The Dark Side

 

If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. — Thomas Jefferson 

Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains on their appetites....  Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters. — Edmund Burke

Mad Tea Party © Mark Bryan

I think my concern regarding the increasing control of government by large corporations should be a central issue to all Americans. I was raised in a milieu where I was taught that communism leads to dictatorship  and capitalism leads to democracy. But it’s not that simple. Free-market capitalism definitely democratizes a country. But corporate crony capitalism is as antithetical to democracy in America as it is in Nigeria. And corporate control of government is fascism. The definition of communism is the control of business by government. The definition of fascism is the control of government by business.  — Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false. -- William Casey, former CIA director

Call it the end of an era of American hypocrisy, if you will, but the Bush legacy will be, in part, simply the routinization of the practice of torture, abuse, kidnapping, and illegal imprisonment. . . . In just about every case, they chose to bring out the worst in us; in just about every case, they took us on as direct a journey as possible to the dark side.  —  Tom Engelhardt, How Bush Took Us to the Dark Side

 

The Rise of the Dark Side

I have explained elsewhere, on many pages on this site, that Dharmagaians are people who seek and speak the truth, cherish and protect the Earth, and care about the wellbeing of future generations of all sentient beings. In other words, Dharmagaians are people with the heart and conscience to stand up for life, goodness and truth.  This bears repeating because there are powerful forces of darkness threatening our world that can be identified by the opposite of these characteristics.  The forces of darkness distort and hide the truth, brutalize the Earth, and couldn’t care less about future generations. 

Because some visitors to this Dharmagaians website are likely to find the Dark Side Links to be objectionable, jarring, or depressing, I would like to explain the reasons I have included pages on the Dark Side in the Great Turning section.  But first I will explain what I mean by ‘The Dark Side.’

I am referring specifically to the Dark Side of human nature: the capacity of humans to behave in ways that are greedy, predatory, malicious, sinister, devious, deceitful, delusional, destructive, toxic, perverse, pathological, irrational, unconscious, ignorant, and just plain stupid.  The ‘dark side,’ by definition, is unenlightened and opposed to enlightenment and illumination.  To put it simply, the Dark Side of human nature defies the limitations placed on its appetites by earthly life, and this defiance invariably leads to conflict and suffering.  If empowered, it can lead to collective psychosis.

Dick © Mark Bryan

Whether the Dark Side is a characteristic of the universe we live in is a metaphysical question that I am not addressing here.  I am addressing only the Dark Side of human nature as it plays out in our relationships with other humans and with the larger living system that we are part of and depend upon - Gaia.  The Dark Side Links specifically address manifestations of the Dark Side in collective human life.  On the Links page you will find other terms that refer to forms that the Dark Side takes as it manifests collectively and politically:  colonialism, fascism, tyranny, totalitarianism, militarism, imperialism, psychopathology, propaganda, manipulation, addiction, evil, and demons, to name a few terms.  

As I have written in Demons in Our Midst,

It cannot be an accident, or mere "coincidence," that the movie trilogy of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings became box office hits during the George W. Bush’s first four years as the U.S. president. We needed those images of leathery-winged monsters with huge teeth and claws, of the pathetic Gollam with the vicious shadow, of the goodness of fellowship and the evil of greed for absolute power over the world. Why did we need them? I think we needed those visual images to remind us of the nature of evil and the existence of demons because, in our secularlized, mechanistic world, we had forgotten about them. We thought we were safe.

While we thought we were safe, the forces of darkness have arisen to take advantage of our complacency and lack of vigilance and foresight.  Even though Bush and Cheney are gone, we still live in a world where deceitful manipulation, propaganda, and mass delusion pervade American and European societies (and many others), while the forces of darkness continue to wreak havoc with social, economic, and ecological systems.  The world appears to have spun out of rational control.  In systems terms, it is in a state of ‘runaway,’ which is likely to lead to breakdown.    

This has happened during my lifetime, since World War II.  I am not saying that the Dark Side hasn’t always been there within each of us.  As far as we know, it has periodically taken over many a human society and caused great chaos and suffering, including the fall of entire civilizations.  History is littered with relatively isolated incidents of collective madness such as the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition, not to mention all the other, more conventional, wars.  Collective madness certainly manifested in the 20th century in Joseph Stalin’s Russia, Adolf Hitler’s Germany, and Mao Tse-Tung’s China. 

However, what is happening now is global.  This is new.  And it has been led by the dark forces, the ‘shadow’energies of Western Civilization and particularly of the United States.  Since I am an American born during World War II and have witnessed the ascendance of the Dark Side within my country, I feel a responsibility to try to make sense of this for the benefit of others.  That is the reason I have assembled the articles, videos, and other links that are on the Dark Side Links page.

As I’ve said on many other pages on this site, Gaia and humanity are facing grave threats during this century, and all those threats appear to be caused by humans – particularly the humans representing Western Civilization and the industrial growth society in general, which the West gave birth to.  From my perspective, the discovery and use of oil – the most potent source of energy that humans have ever known – is what fueled the power of the Dark Side to emerge and overcome the normal mechanisms that keep it in check. 

As Nate Hagens shows in Status and Curiosity - On the Origins of Oil Addiction, our rational intelligence has been ‘hijacked’ by the illusion of limitless material abundance that was promoted during the Age of Oil.  In the four-part documentary The Century Of The Self, Adam Curtis shows how the American public has been manipulated into giving up its critical intelligence and giving in to its infantile fantasies and appetites.  This manipulation has been for the profit of “business,” and has led to the overwhelming power of the corporation. 

The commercialized American Dream, which succeeded so well in dumbing down Americans and seducing them into debt, has been exported worldwide via television, so that villagers in Africa and slave laborers in Mexico and China all now share the impossible dream of American-style material wealth.  This has driven the economic growth that has primarily benefited the predatory capitalists of the world while poverty among billions of humans has increased.  Meanwhile, the human population has exponentially multiplied beyond the Earth’s carrying capacity, and biodiversity and other natural resources are plummeting.  These are some of the consequences of the rise of the Dark Side in our time. 

The Difficulty of Waking People Up

The rise of the Dark Side is a complex story that the articles, videos, movies and books in the links for Positive Disintegration, Peak Oil, Economic Meltdown, Population, Food Crisis, and the Dark Side have helped me to understand.  The Dark Side in ourselves and in the collective does not want us to see it.  This alone is enough reason for us to peek behind the curtain, read between the lines, and look for what is hidden. 

But the overriding reason for my trying to understand the Dark Side is that the Age of Oil is coming to an end.  The denial of this has been widespread, both in the mainstream media and the general public, which means that humanity is wholly unprepared for the consequences of energy decline. 

This lack of preparation makes us vulnerable to the “disaster capitalism” that Naomi Klein writes about in The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.  Disaster capitalism is not only undemocratic, it can be fascistic.  Is the United States ripe for a fascist dictatorship, as Naomi Wolf warns in Fascist America, in 10 easy steps?  It seemed to be moving in that direction in the summer of 2008: As the country and the world reeled from crises ranging from skyrocketing oil prices and global food shortages to the housing crisis and climate change, the Bush administration pushed through policies that were highly profitable for corporations but didn't solve the crises.

When, out of concern for their future, I have tried to broach this subject with family, friends, and students, most have not wanted to hear information about the political and economic darkness that we are facing.  This includes even Buddhists who have heard Tibetan prophesies about the coming “Dark Age,” and Americans who are aware of Native American prophesies of “the end of worlds.”  

However, disregard for the future, or lack of foresight, is a blindspot that the Dark Side takes advantage of.  Many a preventable tragedy has occurred in human history as a consequence of this blindspot. Nate Hagens’ article “Climate Change, Sabre Tooth Tigers and Devaluing the Future” shows that “our evolutionary origins tilt us towards valuing the present more than the future. Not as much as lower animals, but much more than purely 'rational' beings.”

So there seems to be a link between the ascendance of the Dark Side and the tendency to devalue, disregard, or be blind to warnings about the future in human societies.  Is our blindness to the Dark Side in our own nature connected to our blindness to warnings about the future?  Do both blindnesses have their source in defiance of limitations on our appetites?  Nate Hagens and other evolutionary psychologists would probably source these blindspots in addiction: to power, money, comfort, etc.

When some of my students have wanted to adhere to the ‘love-and-light-only’ position and shied away from acknowledging the need to confront the hard realities and the darkness arising in our time, I reminded them that the primal elements of human nature have not been banished, but have merely gone undercover, and only temporarily.  I pointed out that the last few decades of our exuberantly delusional economy have been characterized by a ‘manic’ phase of expansion that was afforded by ready access to cheap oil.  That phase is coming to an end and contraction is now beginning.  In the meantime, a predatory form of capitalism has spread its tentacles throughout American society and now is inseparable from government and the military-industrial complex.  This does not bode well for the contraction phase.

Those who grew up during the manic phase of the Age of Oil, and have either never experienced life outside the United States or never studied history, or both, tend to have unrealistic expectations about the world and the future.  Naïve expectations have been promoted by the mainstream media in the service of corporate interests, to the detriment of the public interest and the need for accurate information.  Meanwhile, a lot has been going on behind the scenes of which the American public has been kept blissfully unaware. 

Howard Zinn, the ‘peoples’ historian,’ provided a short history of the lies that blind the American public to what’s really going on in his 2006 essay “America’s Blinders.”  Zinn asked, regarding the lies that led to the US invasion of Iraq, “How come so many people were so easily fooled?”  He answered:

It seems to me there are two reasons, which go deep into our national culture, and which help explain the vulnerability of the press and of the citizenry to outrageous lies whose consequences bring death to tens of thousands of people. If we can understand those reasons, we can guard ourselves better against being deceived.

One is in the dimension of time, that is, an absence of historical perspective. The other is in the dimension of space, that is, an inability to think outside the boundaries of nationalism. We are
penned in by the arrogant idea that this country is the center of the universe, exceptionally virtuous, admirable, superior. If we don’t know history, then we are ready meat for carnivorous politicians and the intellectuals and journalists who supply the carving knives.

 

The Dark Side has not yielded one bit of the power that it has accumulated during the Age of Oil. In the US, the military-industrial complex virtually runs the country. As I write this in September 2008, political and economic darkness is gathering.  The threats of a police state in the United States and elsewhere, American and Israeli attacks on Iran, all seem quite real.  Meanwhile we hear daily of species facing extinction and ecosystems nearing collapse.

 

One of my hopes for this century is that humanity as a whole will come to understand the deviousness and destructiveness of the Dark Side within human nature, and will learn to transform and integrate it.  Many indigenous cultures – those who learned to live within the limits of their ecosystems – have learned how to manage and contain the ‘evil twin’ and cultivate the ‘good twin’ within human nature – for the benefit of future generations.  (See Indigenous Wisdom)  It can be done and has been done.  This is what the Dharma is all about: living within the limits of earthly life and cultivating the goodness, conscience, and compassion within human nature.   This Dharmagaians website is dedicated to promoting and supporting the human aspiration to seek the truth (dispel delusion), live in harmony with the Earth community, and create a liveable, sustainable future for all beings.  

If humanity is to survive the coming age of scarcity - as detailed in the Positive Disintegration, Peak Oil, Economic Meltdown, and Food Crisis pages of this site - we will need to comprehend how Oil and the Dark Side together brought about the unfortunate circumstances that our descendants will have to live through.  If we do not collectively comprehend the consequences of allowing the Dark Side to gain the upper hand, the Dark Side of our nature could bring about the end of our species and much of life on Earth.  In other words, denying and ignoring the Dark Side itself creates a dark future. It is the road to doom. 

We humans have a choice, and that is to stay in touch with reality and evolve beyond the unconsciousness that allows the Dark Side to take us over.  This is the subject of Psycho-Spiritual Evolution.

However, to stay in touch with reality, it helps to have many eyes.  I am grateful to all the people who do the dirty work, the muckraking, to uncover the unsavory truths of our time for the rest of us. See Dark Side Links and the Cassandra Club for the myriad voices trying to open the eyes of America and the world.

 

Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?' Expediency asks the question, 'Is it politic?' Vanity asks the question, 'Is it popular?' But, conscience asks the question, 'Is it right?' And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because one's conscience tells one that it is right. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?  — Gandhi

When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall - think of it, ALWAYS. — Gandhi

 

© Andrea Dezsö

The privatization of public services and functions manifests the steady evolution of corporate power into a political form, into an integral, even dominant partner with the state. It marks the transformation of American politics and its political culture, from a system in which democratic practices and values were, if not defining, at least major contributory elements, to one where the remaining democratic elements of the state and its populist programs are being systematically dismantled. — Sheldon S. Wolin, Democracy Incorporated

Jung was very conscious of the great danger facing humanity, and he realized it had to do with coming to terms with the darkness within ourselves. He realized that the great danger facing humanity was the “psychic danger” of collective psychosis that resulted from disassociating from our own darkness. — Paul Levy

 

© 2009 Suzanne Duarte