Three Books by
Asia Institute’s senior associate Daniel Garrett has produced these three remarkable books recently which reflect his attempts to integrate spiritual topics into his approach to international relations and diplomacy. In an age in which diplomacy has been reduced to consumption and brutality, his unique fight for world peace gives new hope for us as we face our greatest challenge yet.
Chronicles of a New Tibet: Book 1: Entanglement
Climate change has brought a number of surprises including the rise of Green China, a Tibetan Renaissance, and the dissolution of the United States. Set against this backdrop conflict between the different powers has shifted to the Astral Realms of quantum interconnectedness which the new Bardo Tech allows people to enter at will. Will love survive this new battlefield? Or will the forces that have been unleashed prove too strong for the mere humans that dabble in them…
“The wind is full of prayers, and the rocks, too, are carved full of prayers, and the carving of prayers into rocks goes on, and the praying of the wind goes on. There are some places where the great wave of disenchantment of the world never quite reached. It climbed to the top of the Tibetan passes and was re-enchanted. It sobbed in recognition of all that it had forgotten, a world that lived: Gods and Goddesses and demigods and demons and spirits everywhere, and each and every sentient being embodied or not, a friend, a mother, in an endless telling of a story that only stopped when one awoke, and even then did not really stop so much as go on joyously, with all the connections between doing and being, clear, and freedom come as natural as mountain air.
The streams were full of prayers, and the rivers and the great grasslands; the caves were full of meditators and the bones of meditators, still sitting in meditation position, and of paintings on the cave walls, not of bison and the hunt, but of dakhinis and dharma protectors, and of mandalas, the visualization of which created a door for stepping out of this world and into the world from which it had emerged. And there were monasteries, as large as little cities themselves, where monks and nuns chanted and laughed and practiced the art and science of having the mind understand itself. And the skies, the endless skies, above the nomads and the yak were peopled by clouds that were the clouds in the mind of the people who walked below them. Clouds that taught and told and preached and sang poems and prayers. Everything was connected to everything else, as intimately as family, as closely as lover to lover, and inner was outer and outer was inner, no one being able, or wanting, to close the doors on the immensities on either side of that equation. The earth had raised high a cradle to teach all that lived upon her and with her, of their inheritance and their belonging. No cathedral of man could rival these mountains and valleys in sanctity and uplift. And when the world, finally, in great tragedy and sadness, broke into the fastness of the mountains, the secrets that had been there preserved and nurtured, flowed out into the world, and the world was changed.”
Pieces of the Moon
Telltale bits of the simulacrum of being, shards really, discovered by a young poet spouting strange words. Mating calls perhaps. Prayers no doubt. Reveries, raving, writhing, tithings to a god a goddess and mountains climbed and unclimbed. Several cups of nothingness and than some.
“this wizardry of sleep, leaves costumes of flesh
prone upon their beds, breathings as heavy and slow
as a rusting ocean of idling machines.
and the shoebox towns, and the cardboard cities
give up their feeble ghosts, to gangs of shadow
and return to the model of themselves
which some corporate architect saw
before the broken families came forth and filled them in
and all that was holy drives drunkenly home
past the closed-down drive-in at the edge of town
its longest running show now become, just ‘night’”
The Sustenance of Words: Selected Essays 2009-2016
I was in a position of minor power and saw the writing on the wall of abrupt climate change, and what can most charitably be described as “vampire economics” and in that modest perch from which I thought some small good could be done, I raised a warning as best I could. Some heard, most did not, or if they heard felt there was nothing they could do, that it was not their job description.
These are the words of that protest, starting with a Dissent Cable written for the U.S. Department of State in 2009, followed by subsequent essays upon my professional demise from that august institution. Sadly it appears we have acted too late. Happily it appears we are a clever shambling beast with a few more tricks up our sleeves. Sadly the situation is more dire than it was then. Tragically a virulent form of insanity is in the cockpit and we have not yet learned to fly on our own, or more importantly, fly collectively for the good of all. Hopefully out of this debacle some desperate beauty will arise, out of the earth, out of our common human hearts, and out of the animating spirits of all of our precious children.
“I would say, and in fact do say, that the sustenance of words is meager, thin, unsustaining, poor, inartful, verging on the useless, and yes, that it is both cruel and the awfulest gruel you can imagine. And yet. Sometimes, it is the only gear that translates inaction into action. And when that -aforementioned- rare occurrence occurs it can also too easily be the gear that translates inchoate feeling into misdirected mistakes. So we must give some respect, if not credence, to what we say, and to the beliefs, formulated, formulaic or not, from which those beliefs emerge, though often of course it is the other way around. Justification cobbled together for what in fact is a stance taken in the darkest recesses of our mind if not our body.
Nor is the essay, my favored art form. The idea of speaking reasonably to drunks with a well-crafted line of argumentation is folly in the extreme. In fact, most essayists are in service in the halls of power to power. They are the handmaidens to unreasonableness, crafting their bland inanities to cover over the truth of so-called leadership’s lust for power, and/or money; cobbling together fig leaves to cover the sickening bulges of vanity, careerism, narcissism, and sociopathy. And yet here I am with a modest book of the same. And I blame the government. Of course! My years as a Foreign Service Officer writing heavily edited cables (so that most of the sense and feeling were wrung out of them by the grey uneminences of the hierarchically higher-ups) created the bad habit, formed the unhealthy notion, that people could be persuaded out of their dangerous misconceptions if enough facts and phrases were martialed. It of course doesn’t work that way. We read, if we read, the arguments that perpetuate our illusions, certainly not the ones that set out to dash our complacencies.”
Asia Institute Seminar
Monday, May 15, 2017
“The Road to a Shrinking Society”
How to make ourselves truly renewable
School of Engineering
After the meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear power plants in 2011, Japanese public opinion has been divided into three groups: those who want to continue using it, those who want to phase it out and those who want to end its use immediately. The establishment has argued that nuclear power is required for the economy and recently the Abe Administration has pushed for restarting plants as part of his agenda for growth.
The choice is one rather of choosing the future of Japan and goes far beyond nuclear power. If we continue this rate of “growth” we will exhaust all our resources in the near future. Even 2% growth will assure us that we will use up what resources we have in fifty years, rather than one hundred.
War and catastrophe will be the consequences of the radical exhaustion of resources.
There is much talk about a sustainable society today, but the term “sustainable” is used in a vague sense with no concrete guidelines.
Some in industry see it as meaning the sustaining of current growth into the future, the complete opposite of the environmentalists demand for limited consumption.
We must face the truth and reduce real consumption. If we reduce consumption by 1% every year, a 100 year reserve can be continued indefinitely. If we reduce more than that, we can build up a reserve. We must design a smaller society for the sake of future generations in order to avoid catastrophe.
The current economic system is based on mass production and mass consumption. As a result, our lives are flooded with industrial products to which we have become addicted. Our ever-growing society is already showing the signs of discordance as a result of this consumption illness. A smaller society, on the other hand, supports local production and consumption, and requires less energy. We will have a more healthy society if people are not addicted to industrial products and anonymous consumption but rather nurture each other and promote a creative life.
“청년들이 바라보는 헬조선 및 5.9선거”
2017년 4월 17일
이만열 EMANUEL PASTREICH
전상구 & 박경홍
경희대학교 & 한양대학교
최근 청년들이 헬조선 이란 현상을 심각하게 우려 하고 있지만 많은 경우 직접 자기 의견을 말하고 해결 방법에 대한 제안을 할 기회도 없습니다. 그리고 자기 주장을 잘 할 방법도 모르는 경우 가 많습니다. 이번 세미나에는 청년의 목소리를 직접 듣고 자유로은 대화 할 수 있는 공간이 제공됩니다.
World Citizen’s Organization
The Asia Institute
The Asia Institute’s senior associate John Feffer recently published recently a remarkable dystopian novel Splinterlands in which looks back on the coming conflicts and contradictions of the 21st century from midway and gives us a chance to pull together the various strands of current geopolitical transformation, from climate change to the rise of the far right and grasp the larger zeitgeist in midstream.
The following is an excerpt from Splinterlands. It’s a look back at our world from the shattered Earth of 2050. Feffer’s novel has come to read ever less like futuristic fiction and ever more like a vivid journalistic report on the latest developments in our distressed, Trumpian universe. The story is about a “geo-paleontologist” named Julian West who looks back from the year 2050 on a world shattered by the unexpected rise of nationalism and the devastation of climate change. The excerpt below is the first thousand words from the novel.
More than twenty-five years ago, as I sat on the roof of our house watching the neighborhood’s furniture float down the street, I thought things couldn’t get any worse. Everything I owned was under water. The capital of my country was ruined. Mother Earth was exacting its revenge upon its most arrogant inhabitants.
As it turned out, things got a lot worse.
If anyone should have anticipated the world’s vertiginous descent into chaos, I was the most likely candidate. I was the author of Splinterlands, a bestselling book on the fracturing of the international community that made Julian West a household name (among the more discerning households at any rate) and launched an entirely new field. That book also led the chattering classes to dub me, dismissively, Professor Chicken Little.
True, I’d been warning people that the sky was about to fall. I just didn’t think it would fall on me.
No one predicted that the “extreme weather event” known as Hurricane Donald would flood Washington, DC, and its surroundings in 2022. I’d gone to sleep the night before expecting, at worst, high winds and heavy rains. I was roused from sleep by sirens and rapidly rising waters. My wife, fortunately, was on a business trip in Chicago. My children were safely abroad. It was dawn, and I’d woken to a nightmare.
From my second-floor window, I could see a river sweeping down our suburban street. My car had already disappeared beneath the roiling brown water. Behind me, I could hear something lapping against the stairs. The river, I soon discovered, had already claimed the first floor. I entertained the idea of diving in to retrieve my wallet and my computer, both of which I’d foolishly left downstairs. I quickly scotched that idea. They weren’t salvageable, and I didn’t have time.
There was no place to go but up. I grabbed my phone, put on two more layers of clothes, and climbed out onto the roof. The chimney provided a small measure of shelter from the wind and water. From this precarious perch, I could see other families huddled on their roofs. We looked like a flotilla of refugees, our chimneys as masts in the storm. My neighbors held tightly to their most precious possessions: grandma’s walker, a small safe, the family dog. Virtually all these things, including the dog, would eventually be left behind. There just wasn’t room in the boats that finally came to get us.
“This is the end,” a young woman kept repeating to no one in particular as we huddled in the fishing skiff commandeered by the Coast Guard. Rain lashing her face, she clutched her laptop to her chest as if it were a flotation device. “This is the end, and everything has gone to shit.”
Just as those who don’t live in the Arctic north lack a sophisticated vocabulary for describing snow, we hadn’t yet found the words for the catastrophes about to befall us. For the time being, “shit” would have to do. Soon we would see the collapse of everything we considered so stable: the European Union, multiethnic China and Russia, and eventually the United States itself. We would be visited by an almost biblical succession of plagues: disease-bearing mosquitos, killer robots run amok, the perils of too much—and too little—water. Even our own genes turned against us, with multiple mutations that we unwittingly passed to future generations like defective holiday gifts.
I don’t want to diminish the impact of Hurricane Donald. Several thousand people died. The economic toll ran into the hundreds of billions of dollars. The US capital moved to Kansas City. But this was nothing compared to what came next. And still we haven’t come to the end.
On March 18, 2017, the Asia Institute held its first seminar in Japan in Fukui. The seminar focused on the challenges of anti-intellectualism and the undermining of science in contemporary society. The discussion was led by Asia Institute members Inobe Kota and Nakafuji Hirohiko. Over the course of the afternoon we were joined by several leading figures from Fukui. On March 19 we visited Fukui University.