Saturday, June 17, 2006

Father's Day

At the risk of being called a dyspeptic old curmudgeon, I refuse to celebrate Father's Day just as I abstain from birthdays and other commercial holidays.

It is regrettable, but like so many worthy ideas it has been co-opted by our market-driven system and remolded to induce our population to buy, buy, buy, regardless of circumstance or deeper feeling.

Over the years I've trained my children, whom I deeply love -- and who, I have reason to believe -- return that love, to send me no gifts and to make no fuss about Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day, etc, etc. I give them gifts fairly often, as occasion or whim occurs, and I always appreciate little gifts and reminders of love from them. But not on holidays, please!

My dear Freddie, who cherishes some holidays and loves to have opportunity to remind loved ones of how she feels, generously accepts my idiosyncracy and continues to love me through thick and thin. She has never criticised or complained, even though she is delighted when her children or friends send her notes, cards, or little gifts on holidays. (And I confess I fudge a little on her birthday. I love her so much I even violate my own rules!)

If families could discipline themselves, defying the relentless commercial pressures that play on their emotions, and make certain holidays into special little days where they cater a bit to the "honored one", most of my antipathy would disappear. Tell him to sleep a little late, treat him to a special meal, perhaps give him a simple card or note - - these would be admirable ways to show love.

But going to Wal Mart to buy a new lawnmover or a tool, a bottle of after shave, or a box of cigars? Ugh: the mere thought makes me nauseous. It transmutes noble meaning into shallow obedience to the torrent of television, radio, and newspaper exhortations to "show Dad you love him." Sincere act becomes ritual compliance with an external imperative.

Don't believe for one moment the constant refrain to "express your love through gifts." There are better ways.

Rise up, ye downtrodden masses of slaves to the market! Break the iniquitous habit. Free yourself and show sincere love and affection, with no dollar signs anywhere near.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Great Turning

This weekend I attended the State Convocation of the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice, and was privileged to hear an inspiring keynote address delivered by David Korten: "The Great Turning", based on his new book of the same title.

I assay below a summary of his talk, with apologies to David Korten if my poor memory or some of my own ideas skew this summary in a direction he didn't intend!

David presented a well researched summary of human sociocultural history over the past 10,000 or so years. Before about 3000 BC, he argues, human society was organized on the basis of relationships in a form of social organization he terms the "Earth Community". Human needs and values were paramount, as small, localized groups foraged, hunted, and planted, cooperatio was the basic principal of interaction, the earth was respected, and the needs of the individual were humanely balanced with the needs of the group.

Spiritually, gods were generally female, representing the givers of life and sustenance. In human society women enjoyed a fully participating status, with a voice in all family and village affairs.

Korten maintains that

"Earth Community . . . organizes by partnership, unleashes the human potential for creative cooperation, and shares resources and surpluses for the good of all."

Then, in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, a new basis of organization arose, the Empire state, hierarchical and controlled by a relatively small elite and their entourages. The great majority of individuals were impoverished, with their needs being subordinated to the needs of the ruling elite. In Korten's words

"Empire organizes by domination at all levels, from relations among nations to relations among family members. Empire brings fortune to the few, condemns the majority to misery and servitude, suppresses the creative potential of all, and appropriates much of the wealth of human societies to maintain the institutions of domination."

Spiritually gods were more often male, as rulers and controllers, and most earthly rulers were male. The role and the powers of women were diminished.

As empires rose and fell, and technology became more complex, economic power eventually became concentrated in the corporations of the Western World, and human values were subordinated to the bottom line profits of corporations. Over the past century or two technology has helped corporations create vast wealth unimaginable by earlier human standards.

Especially in the past century the production of vast wealth, and the power that accompanied it, has been based peculiarly on the availability of cheap energy, chiefly from petroleum. Americans have benefited so much from inexpensive petroleum that it has helped the US become the dominant world power, the center of a new world empire based on the corporate state.

Now, in the early years of the 21st Century, the world system based on the American corporate state faces a devastating collapse. Three events, occurring more or less simultaneously, will cause this collapse:

. . . . petroleum production will peak, its prices will rise, then it will decline

. . . . global warming and climate change, already evident, will ravage much of the earth

. . . and the world economic system will implode as loss of confidence in the US dollar calls up the trillions of dollars of debt the US has incurred to China and other countries in its pursuit of a profligate lifestyle.

While no one can predict with accuracy when each of these events will occur, most analysts agree it will happen within the next few decades. And there are other potentially destructive processes at work. The entire world is marked by gross and growing inequitous between rich and poor nations, and between rich and poor people within the nations. Poverty promises massive unrest and civil strife.

Further, the world empire is based on a corporate system that has no role for the satisfaction of human needs and the nurturing of human values. The bottom line rules. Employees, even at the top of corporate structures, are required to perform amorally, and they are unaccountable to an alarming degree. Governments, now controlled by corporate interests, are allowed to cater to human needs up to a point, keeping the myth of democratic control alive, but that point stops well short of the corporate bottom line of profit for stockholders.

Korten's dire analysis is based on careful research, and its main conclusions echo those of other perceptive analysts. A catastrophic collapse of the American empire, and consequently the world socioeconomic system, seems certain within the next few decades.

Yet Korten offers an inspiring vista of hope. He argues that there is a healthy alternative to collapse and ruin as the world begin to build a new Earth Community, marked by close interpersonal relationships, adherence to such human values as mutual caring and cooperation, respect for the earth, and commitment to peaceful living. This he calls The Great Turning, and he believes it is already underway, on a limited scale, in the civil rights, womens, environmental, peace, and other social movements.

Individuals active in these movements can be buoyed by the knowledge that recent polls reveal a profound consensust among Americans - - rich, poor, liberal, conservative - - on basic principles. 83% believe the US is focused on the wrong priorities. Huge majorities want ". . . greater priority given to children, family, community, and a healthy environment, as well as a world that puts people ahead of profits, spiritual values ahead of financial values, and international cooperation ahead of international domination."

Korten ends his appeal by urging that all activists who share these values, whatever their political persuasion, work harder to mobilize the people of the world to work together to build a new Earth Community. And he points out that the new revolution in communication and transportation will facilitate this cooperative endeavor which offers the only hope for averting disastrous collapse.

Who is Pat Murphy? What's in a name?

Legally, I am Emmett J. Murphy. Professionally, I was for many decades known as E. Jefferson Murphy, PhD. But I’ve always been Pat to my friends.

Who/What am I?

I'm a dedicated political activist, but I'm also a father, a husband, a sailor, a Quaker, an author, an amateur homebuilder, a former African specialist, and a former college professor and administrator.

My political activism is currently expressed through my work with Progressive Secretary, the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice, the South West Florida Peace Coalition, Sarasota Friends Meeting (Quakers) , and the Coalition of Concerned Patriots. I am a member of the Green Party and Veterans for Peace.

A brief career sketch.

I retired from Smith College as Five College Professor of African Studies in 1991, but I remain enthusiastically active when I am in Florida for the winter and Western Massachusetts for the summer.

Before I retired from Smith, I was Five College Coordinator for Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith Colleges and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. I served in that position from 1975-1987.

From 1971-75 I finished my PhD in Education and Anthropology at the University of Connecticut, then worked as consultant to various foundations and organizations. I was full time consultant on African and international programs at Carnegie Corporation of New York from 1973-75.

From 1954 to 1971 I worked for the African-American Institute (AAI), serving successively in Washington, Accra, Dar es Salaam, Washington again, then New York. From 1965 to 1971 I was Executive Vice President in New York.

My books include Understanding Africa (1969 and 1981), Teaching Africa Today (with Harry Stein)(1973), History of African Civilization (1973), The Bantu Civilization of Southern Africa (1974), and Creative Philanthropy: Carnegie Corporation and Africa (1975).

My Immediate Family

My spouse is Freddie WindRiver. In addition to being an energetic political activist, she is a Holistic Nurse and a wonderful companion. A lifelong devotee of community living, she now is a deeply-committed member of a spiritual/ecologhical community (www.SiriusCommunity.Org).

Freddie has three children - - David Willoughby of Cambridge, MA, Mark Willoughby of Greenfield, MA, and Barbara Willoughby of Eugene, OR. She also has two grandchildren, Barbara's son Colin Caleb Willoughby and David’s daughter Stella Gertie Gitelman Willoughby.

My children are Terry Murphy , Kathy DeGrenier, and Emmett J. (Patrick) Murphy, III. All three are great people, and all three, not coincidentally, are accomplished sailors.

Terry was formerly national director of communications for a large fast food company headquartered in Boston. She now owns an imaginative gift shop in Ludington, MI. She is a talented writer with a rich educational background, and is very active in community art work. Her partner, Deb Dila, an artist/photographer, has an art gallery in the same building.

Kathy is a mother, and works for the public school system in Sarasota, FL. She has been a part-time ski instructor, and a professional worker in eco-tourism and related fields. She and her husband, Steve DeGrenier (a tennis coach), live in Sarasota, FL. My two grandsons are Alex and Andre DeGrenier.

Patrick is a successful professional drummer who has recorded and toured for years with a prominent alternative rock band. He is a passionate motorcyclist and loves travel - - a good thing since his band tours all over the US and to rock festivals and music gatherings throughout Asia and Europe. He lives in Amherst, MA and Berwick, ME.

Home Building

As a retirement project, I designed (with Freddie) and built our home in Shutesbury, MA. To learn the rudiments, I took the course at the Shelter Institute, Bath, ME, then worked on the house for six months of each year from 1992 through 1996. It is located on the lands of Sirius Community; Freddie and I live in it during the portions of the year we are in Massachusetts. It won't win architectural prizes, but we love it!

So welcome to my web site. I hope you'll find my work and thoughts interesting and provocative.

Life is a voyage

Sometimes I am a serious fellow. But occasionally . . . . . .

After days, weeks, months of hard wo.rk, it is mighty restorative to get into a boat and sail, with the soft whisper of the water flowing under the hull, the tiller responsive to your touch, and none of the disturbances of the office or the workplace.

In the voyage of my life boats have taken me from Maine to Florida, from Florida to the Bahamas, from the Bahamas to the Virgin Islands, time and time again, back and forth.

At the helm