We start our series of member profiles with our wonderful long-term interim treasurer, Mike Nuess. Mike is an author and an expert on environmental design.
Can you tell us about your role as a PJALS volunteer?
I’ve been with PJALS for roughly a decade and serving as interim treasurer, accountant and bookkeeper for most of that time. I wasn’t trained in these skills but it was something PJALS needed at the time. It was time consuming at first, but I’ve managed to learn, often with the generous support of others more qualified, and it’s much more streamlined now. It’s an essential role. And now PJALS needs a volunteer(s) to replace me. Having a like-minded volunteer member perform these duties is ideal for PJALS as it frees more member donations and staff time for direct program work.
Tell me how you first got involved in with the cause to further peace and justice.
I probably first realized I lived deep within “The Matrix” when I was in high school. I saw a teacher ruthlessly shame, demean and humiliate a student for something he hadn’t done. Both his error and deliberate meanness shattered my illusion that adult authorities were there because they had grown sufficiently wise. The doors of perception began to open: I was on my own when it came learning the truth.
It took awhile, but by the time I finished undergraduate school I had substantially deconstructed much of The Matrix. Religious, governmental and corporate dogma was gone. I had self-selected incredibly informative and wonderfully reliable sources of information, many of them heretics; like Teilhard de Chardin, priests and nuns practicing Liberation Theology, Buckminster Fuller, Noam Chomsky and Amory Lovins to name a few.
I found myself in community with others who had awakened, as da Vinci said, “only to see the rest of the world was still asleep.” I am now confident that humanity’s greatest single threat is this ignorance into which we are deliberately cultivated.
What was your first impression of PJALS?
PJALS was the only local organization able to recognize and articulate most of the issues I thought urgently critical to humanity’s survival. PJALS was working to dissolve the ignorance by educating fellow citizens about our own government’s forestalling of democracy and social justice, and ultimately endangering human survival on several fronts: from civil rights injustice and nuclear weapons insanity here at home, to U.S. financed genocide in Guatemala and ruthless client dictators throughout the oil-rich Middle East. PJALS was revealing a wide spectrum of instances, all of which reflected that consistent government policy of protecting the interests of “the minority the opulent,” in the words James Madison used while framing the U.S. Constitution to protect this “better class of men” from the rest of us who “secretly sigh for a more equal distribution” of life’s blessings. About the time Madison was structuring the Constitution to “protect the minority the opulent” Adam Smith was observing that same consistency of government policy more accurately from within the British Empire, observing that the interests of the Empire’s “principal architects of policy [their minority the opulent] were most peculiarly attended to” regardless of the effects on others—even their own citizens, but especially visiting the “savage injustice of the Europeans” upon outsiders like the people of India.
The Matrix has been around for a long time, and PJALS was articulating the savage injustice of today’s U.S. architects of policy, like Chiquita Banana for example, regardless of the effects on others, the indigenous people of Guatemala.
What’s your first memory of something related to the peace and justice cause?
I think it takes a myriad of experiences, many clues that something is deeply wrong that may come from many different situations, until eventually a pattern begins to emerge. One of the first big ones for me was the Vietnam War. In 1969 I was headed for an officer’s commission in the Marine Corps. I had been trained, graduated and offed a commission. The whole momentum of my life led down this path toward serving to protect family, community and homeland. But in the interim I had learned that the proclaimed noble intention to both defend the homeland and free the Vietnamese people was only a pretext, a ruthless lie to support a war of aggression for the sake of strategic dominance and corporate profits, a war for which our own sons were being hypocritically betrayed into killing and dying to make sure that the interests of the principal architects of policy were most peculiarly attended to regardless of the effects on others—even our own youth (mostly poor and black). Two years earlier Martin Luther King had become the only mainstream public figure to declare the war was outright wrong, “a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit;” that it represented a “pattern of suppression” arising from the “need to maintain social stability for our investment accounts.” He was assassinated after that, and to this day no other significant mainstream public figure has come out to tell it straight. I was then unaware of King’s courageous and beautifully articulated position, but perhaps I somehow landed one step ahead of the ignorance that had propelled me because of people like him, the Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam and so many other voices trying to slip past the dogma of propaganda at that time.
What do you find most challenging about the peace and justice cause?
It seems to me that removing deeply programed ignorance of the nature and urgency of fundamentally critical matters like nuclear war, nuclear accidents such as Fukushima, the rampant environmental and cultural destruction, and the rogue behavior of one’s own government is so very slow and difficult. Most people don’t know much about these issues. Many still don’t even know that they don’t know. Few look beyond the mainstream media. It’s quite challenging to find teachable moments.
What’s the worst thing to happen since you started working with PJALS?
Fukushima. It may prove to be humanity’s greatest disaster, ever.
What do you wish other people knew about the peace and justice cause?
By the middle of the 20th Century, Buckminster Fuller’s work had delivered engineering certainty that we could swiftly, abundantly and sustainably feed, cloth, shelter and autonomously free all humans by wisely applying our “know how” to deploy a designed-for-all technological infrastructure capable of making everyone wealthy with greatly reduced human labor, thus freeing everyone to pursue their own interests and inspirations at no expense to any other.
This extraordinary human achievement flipped humanity from the 3-10 million year long historical context of unavoidable conflict over resource scarcity into the entirely new context of an immediately available abundance, achievable in sustainable harmony with the needs of Earth and other sentient beings.
Under the old paradigm, one’s family and community needed protection from “Others.” It was necessary, courageous and even noble to fight to defend one’s own. Tribalism and eventually Nationalism emerged naturally within this paradigm.
But under today’s new paradigm intra-species conflict is suicidal. The very “techno-logical” know-how we have finally achieved and deployed can now destroy us all. If Fukushima takes the worst turn it may kill many more people than died in all the 20th Century wars. If the one Russian submarine commander had not held out against the other two during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, they would have launched nuclear torpedoes against the U.S. Navy. Instead they suffered through (and survived) the Navy’s depth charge assault. Had they fired, we wouldn’t be here and the Northern Hemisphere might still be uninhabitable today. Nationalism is now obsolete. Global Stewardship for all is emerging naturally within the new paradigm.
In 1955, Bertrand Russell, Albert Einstein and 9 other Nobel scientists issued a manifesto warning this problem “is stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war?”
The human brain stem adapts too slowly. Only our conscious minds can check its reflexive reaction, firmly established under the old paradigm, and build a just and peaceful world.
If you could change one thing about PJALS what would it be?
I think PJALS is already moving in the right general direction. For example, The Bring Our Billions Home Campaign links the dollars lost here at home to the military investment in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hopefully PJALS can grow this deeply interwoven connection, helping people see these are wars of aggression for control of and access to strategic resources: war crimes under International Law, with horrible consequences for the people who live there, that increase the risk of terrorism here at home, as well. So we are hemorrhaging the tax dollars that could instead provide plentiful jobs to build the new infrastructure of sustainable abundance, restore lost homes and pensions, extend healthcare to everyone, increase strategic security and lift everyone out of poverty; all in order to finance horrible war crimes that only engender more hatred against us, reducing strategic security. It’s a death spiral for the U.S. population. But “the minority the opulent” is doing quite well. Their interests remain peculiarly well attended to…regardless of the impact on the 99%, either here at home or in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, etc.
It seems to me that PJALS is increasingly capable of framing the new paradigm in a way that helps those who are beginning to sense something is wrong, thus enabling the transition from frightening insecurity to clarity. The core values we humans assemble into a moral paradigm have been around for eons. Today’s urgency is not one of improving upon the moral nature of humans but of revealing the true reality we find ourselves in. Once enough people ‘get it’ the transition to the new paradigm may be quite swift.
As Buckminster Fuller said: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality [paradigm]. To change something, create a new model that makes the old one obsolete. That’s exactly what Amory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) have done by articulating a proven path to abundant and sustainable energy, http://www.rmi.org/reinventingfire saving the U.S. $5 trillion over business as usual by deploying an elegant mix of efficiency and renewables to completely phase out coal, oil and nuclear by 2050, while growing our economy by more than 150%, and reducing our carbon footprint by about 85%.
PJALS and similar groups are often accused of simply fighting the system with no solution to offer, but this is a lie, a typically deceitful attempt to discredit them. In reality they are deeply committed to the new paradigm: fighting today’s injustice because they know what today’s justice is, bringing our billions home because they know that builds a safer and saner world, resisting coal exports because they know what a sustainable energy abundance, healthy environment and stable climate must consist of—and that it’s both urgently necessary and quite available.
Why are you supporting PJALS as opposed to other groups working on the Peace & Justice Cause?
I do support several other groups. There are many more worthy ones than I can manage to support. In my book, General Plenty, http://www.teleologics.org/ I suggest hope comes from that growing grassroots groundswell of seemingly divergent organizations and causes that are actually converging within the new paradigm. Warriors of the new paradigm are today’s real patriots. Innovators and visionaries like RMI, energy-efficient homebuilders and Rainforest Action Network; Warriors like Dan Ellsberg and Anthony Russo; Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange; Greenpeace activists in Russian jails, Native Americans leading Tar Sands resistance and 350.org’s fight against the Koch’s Keystone Pipeline; Spokane’s advocates for police accountability, and Spokane’s resistors to trains exporting coal, to name only a very few.
I find PJALS so relevant because it sees and openly addresses the broad-spectrum interconnectedness of the whole system, simultaneously supporting transgender justice, ensuring police accountability, closing corporate tax loopholes, expanding environmental and economic justice; revealing the brutal occupation of Palestinian lands, the wars of aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the criminal support for undemocratic client states in Central America, Africa, the Caucasus, etc. These all reflect pretty good vision of the necessary elements of now possible new world and the commitment to make it so—a world where all people matter and are superbly nourished.