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What is this “Green New Deal” of the Democratic Party?

Perhaps the most telling statement of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at her meeting with the media (February 7, 2019?) in front of the Capitol was this one:

“Climate change and our environmental challenges are one of the biggest existential threats to our way of life.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s comment represents the manner in which the Democratic Party can take a real issue and turn it into sawdust with its magic touch. To start with, adding “and our environmental challenges” to “climate change” significantly weakens the focus and suggests that there is but a spectrum from climate change, to lead in water to irregular garbage pickup by the sanitation department. So also the expression “one of the biggest existential threats” made the term “existential” seem like a colorful booster, such as those popular with PR firms, or lobbyists, to describe a topic you want to get tax dollars. It is the equivalent of “robust” or “critical” or “absolute must.”

Based on my own experience in DC, I am deeply suspicious that this bright and bold statement was in fact written by a lobbyist or PR firm.

That interpretation is further supported by her employment of the hopelessly banal expression “threats to our way of life” which makes it seem like there is nothing critical or existential at all about the problem, but rather that in the future we may have to pay more for gas, or for vegetables, or not be able to enjoy our weekends with the kids in the park.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pushes for her borrowed “Green New Deal”

The Democrats have taken the concept and the content of “Green New Deal” from the Green Party without giving any credit to Jill Stein and her team. They talked about a broad coalition, but they did not invite any Greens, or other groups not related to the Democratic Party. I am a bit shocked at how many are willing to just accept this move and see it as a revolution in the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is as closed as it ever was.

World Beyond War’s Global Security System

The light and shadows of the Korean Peninsula  (Emanuel Pastreich)

The light and shadows of the Korean Peninsula

Emanuel Pastreich

February 1, 2019

How many times have I seen an American expert pointing to a satellite photo of the Korean Peninsula at night and remarking that the striking difference between the darkness the envelops North Korea and the bright lights that illuminate South Korea, as well as Japan, symbolizes the insularity, the oppressiveness and the pathetically backward economic state of the North. The obvious point is that the brightly lit South is a model of progress, of technology, of democracy and of free markets. 

This contrast between the light of progress and democracy and the darkness of dictatorship and ignorance has a certain aesthetic perfection that easily feeds the imagination of viewers; the narrative is intellectually predigested and it goes down smooth.

In the political debate in South Korea, this narrative is not seriously questioned in the media, among scholars, or among politicians. The progressive politicians argue that we should engage with North Korea and invest more in such projects as the Kaesong industrial complex so that North Koreans can find opportunities for employment and South Koreans can make profits from the cheap labor and abundant natural resources that North Korea offers. The conservatives argue that North Korea is a dictatorship and that it threatens South Korea militarily and cannot be trusted. They say that North Korea must first open itself up completely to the international business, and allow complete inspections of all its nuclear facilities.

But the assumptions made by the progressives and conservatives in South Korea do not differ fundamentally. Both are assuming that South Korea is more advanced and that a future North Korea should look more like South Korea where citizens enjoy a far greater GDP, drive cars, live in spacious houses with televisions and smartphone and produce K Pop hits that sell around the world.

Of course, it would be ludicrous to make an argument that North Korea is a model for others. The closed environment and the repressiveness of the government is no myth.

But as someone who has lived in South Korea for twelve years, I have been forced to admit, despite my hesitancy, that there is something seriously wrong here too. Whether it is the high suicide rates, the polluted air, the ruthless competition in schools, the deep alienation felt by young people, the extraordinary dependence on imported food and imported fuel or the tremendous numbers of the elderly who live in poverty, there are deep, deep shadows that cross all of South Korea.

There are two important points that are often buried in the shadows in the official narrative about North and South Korea. We need to look at North and South Korea from the ground up, not from high up in space.    

I have heard from numerous South Koreans who had the opportunity to visit North Korea that they had a strong sense that something vital had been lost in South Korea when they walked through the small vegetable markets in North Korea, observed the modest décor in the clean-scrubbed hotels and encountered the unadorned and unpretentious behavior of the citizens of Pyongyang.  

Such South Korean friends noted that women in North Korea, although they may not have the luxuries of the South, are also not under the same pressure to wear makeup and to compete with each other in consumption. There is not the demand for brand clothing.

South Koreans detect decency in the manner in which people treat each other on the street in Pyongyang. Many are reminded of the Korea of the 1960s and 1970s when there were far closer relations in South Korea between family members, and between members of the community. For that matter, the absence of automobiles, of youth addicted to cell phones, of endless advertising that drives people to buy things that they do not need or want for the sake of profit—all these aspects of North Korea evoke an original Korean culture that has been lost.

But there is an even more important issue that has been completely buried in the media of South Korea, and in our discussions about North Korea.

All the discussion by “experts” by journalists, about North Korea is based on issues involving economic growth, GDP, standard of living, production and consumption. According to these standards, North Korea is helplessly far behind advanced nations, and South Korea in particular. That means that South Korea can be the big brother and teach the North Koreans how to be “advanced” and “modern.” But all those terms are subjective and ideological in nature. The assumption made in South Korea is that wasteful consumption of resources is a positive and that it should be actively encouraged. It is assumed that it is progress to live in bigger, overheated homes and to own automobiles and smartphones.

But there is no scientific evidence, whatsoever, that underlies these assumptions. They are as accurate as saying that praying to the moon will bring rain or using leeches to drain blood will cure the diseases.  

In fact, research shows that such behavior patterns focused on consumption can have profoundly destructive effects on society as a whole including deep alienation and increased levels of suicide and substance abuse. That is to say that the assumptions about what North Korea should become, and what South Korea has been successful at, are based on ideology, on unfounded assumptions and on a myth of modernity. The result is that South Koreans are convinced that they are successful even as profound stress and frustration sweep through families.

When we approach this image of the Korean Peninsula at night using a scientific approach, this image tells a profoundly different story; the lights and shadows are completely reversed.

The overwhelming opinion among experts based on objective scientific analysis, not based on ideology, or profit, or warm fuzzy feelings, is that humanity faces an unprecedented crisis in the form of global warming (climate change) and that at the current rate we will be lucky if we manage to avoid extinction as a species.

There are numerous reports and books on the catastrophic changes in our climate, and the resulting extinctions taking place already. We can already see in Seoul that mosquitos manage now to survive until December, and often flowers are found blooming into January. That is just the beginning of what will be rapid, life threating changes.

If we let things progress as this rate, the oceans will warm, and grow acidic until fish are extinct, deserts will spread until much of Earth is uninhabitable and South Korea, hopelessly dependent on imported food and on the export of fossil-fuel intensive products, will be devastated

So what should South Korea do if it wants to survive? The answer is quite clear. It should start looking more like North Korea in terms of energy consumption and frugality. It should stop wasting energy and be dark at night, the way it has been for tens of thousands of years. It should get rid of all the useless lights on apartment buildings, end those electrified signs on commercial buildings, reduce dramatically unnecessary internal heating and end the wasteful design of high ceilings and concrete, glass and steel exteriors found in its buildings. It should go back to the traditions of frugality and simplicity that characterize much of its history.

South Korea should be dark at night. Its citizens must be aware of the tremendous cost of keeping its cities illuminated, in terms of the expense of importing fuel, in terms of the terrible pollution generated by subsidized fossil-fuel power plants, in terms of increasing global warming that is destroying the future for our children.

But there is a deeper, hidden secret. We have been fed a myth that Korea must grow, must advance, must consume and consume more to be modern, to be advanced, to be recognized as being special, as opposed to the unwashed masses of “developing countries.” Becoming modern has been assumed to be the highest priority for generations. But what is modern if consuming fossil fuels and wasting natural resources is destroying our ecosystem and damning our children?

The numerous problems that exist in North Korea are quite serious, but from the perspective of climate change, South Korea should be benchmarking North Korea’s low-consumption, rather than planning to vastly increase consumption and build highways and expensive wasteful apartments.

Many people may find that my words sound odd, even nonsensical. It is so obvious to many that South Korea’s modernity and its high level of consumption is a badge of honor, a sign that it is a member of advanced nations. Consumption considered as a major factor in calculating the state of the economy? If people consume less (and that means consuming less energy) then the growth rate will go down.  

But if we are facing extinction because climate change, who cares what stupid things the newspapers tell us about consumption? We must stop subsidizing fossil fuels immediately. Those numerous lights that burn all night in South Korea do not represent cultural advancement, but rather a dark and dangerous game of living for the moment by sacrificing the futures of our children.

There are infinite meaning and depth, spiritual and personal experience, to be derived from talking with family and friends, from reading books, writing letters and essays, walking in the woods or putting on plays and musical performances for each other. It requires almost no and does far more for us than a jungle of smartphones, lit up Starbucks Cafes, or throw-away plastic toys and cups that we are given, whether we want them or not.

As we think about the future of a unified Korean Peninsula, we must first move beyond this dangerous concept that being modern and advanced is a priority. We should ask ourselves rather what does it mean to be human? How do we live a meaningful and fulfilling life and contribute to society?

I do hope that North Koreans can live in a freer way than they do today and that they can eat more nutritious food. Yet they will not find any nutritious food in the convenience stores that have taken over South Korea and destroyed the family-owned stores that once gave citizens economic independence.

But I also hope that South Koreans can be set free also from the invisible chains that bind them to mindless consumption, that force them to consume increasing amounts of coal (heading in the opposite direction of almost every country in the world) and that leave so many feeling deeply alienated from friends and from family because of a brutal culture of endless competition.

The move toward unification must be about freedom for North Koreans and South Koreans. How unfair it would be if we assumed that only North Koreans are entitled to be free. 

“information everywhere but not a drop to contemplate”

Nicholas Carr’s book

“What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains: The Shallows” has had a deep impact on my thinking about disturbing trends in our society that I had already noticed. Carr demonstrates, with reference to scientific research and philosophical insights, how the computer and the resulting internet (and related market-driven stimulations) are remapping our brains and creating a social and intellectual wasteland in the midst of an unprecedented wealth of information. I have selected a few critical quotes from Carr’s book and will refer to him in an upcoming article.

It is truly “information everywhere but not a drop to contemplate.”

Nicholas Carr

But the news is not all good. Although neuroplasticity provides an escape from genetic determinism, a loophole for free thought and free will, it also imposes its own form of determinism on our behavior. As particular circuits in our brain strengthen through the repetition of a physical or mental activity, they begin to transform that activity into a habit. The paradox of neuroplasticity, observes Norman Doidge, is that, for all the mental flexibility that it grants up, it can end up locking us into “rigid behaviors.” The chemically triggered synapses that link our neurons program us, in effect, to want to keep exercising the circuits they’ve formed. Once we’ve wired the new circuitry in our brain, Doidge writes, “we long to keep it activated.” That is the way the brain fine-tunes its operations. Routine activities are carried out even more quickly and efficiently, while unused circuits are pruned away. (page 34)

The potential for unwelcome neuroplastic adaptations also exists in the everyday, normal functioning of our minds. Experiments show that just as the brain can build new or stronger circuits through physical or mental practice, those circuits can weaken or dissolve with neglect. “If we stop exercising our mental skills,” writes Norman Doidge, “we do not just forget them: the brain map space for those skills is turned over to the skills we practice instead.” Jeffrey Schwartz, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA’s medical school, terms this process “survival of the busiest.” The mental skills we sacrifice may be as valuable, or more valuable, than the ones we gain. When it comes to the quality of our thought, our neurons and synapses are entirely indifferent. The possibility of intellectual decay is inherent in the malleability of our brains. (page 35)

“A new medium is never an addition to an old one,” wrote McLuhan in Understanding Media, “nor does it leave the old one in peace. It never ceases to oppress the older media until it finds new shapes and positions for them.” His observation rings particularly true today. Traditional media, even electronic ones, are being refashioned and repositioned as they go through the shift to online distribution. When the Net absorbs a medium, it re-creates that medium in its own image. It not only dissolves the medium’s physical form; it injects the medium’s content with hyperlinks, breaks up the content into searchable chunks, and surrounds the content with the content of all the other media it has absorbed. All these changes in the form of the content also change the way we use, experience, and even understand the content.

(page 89)

What can science tell us about the actual effects that Internet use is having on the way our minds work? No doubt, this question will be the subject of a great deal of research in the years ahead. Already, though, there is much we know or can surmise. The news is even more disturbing that I had expected. Dozens of studies by psychologists, neurobiologists, educators and Web designers point to the same conclusion: when we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning. It’s possible to think deeply while surfing the Net, just as it is possible to think shallowly while reading a book, but that’s not the type of thinking the technology encourages and rewards. (page 115)

One thing is very clear: if, knowing what we know today about the brain’s plasticity, you were to set out to invent a medium that would rewire our mental circuits as quickly and thoroughly as possible, you would probably end up designing something that looks and works a lot like the Internet. It’s not just that we tend to use the Net regularly, even obsessively. It’s that the Net delivers precisely the kind of sensory and cognitive stimuli—repetitive, intensive, interactive, addictive—that have been shown to result in strong and rapid alterations in brain circuits and functions. With the exception of alphabets and number systems, the Net may well be the single most powerful mind-altering technology that has ever come into general use. At the very least, it’s the most powerful that has come along since the book. (page 116)

As we go through these motions, the Net delivers a steady stream of inputs to our visual, somatosensory, and auditory cortices. There are sensations that come through our hands and fingers as we click and scroll, type and touch. There are the many audio signals delivered through our ears, such as the chime that announces the arrival of a new e-mail or instant message and the various ringtones that our mobile phones use to alter us to different events.

The net also provides a high-speed system for delivering responses and rewards—“positive reinforcements,” in psychological terms—which encourage the repetition of both physical and mental actions.


The Net commands our attention with a far greater insistency than our television or radio or morning newspaper ever did.

(page 117)

This is particularly true for the young who tend to be compulsive in using their phones and computers for texting and instant messaging. Today’s teenagers typically send or receive a message every few minutes throughout their waking hours. As the psychotherapist Michael Hausauer notes, teens and other young adults have a “terrific interest in knowing what’s going on in the lives of their peers, coupled with a terrific anxiety about being out of the loop.” If they stop sending messages, they risk becoming invisible. (page 118)

The constant distractedness that the Net encourages—the state of being, to borrow another phrase from T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, “distracted from distraction by distraction” –is very different from the kind of temporary, purposeful diversion of our mind that refreshes our thinking when we’re weighing a decision. The Net’s cacophony of stimuli short-circuits both conscious and unconscious thought, preventing our minds from thinking either deeply or creatively. Our brains turn into simple signal-processing units, quickly shepherding information into consciousness and then back out again. (page 119)

What we’re not doing when we’re online also has neurological consequences. Just as neurons that fire together wire together, neurons that don’t fire together don’t wire together. As the time we spend scanning web pages crowds out the time we spend reading books, as the time we spend exchanging bite-sized text messages crowds out the time we spend composing sentences and paragraphs, as the time we spend hopping across links crowds out the time we devote to quite reflection and contemplation, the circuits the support those old intellectual functions and pursuits weaken and begin to break apart. The brain recycles the disused neurons and synapses for other, more pressing work. We gain new skills and perspectives but lose old ones. (page 120)

But brain scientists have come to realize that long-term memory is actually the seat of understanding. It stores not just facts but complex concepts, or “schemas.” By organizing scattered bits of information into patterns of knowledge, schemas give depth and richness to our thinking. “Our intellectual prowess is derived largely from the schemas we have acquired over long periods of time,” says John Sweller. “We are able to understand concepts in our areas of expertise because we have schemas associated with those concepts.”

(page 124)

Imagine filling a bathtub with a thimble; that’s the challenge involved in transferring information from working memory into long-term memory. By regulating the velocity and intensity of information flow, media exert a strong influence on this process. When we read a book, the information faucet provides a steady drip, which we can control by the pace of our reading. Through our single-minded concentration on the text, we can transfer all or most of the information, thimbleful by thimbleful, into long-term memory and forge the rich associations essential to the creation of schemas.

With the Net, we face many information faucets, all going full blast. Our little thimble overflows as we rush from one faucet to the next. We’re able to transfer only a small portion of the information to long-term memory, and what we do transfer is a jumble of drops from different faucets, not a continuous, coherent stream from one source. (page 124)

Still, [Google’s] easy assumption that we’d all “be better off” if our brains were supplemented, or even replaced, by artificial intelligence is as unsettling as it is revealing. It underscores the firmness and the certainty with which Google holds to its Taylorist belief that intelligence is the output of a mechanical process, a series of discrete steps that can be isolated, measured, and optimized. “Human beings are ashamed to have been born instead of made,” the twentieth-century philosopher Gunther Anders once observed, and in the pronouncement of Google’s founders, we can sense that shame as well as the ambition it engenders.


Harpers Weekly
The Chinese Question
“Hands off, Gentlemen! America means fair play for all men.”

Cartoon by Thomas Nast from
February 18, 1871,

The Chinese Question
“Hands off, Gentlemen! America means fair play for all men.”

New York Times source:

The Harper’s Weekly article dismissed the purported “Chinese invasion” as “altogether mythical,” and argued that most Americans “still adhere to the old Revolutionary doctrine that all men are free and equal before the law, and possess certain inalienable rights …” That sentiment is reflected in Nast’s cartoon, where Columbia, the feminine symbol of the United States, shields the dejected Chinese man against a gang of thugs, whom she emphatically reminds that “America means fair play for all men.”

The armed mob includes stereotypes of an Irish American (second from right), perhaps a German American (on the far right), and a “shoulder-hitter” (far left), who enforced the will of urban politicians (like Tweed) with threats or acts of violence. The imagery in the back alludes to the Civil War draft riots of 1863, during which angry, largely Irish American, mobs in New York City protested the Union draft and Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation by burning the Colored Orphan Asylum and lynching blacks. For years after, Nast incorporated those images into his cartoons as symbols of the alleged Irish-American and Democratic penchant for violence and mob rule.

Seminar: “Wildfire: Two Roads Diverging in a Woods on Fire: The spread of climate chaos and trends in global response today”


“Wildfire: Two Roads Diverging in a Woods on Fire: The spread of climate chaos and trends in global response today”

Daniel Garrett

Senior Associate

The Asia Institute

Response by

Emanuel Pastreich


The Asia Institute


Moderated by

Rachel Stine


The Asia Institute

7-8 PM

Monday, February 18, 2019

The Earth System is transitioning to a new phrase – that of Hothouse earth. We see climate refugees everywhere at the same time that right-wing governments that derive their power from racism, nativism, and other forms of the “fear of the other” purposely ignore the threat. The wildfire of climate chaos already been lit and will burn even brighter. In this seminar, former State Department official Daniel Garrett and refugees’ rights advocate Rachel Stine will explore the following topics: 1.) How can we preserve a livable environment? 2.) What new forms of governance – and approaches to living will be demanded in such difficult times? What can we do now and during the climate chaos to improve the chances that eco-civilizational and climate justice models emerge victorious rather than the “vultures” of disaster capitalism? Join The Asia Institute for this exciting first event of 2019.   

@ Commons Foundation

Daniel Garrett is a retired U.S. Department of State diplomat.  His areas of expertise include human rights, trafficking in persons, Himalayan regional issues, climate change and international trans-boundary water issues.  He is currently working to facilitate the accelerated emergence of innovative ideas and technologies that make it possible for human civilizations and their infrastructures to be seamlessly interwoven in a productive manner into the earth systems which sustain and support them.

Sponsored by

The Commons Foundation

The Asia Institute

The Earth Management Institute

World Beyond War

“汉学家贝逸溟:东方传统文化契合可持续发展之道” 《环境与生活》




2019年 1月28日


















网编:黄皖婷 崔悦

“再考虑中国的科举传统: 智慧与中国治国理念” 多维新闻


“再考虑中国的科举传统: 智慧与中国治国理念“

2019年 12月 8日



我常常见到人们拿令学生深感困扰的现代考试系统和古代科举制度作类比:前者是现代人借之以获得社会地位的手段, 而后者则在近2000年的大部分时间内成为国家治理体系的支柱,对文化的各个方面产生了巨大的影响。






最近人们对中国能人体制的优点大感兴趣,清华大学贝淡宁Daniel Bell 教授的文章便十分有代表性。他在《中国模式:能人政治和民主制 的局限性》(The China  Model: Political Meritocracy  and the  Limits of  Democracy)一书中提出,中国的能人政治可以成为“西方民主”的替代制度。





那么, 科举考试设立之初为何以儒家经典和道德哲学为主要内容?难道是因为当时的学者都已与国家的需要脱节,因手握特权而迷失了自己?

有些人之所以产生这种困惑,是因为他们对科举制度的初心存在根本上的误解,在与之相关的“贤能体制”和英语中的“meritocracy”(英才治国体制)之间划等号。这种想法是错误的,因为从词根词源来分析,“meritocracy”一词由“merit”(价值)和“ cracy”(统治)组成。当然,科举与个人的价值息息相关,但衡量个体价值绝非科举考试的宗旨所在。




民主很可能会沦落成为令人民被虚假信息牵着走的荒谬制度,魅力非凡的领袖也会堕落为因荒唐决定而生的 最严酷暴政的始作俑者。






关键在于,我们应当挖掘中国传统治国理念的深刻内涵,而不该只停留于表面 形式。




서울이야기: 임마누엘

2018년 12월

서울사람들은 서울에 대해 무슨 생각을 어떻게 할까요? 서울브랜드 아이서울유가 세 번째 생일을 맞아 서울시 홍보대사, 아티스트, 글로벌 기업의 CEO 등 서울에 살고 있는 사람, 서울에서 일하고 있는 사람, 서울을 사랑하는 사람에게 물었습니다. 여덟 번째 인터뷰는 아시아인스티튜트, 임마누엘 페스트라이쉬(이만열) 소장 입니다. 임마누엘 페스트라이쉬 생각은 [서울은 공존이다]