have a choice. But that's a lie. By believing in the necessity for control, we have made a choice. We don't have to let a cabal of criminal psychopaths control us. We could stop playing their game any time we want to. But there's a catch. To do it, we have to really want to be free.
Hardly anyone wants real freedom, because it doesn't just mean not being controlled. It also means renouncing our control of others. The tyrant is no more free than the slave. Both are controlled by fear. If we abolished money and and made all work voluntary, we would strip ourselves of our power to force others to give us what we want.
Don't get me wrong. I'm still convinced that our souls' love of freedom is genuine. I don't think people are naturally cruel and selfish. But the false ego is. And as long as it holds sway, as long as we fail to recognise it and challenge it's insistence that it is "I", freedom will remain out of reach. Realistically, I don't see this changing anytime soon. Not unless conditions radically shift due to some unforeseen factor (which I don't rule out).
And that's OK. Because, as within, so without. If there is a solution for "the world", then I can apply it just as well to my own path. I can still be free on the inside, where it truly matters. I can't choose freedom for anyone else. Only they can do that. All I can do is point out the exit, which I have, then walk through it myself. Now the splinter in my mind is gone. I don't regret the time and energy I spent working it out. At least now, when people tell me they don't have a choice, I can show them that they do.

In another scene from Chicken Run, Ginger is trying to motivate the chickens:

Ginger: You know what the problem is? The fences aren't just round the farm. They're up here, in your heads. There's a better place out there, somewhere beyond that hill, and it has wide open places, and lots of trees... and grass. Can you imagine that? Cool, green grass.
Hen: Who feeds us?
Ginger: We feed ourselves.
Hen: Where's the farm?
Ginger: There is no farm.
Babs: Then, where does the farmer live?
Ginger: There is no farmer, Babs.
Babs: Is he on holiday?
Ginger: He isn't anywhere! Don't you get it? There's no morning head count, no farmers, no dogs and coops and keys, and no fences.
Bunty: In all my life, I've never heard such a fantastic load of tripe. Oh, face the facts, ducks. The chances of us getting out of here are a million to one.
Ginger: Then there's still a chance.

Ginger is right. There is still a chance. It starts with each of us. It will happen when we free ourselves and free each other. That's what I intend to do.


  1. However innumerable sentient beings are, I vow to save them.

    However inexhaustible the defilements are, I vow to extinguish them.

    However immeasurable the dharmas are, I vow to master them.

    However incomparable enlightenment is, I vow to attain it.

    - The Vow of the Bodhisattva

    Wonderful site. And your plan on Evolver is right on the money (if you'll pardon the word)

  2. Thank you for your encouragement, Reverend Keith. And thanks too for the Vow of the Bodhisattva. It's so very beautiful and uplifting.

  3. Chicken Run was a great film. Such profound lessons.

    I guess as long as the ego is still kidding itself as to its role, it is unwilling to take the final, crucial steps to true freedom.

  4. Hey 13...

    Don't let us on Evolver discourage you.

    People are stubborn and habitual... And controlled by fear... and somehow this is news to you? I suppose it takes the experience of thinking up the solutions yourself and then trying to convince others. It seems that convincing others is 99 percent of the work.

    Still, I think that if you loosen your eyes a bit, you would find that people are already choosing the path you speak of. Most of them don't even know.

    You point out the door: and people refuse to walk through it. That's old hat; because we still love these people... now we need to trick or seduce them to walk through the door. Not only that... we need to trick and seduce ourselves mainly. Just using words is not enough. And always be mindful of our own potential illusions. And if it was only your own internal freedom that you loved, or that mattered, you would not be writing or reading any of this.


    Rob Meade

  5. I just found Evolver last week, and yours was among the first pieces I read. It got me thinking, and played a role in a big community discussion I was part of last weekend. I even linked to it. That's not because I was completely convinced of anything, but because I think you've raised good food for thought.

    A friend recently made an emphatic point that we never know the full consequences of our actions, good or bad. Keep putting your ideas out there. Just don't expect them to change the world overnight or even start the beginning of a new movement simply because they're somewhere online that people might see them. That requires building relationships around the ideas, which really only just begin with blog and discussion board comments. Go further. Be an advocacy journalist, meaning use all forms of media at your disposal to do the work of making the world into the place you want it to be.

    Glad to meet you :-)

  6. Thanks guys, I know you're both talking sense and I appreciate it.
    Rob, you rightly point out that reality is very much in the eyes of the beholder. The seesaw of hope and despair reflects how, not what, is observed. It's sometimes difficult for me to remember that when under the influence of PMS, which I was. I'll never stop caring about everybody else, unless I undergo a total personality transplant. It's just that I accept that I can't save anyone else. I can offer another perspective and encouragement, but it's a mistake to get attached to results.
    Dave, your friend is very wise, and all your other points are well taken. Glad to meet you too.

  7. Yeah, I find it's a mistake to get attached to results because most of the time you don't even see them, and not only that, but it can take years or happen after you're dead. That's why I've come to respect the virtues of persistence and faith. But choosing the right battles is also important. It's probably even good that you had a more emotional reaction, though. You never know with these things.

    And I second what Dave Berman said... the internet is a weird place... once things are out there, they're really out there. You might put up some stuff and 90 percent of the actual effect or transmission of it is unbeknownst to you, or it might appear again out of the blue or be significant to someone months or years later.



  8. Hey 13,

    I hope it wasn't my own criticisms that disheartened you so. It truly wasn't my intent: you're one of my favorite people on the internet, and more to the point your MINO idea is, well, an excellent idea.

    Dave and Rob make a really good point about releasing memes on the net: you write something and put it out there, and it's like dropping a stone in a pool ... or like casting a spell. There's really no way of knowing how far it will spread, who it will affect or how or when or ... or anything, really. The one certainty is that the more 'out there' your idea is, the frostier the reception will be.

    Also, did you see the 'favourpod' (with a 'u') bit on Evolver? It looks like the beginnings of MINO, put together by people who have never heard of you :)

  9. Hi Psychegram. No, it wasn't you. :) I understood where you were coming from and I ended up there myself, just slower to arrive. Reason can't compete with 2000+ years of heavy indoctrination. I really did need to see that I was wasting my energy struggling against what must be. A smooth and relatively painless transition is not in the cards. Oh well, cest la vie.
    You never know though, change can come quickly and unexpectedly. GodIAm was in Berlin the day the wall came down and he told me what happened. Pretty much without warning, people just decided it was time. There were soldiers on the streets but they did nothing to stop it. They joined in with the others. Sadly, life had to get absolutely freaking awful before that tipping point was reached.

  10. Glad you mentioned the Tipping Point, 13. I think this concept is so important and would like to see more talk about how we actually engineer it. People rarely remember the subtitle of Gladwell's book, "The Tipping Point." It is "How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference." The lesson I take from this is that our big ideas must be implemented in ways that involve a series of small steps (the least you can do) which necessarily aggregate a cumulative impact as they proceed.

  11. Hi Dave. As far as I can tell, tipping points are reached when the staus quo becomes unacceptable. An analogy could be drawn with the course of destructive addictions. The tipping point comes when the addict "hits bottom". So if you wanted to engineer such a turnaround, you'd have to withdraw "enabling" activity. Instead of trying to improve the situation, it would be better to just let it fail and have a solution ready when it does.

  12. It is not necessarily either/or. With an addiction, surely it is best not to be an enabler. But that doesn't account for all situations where we might want to affect change. Take climate change as a counter example. I don't imagine you advocate doing nothing until the worsening situation hits bottom. More likely you are doing what you can to live more sustainably in your own life (the least you can do). This seems a better analogy to your observations about money where you are thinking about what can be done differently, you are proposing ideas, you are engaged in conversations - all "least" steps with the potential to build toward a tipping point, but which require far more than what you alone can manage or dictate to get there. So the crux of my suggestion is meant as feedback on your process of strategic thinking. Specifically, I'm suggesting factoring in how to make your suggested strategies one that will necessarily have a cumulative impact as they spread. This is how a tipping point can be manufactured with intent.

  13. As a segue to my comment, I purchased a charming deck of tarot cards the other day with Hallowe'en imagery. I particularly liked the Devil card. She was a very attractive devil, and I thought to myself 'what an excellent representaton of materiality'. The slaves at the end of her chain definitely wore them voluntarily.
    I like your idea, 13... but the question isn't whether it'll work, of course it will, but whether our human, primate, mammalian natures would rise to it. As you say, a chance in a million is still a chance.
    One chance.

    Just one.


  14. is now in live beta. I've been eagerly awaiting the chance to use this and see great potential for it as a means to attract and facilitate organizing the Manifest Positivity advocacy journalism collective. On the About page of IWRTW there are seven people listed, the second of whom wrote:

    Jason Liebrecht
    General Manager
    If I ran the world I would eliminate currency and make us a barter society.

    It looks like only some of the features have been enabled so far. I have created a limited profile and created a "microaction," though I also had to report a problem that the action item seems to have vanished. I also submitted praise saying I was so glad they had launched even a little! (though this too may have disappeared in the ether.)