Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Denial

Here are my rambling reflections on Guy McPherson's visit to Wellington and my own experiences of climate change denial and resonances with my own personal journey


Reflecting on climate change denial and a decline in personal health
Seemorerocks



The Wellington leg of Guy McPherson's visit to New Zealand is over, so it is time for me to sum up what this has meant for me

Pam and I have enjoyed having Guy and his wife Sheila to stay. Both of them have been delightful guests.  After spending several days in Guy's company I now feel I know him well enough to say a few things.  

Above all, the impression is of someone who is self-contained and undemanding. Apart from the odd ice cream Guy didn't really have many personal demands apart from the space needed to  keep up with what he does every day - to keep up with communications, with the news of the day and the continuing story of the crazy suicidal and omnicidal slide of this species towards destruction.

Above all (and I can only say this of a very small number of people I have encountered in my lifetime), the word that comes to mind is congruence.  I have seen nothing to contradict the impression of someone who wants to communicate  the truth as he sees it to those who are willing to listen and most of his waking hours, as I have seen, are dedicated to that end.

So, when I hear about the efforts of a particular individual to work behind the scenes to attempt to undermine his message and to try and warn people off,  I feel angry.

Fortunately, I am pleased to be able to say that such efforts thus far have failed completely and Guy has had an audience that was more than willing to listen with open minds and hearts and then to make up their own minds about what they have heard.  

In Wellington, at east, there has been no sign of minds already made up and in violent denial that I have encountered elsewhere.

In fact the marae experience for me was one of a group of people that were open-minded and willing to listen to each other and discuss their responses.


THE LOSS OF HOPE

There were resonances in Saturday's seminar at the marae, for one of the last times I had been there was to attend a very similar gathering 15 years ago with the renowned British ecologist Teddy Goldsmith who had a very similar message to that of Guy's.

Back in 1988, when I first heard him and was hearing about climate change for the first time Teddy Goldsmith announced that in his opinion the world had only ten years to put things right and predicted human extinction within forty years due to environmental destruction, mass extinction and - above all- climate change.  

Back in those days (unlike today) his opinion was reported and carried in an article in the local paper, the Dominion.

Here he his talking back in 1998 about globalisation and Maori.


Back then we all lived in hope that there would be a consensus amongst world leaders to actually do something about greenhouse emissions.

I can well remember the week I lost hope. 

That was at the time of the COP15 talks in Copenhagen. 

I can remember the horror watching the daily broadcasts from Democracy Now!, seeing the police pursue and beat up activists. NGO's were excluded from the main meeting. Delegates from the Third World had to queue outside for hours in the snow. The desperate pleas from leaders of the  Maldives and Pacific Island nations like Tuvalu for action fell on deaf ears as the talking heads disagreed with each other.

In fact, the only thing that they could agree on was to do nothing.

This was also the time when I watched the BBC documentary called Global Dimming which posited for the first time the possibility of runaway climate change as the result of the release of methane in the world's oceans. It also demonstrated how temperature could rise quickly in a matter of days when just the planes were taken out of the sky (after 9/11).

That was when I felt in my heart that the game was over.

I put it all aside for concerns about economic collapse and Peak Oil

When I heard Guy McPherson speak for the first time none none of what he have to say surprised me very much but immediately resonated as it had when I first heard Mike Ruppert ("the whole economy is a ponzi scheme) talk about Peak Oil and Collapse.

Guy visited New Zealand in 2012 and I organised a single lecture locally in Petone.  

He talked, as he had previously of his hope that humanity would be saved from near-term extinction by Peak Oil and the complete collapse of human industrial society.

Apart from being wrong (like everyone else) about imminent collapse the reporting of an increasing number of self-reinforcing feedback loops forced him around this time to reconsider this position and to conclude that there was now nothing that could be one to prevent the extinction of the human species (and most life on this planet) within one generation.


TALKING OF DENIAL AND ILLNESS

Now I would like to talk about the subject that means the most to me- that is myself.

How has it been for me?

I have been living this for several years now and so nothing is totally new to me.

Perhaps I can say that nothing surprises me any more but I have never lost the ability to be shocked.

I have been in some from of grief for the planet - perhaps for as long as I remember, however, not lost in depression or despair as those who talk about a 'death cult'  suggest.

The one thing, above all that raises my hackles above all else is denial and what is called in Buddhism 'sceptical doubt' - first and foremost those who seem to be immune to any from of evidence or proof.

All of this is inextricably tied up with my own personal fate and often I have been unable to distinguish the two . 

When I meet with abject denial there's a lot of resonance with my own personal situation.

I have experienced delicate health throughout much of my life, something that I can attribute in hindsight, as being due to early exposure to pesticides (specifically, paraquat). 

Never, throughout that period, from my childhood on, have medical practitioners ever been able to correctly diagnose, still less treat, any conditions, from bedwetting as a child, severe itching from adolescence to fatigue, allergies and other symptoms - as an adult.

Neither have they ever once admitted failure

In the last few years (but especially in the past four)  I have experienced a continual and rapid decline In my health.

Previously I was able to go for a 2 to 3 days tricking in the bush; now I can scarcely walk around more than a couple of blocks. Several years ago I was very good teacher (and practitioner of yoga) and was able to sit in the full lotus; now I cannot even sit on the floor. Just four years ago I was participating in competitive tail rides with Biscuit; now I go for short rides when I feel able to.

Prior to 2010 I had only been in hospital once since I was a child and very rarely consulted a medical practitioner and was almost invariably disappointed when I did, having been fobbed off with statements like "there is only anecdotal evidence that food has anything to do with allergies"  or "there is not connection [between symptoms of a frontal headache and urinary urgency]  because they are are in different parts of the body".

I am not joking! I have actually been told the above!

In the last four years I have been a regular visitor to the hospital (twice in an ambulance) and have had two operations.

I have had two diagnoses to explain symptoms that I was going through at the time - sarcoidosis (which I seem to be clear of since the blood tests have normalised themselves) and transient ischemic attacks (something that was never substantiated by tests) and a melanoma that was surgically removed and they seem confident is in abeyance.

Every time I go back for a consultation I am told (with a nice smile) that everything is back to normal - practically that there's nothing wrong.

Well, that must explain why my wellbeing continues to decline, practically without explanation.

I suppose, from their point-of-view I must epitomise what they call psycho-somatic illness.

For them environmental illness doesn't exit, still less such crippling and serious conditions such as candidiasis: and neither does any malady that can't be picked up through routine testing.

This is how they explain it:


"In people who have a somatic symptom disorder, medical test results are either normal or do not explain the person's symptoms, and history and physical examination do not indicate the presence of a medical condition that could cause them"

The fact that in their yes I am a trained quack (acupuncture and TCM) doesn't help.

Well, I am afraid I cannot make any distinction between these medical practitioners and those climate scientists who are wedded to their computer models that bear less and less relationship with observed reality as the ice melts, methane is released from the seafloor and the tundra and positive feedback after feedback is observed.

It's all denial.

Similarly, no conventional practitioner has the humility to admit they have no idea what's  going on (I know this will be familiar to many that suffer from environmental illness.

Instead they have to come up with a theoretical model to justify the gaps in their own practice. 

Simply, if it is not confirmed by their testing models it does not exist!



LIVING WITH DEATH IN MIND

Not only have I had to live with the denial of the medical Establishment but also have had to live with the everyday denial of well-meaning friends who hope that I am getting better and when I explain that I am getting worse won't have a bar of it.

I feel every time I'm asked "how are you?" that I am about to have an apoplectic fit.

I have been provided in the last day or so with the perfect response to "how are you?". The answer is "I'm fine", FINE being an acronym - "Fucked-up, Insecure, Neurotic, Emotionally unavailable".

Not that I feel that I'm any of the above.

I'll have to find my own acronym.

What has come out in the past few days while Guy has been here, is that denial, (whether of near-term human  extinction, illness or death) is intimately connected to a death-denying culture that cannot even bear to mention Death by its name but has to say someone " passed over", "one to a better place" etc.

Well, thanks to my condition and a feeling that something is seriously remiss, I have had ample opportunities to contemplate death which, now seems much less of a threat.

We talk of Life and Death as if Death were the opposite of Life. In reality it is not so; Death is really the opposite of Birth.

I am reminded for some reason of something Woody Allen said in one of his films - "I'm not afraid of Death; it's dying I'm afraid of".

My disappointments have not really ended.

After the wonderful discussions in the weekend I decided to confide in someone who I thought might understand  where I'm coming from.  Instead of just listening - (something I consider to be the highest art of the counsellor) what I got was still more from what I always experience - yet more advice and problem solving. Had I considered hypnosis or any number of other things suggested with a very passing acquaintance with either me or what was ailing me?

Well, sorry - I've been working full-time on this for twenty years, even training full-time as a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, as part of my quest to heal myself.

I've now passed beyond that to a state of acceptance.

This is the fate I've been handed - just as much as the legacy of the activities of civilised humans is. 

I'm more or less ready for what Fate hands me. Perhaps I'll go on like this for some considerable time, or maybe I'll die as a result of this illness.

One of this means that I will not do the things that are needed for me to maintain the greatest possible level of wellbeing.

But it also means, as sure as eggs, that I won't be looking around for yet another miracle cure - something that is offered to me with painful regularity.

I will continue to act to the extent that I can. These acts will be one of rebellion against the Empire.

But like Chris Hedges, I'm not so naive as to believe they're going to make any difference.



2 comments:

  1. Wonderful account of your experiences straight from the heart Robin. I too suffer from chronic pain, I have no idea why I have this but it is a burden that makes me sad - sad because I can't do some of the things that I used to do (I am normally an energizer bunny) So I look for ways to feed my well-being and have come to conclusion that as I wrap myself up more in this now time, and the reality of what is to come, I somehow have seemed to find a joy that I never had before. Perhaps that is the acceptance part, yet I still long for the days of a pain-free day. I still have active hope to better my condition, some simple things I know I should be doing better (eating better, exercising more) Massage and Tai-Chi I have found to be the most helpful things for me, and are things I can now do more of (thanks to a full-time job now) Thank you for sharing your story and I too find Guy to be one of the kindest and thoughtful people I have met, he is a truly a deep thinker and there are not many of those is our world. You are on my mind, in my thoughts and prayers, and I wish you and your family the greatest that this life can offer you. Even in your pain you continue to trudge through, writing this wonderful blog and sharing stories. Your mind is still sharp and has so much to offer the world. Keep up the great work Robin.

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    1. Thank you for your kind comments. I'm sure that many people who have conditions that have eluded and/or been denied by the medical Establishment will resonate. We carry a lot of the world's pain on our shoulders.

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