“Pull Back the Curtain” — 2019 Earth Day Talk — Video and Transcript
In “Pull Back the Curtain” I offer a method to transform limits in the establishment narrative that block solutions to the global Existential Crisis. Called “terminology replacement” — this method is a powerful, effective way to pull back the curtains of deception and propaganda to activate the powers we require for solutions. The power of this method of replacing terms that limit us — the many falsehoods, lies and deceptions built into the narrative of the American ruling establishment oligarchy — can only be fully harnessed by lots of people doing it. With new, accurate, empowering terms and phrases we can deconstruct the current, inaccurate, disempowering narrative that blocks solutions, and then reconstruct a new, accurate, empowering narrative. That is a crucial prerequisite for fully harnessing the powers we need in this time of the global Existential Crisis. Let me know what you come up with.
Below the transcript, I’ve added a list of categories containing terms that need replacing. I’m looking for additional terms that need replacing, and I’d love to get your input.
Video of “Pull Back the Curtain”
Transcript of “Pull Back the Curtain” with Links
Rev. Karen Lindvig Introduction
So I’m going to introduce our speaker today. So Kelly Gerling is normally behind the video up there in the balcony. But today, he’s gonna be up front here. The program says he’s a reverend. He’s not a reverend but he is a doctor. Kelly Gerling has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. I met Kelly when he was my instructor at Ottawa University. And he is a professional coach, and has worked with individuals and organizations for many decades. He’s also extremely passionate about the Earth, and current events. So join me in welcoming Kelly Gerling. (Applause)
Kelly Gerling “Pull Back the Curtain”
Thank you for that introduction Karen.
When I think about Earth Day, at the risk of being obvious, when we think about the Earth, what is extraordinary to me is this astonishing fact: A star blew up. A nebula formed. Our solar system formed. And somehow life developed on our planet. And then our species developed. What is the end result?
It’s kind of from the mystical tradition. Each of us, and Humanity itself, is a way the entire Universe has come to know itself.
So that means we’re important in that way. And the Earth is important.
Last year on April 22nd, I had the privilege of offering a talk on Earth Day as well. And I took a medical approach:
• we’ve got to diagnose the situation
• create a prognosis for treatment
• and then make a treatment plan
• implement the treatment.
Well, in short, what is the diagnosis?
The situation is grim because of the momentum of civilization poisoning the very planet on which each of us depends.
The prognosis though, is pretty simple:
We need to create a WWII-type of mass mobilization towards zero-carbon, clean infrastructure, while employing everyone — which happened during WWII — to bring about prosperity for all Americans, and all people everywhere.
It’s just THAT. It’s just that little thing. (laughter)
And so — this vision — that’s a little long and wordy.
So we need a condensed, crystallized form of thought to encapsulate the mission we have, to deal with this crisis. And so I’ve searched, and I came up with five words from the most authoritative source we can imagine. And it’s in your program.
I’m gonna pull out a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King. He wrote this in his last book, published after he died, called “A Testament of Hope.” [page 315] And buried inside the book [also in “Where Do We Go from Here”] is this statement:
“…the black revolution is exposing the evils that are rooted deeply in the whole structure of our society. It reveals systemic rather than superficial flaws, and suggests …”
(and these are the five words): “…that radical reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced.”
The “radical reconstruction of society itself.”
Now that’s just huge!
Emotionally, when we are facing THIS — what I would call the Existential Crisis — if we think of it very long, we can get mired in hopelessness. So the remedy for hopelessness has got to be some sort of vision — like those five words. But in order to pull off THAT, we need more. We need more detail, otherwise it’s just a slogan.
So I pulled out another quote — from again — another authoritative source.
Those of us who are in new thought — or those of us who value new thinking — we need new, new thought and new, new thinking.
And Einstein in 1946 made this statement — which he subsequently came back and explained in more detail — I’ve got both parts of it here:
“A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels … the human race finds itself in a new habitat to which it must adapt its thinking.”
Today, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has placed the Doomsday Clock at two minutes to midnight. So we have a risk of nuclear war. And we have a risk of environmental catastrophe. That is the Existential Global Crisis.
So we are called to action. WE are calling — it’s not just Dr. King and Einstein — it’s also Karen [Rev. Lindvig].
So on Easter, Karen concluded — calling us:
“We are called to rise up. We are called to live this incredible life that we’ve been given. And we are called to express our divinity. So throw away the stone. Move it out of the way. And step into the light.”
And earlier — on Palm Sunday — referring to, what I think is crucial to understand — to get over any sense of individual hopelessness — is the necessity of doing things in groups.
And Karen said, “It is no longer just one person, right? It’s all of us together, forging together, to discover these new solutions, and these new amazing insights, that one person can’t do. So it’s another step forward on that path, that we must take.”
So that’s what’s in front of us. What is our annual theme? “Impermanence.” Well, we’re going to deconstruct this building, and reconstruct another one.
So we’re inside of impermanence. But that — what we’re doing with the building, is a metaphor for what we must do globally, what we must do — what we can do, nationally, as Americans, as citizens of the most powerful country in the history of the world — we’re uniquely privileged, with an opportunity — should we take it — to exercise control on the planet.
And the situation is such, with impermanence, that there isn’t a choice of maintaining the status quo.
Anybody [here] who watch the Game of Thrones? Does anybody ever watch that? [Some hands raise.] You can’t negotiate with the White Walkers and the Night King. They’re coming — winter is coming!
In this case, we have to have to do something.
So the choices are:
Keep the status quo and the Existential Crisis will consume us. We will plunge into the abyss of converging problems that constitute the Existential Crisis. That’s the current trajectory.
Call it “A.”
“B” is the radical reconstruction of society. “B” is doing what Einstein said — thinking in new types of ways. “B” is what Karen is calling us to do.
There is an activist. How many have heard of Greta Thunberg, the teenage girl from Sweden? [Many hands go up.]
I don’t know how she managed to pull it off.
She spoke to the European Parliament. She spoke to the House of Commons. (I’ve never done either one of those things!) That’s really cool! She also spoke to a group called “Extinction Rebellion,” which are pursuing, creating the mobilization for the political will for this issue, the issue.
And she said, “Humanity is now standing at a crossroads.”
That’s “A” and “B.”
“We must now decide which path we want to take. We are now facing an Existential Crisis.”
So note that phrase — “Existential Crisis” — ’cause it’s the essence of what I want to talk about in “Pull Back the Curtain” — the title of this talk.
The typical phrase is “climate change.” And “climate change” is an Orwellian understatement of the problem. It’s like saying, “WWII is the Battle of the Bulge.” It’s “no” — it was more than that.
And the problem — the Existential Crisis — is much more than “climate change,” although climate change is vital as something to prevent. But there are other parts. “Climate” has nothing to do with ocean acidification, or melting glaciers, or rising seas. Climate is “enduring weather.” It’s one little part of it. It’s an important part.
So the “Existential Crisis” is a bigger, more appropriate category, because “existential” means “life-threatening” — threatening the existence of civilization, of Humanity. So my hats off to her for reframing — in creating a new definition for the crisis which I think is consistent with what we need to do.
So, with that in mind, what I would like to do is talk a little bit about modern scripture — twentieth-century scripture.
So “The Wizard of Oz” is a story we all know, right?
How many people know “The Wizard of Oz” here in this room? [All hands rise.] Everybody.
So I grew up in Kansas. (Laughter.) So as a kid, I thought, “It’s on every year — it must be just for us in Kansas. And it was only when I became an adult, and began to travel, that I realized that everybody watched “The Wizard of Oz,” everywhere in the world — at least the English-speaking world.
And so, when I had the fortune to travel, you know, to work in different places — New Zealand, Australia, South America, Mexico — other places, people say “Where are you from?” I’d say, “I’m from America — Kansas.” And they go, “Dorothy?”
It’s the only thing they could think of, like she was my neighbor. [Laughter.]
So I developed a little joke. I said, “Yes. Dorothy’s from Kansas — Dorothy’s from Kansas, and To-to too.”
And so I want to talk a little bit about Toto.
Toto is like my power animal — along with Hazel. And in the scene that is the pivotal scene in the film — I think — it’s one of them anyway, Dorothy and Toto and their supporters are appealing to the Wizard of Oz to get help, to allow her to go home to Kansas. And the Wizard is not cooperating. He said, “Do not, do not, arouse the wrath of the Great and Powerful Oz. The Oz has spoken.”
Well, right then, Toto walks over and pulls back the curtain.
Then the Wizard says, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”
And that’s a tremendous archetype for what each of us can do! We can pull back the curtain to expose fraudulent ideas; false ideas; false ideologies; the abuses of power, as in the case of the movie; pull back the curtain on deceptions.
The crucial thing about Toto as a power animal, and pull back the curtain as an archetype for what we can do, is to flesh it out, is to make it more specific.
And I do want to point out, that this idea of pulling back the curtain — there’s a particular way of answering that question I posed.
You know, which is “How can we use new thinking to effect the solution to the Existential Crisis.
That’s the key question I think we have to answer.
There are lots of categories of answers. But one of those answers is to do … for the world — for our time — what Charles and Myrtle Fillmore did — in their time. [Shows photo of Charles and Myrtle Fillmore.]
They completely redefined almost every important concept in Christianity. And they were persecuted for it. They were considered a cult. There were lots of people that gave them a hard time.
And in creating New Thought, they exemplified something that we can follow.
I saw an interview — I think this this idea needs to be fleshed out. Okay, it’s one thing to think new thoughts, new types of thinking — get in groups, amplify that thinking.
But how do we do it? What is the essential skill? Or attitude?
Well, I ran into an interview that a mentor of mine did, about six weeks ago. Noam Chomsky is his name.
Has anybody heard of Noam? [Many hands up.]
So I’ve known Noam for 32 years. I sought him out, and I know him. And he’s been a mentor of mine. It has nothing to do with me. He’s generous with people who seek to learn. Extraordinarily so! He’s 91 years old. And he still takes 20 hours a week to answer emails, probably.
And Noam revolutionized cognitive science. And started the cognitive revolution — writing a book review — by a book by BF Skinner, in the 1960s. And he’s gone on to really pull back the curtain on foreign policy. He is the most cited living author in arts and humanities. There are other people who are in the top ten. He’s number eight, but all of them have died. You know, people like Freud, Marx.
So he’s, he’s an amazing living individual. And he said this — this is an insight as to how we can think new thoughts — the significance of it, and the attitude underlying it.
He said, “Because your education instills into you the common sense of the day, it’s very hard to break.”
But then he goes and says:
“But it’s not really hard to break out of it. You have to be willing to do the kind of thing that led to modern science. You go back, say, to the time of Galileo — just the willingness to ask yourself, ‘Look, everybody believes it is it true.’ ” He said, “And so Galileo and his contemporaries made a breakthrough. They decided to be puzzled about these things. They decided to be puzzled about these things — confused, curious. As soon as you decide to be puzzled, you find that everything is wrong. There’s a kind of rule of thumb: if everybody believes something, and it’s a contentious issue, something should light up in your brain and say ‘You better ask about this — it’s probably not true.’ As soon as you make that simple move, all sorts of things open up. Modern science opened up.”
So I transcribed that. I thought it was so cool! And I sent it to him. He wrote back and he said:
“Glad you found it useful. Ability to be puzzled is a quite useful one to cultivate, as history amply reveals. Even if not necessarily good for your health. Galileo had a few problems I seem to recall.” (Laughter.)
Well, he didn’t suffer the fate of Giordano Bruno, who was actually burned at the stake for heresy, but Galileo was convicted of heresy, and put under house arrest for saying that the Earth was not the center of the Universe, that we revolved around the Sun. And he was convicted on the basis of a passage in Joshua where God said the Sun went across the sky. So he became a heretic.
So, how do we cultivate this attitude of the radical reconstruction of society? Thinking new thoughts, to pull back the curtain on concepts that are false? That are blocking important things like the popular will? Blocking important things like the prevention of war? Blocking important things like financial power of a society to pay for the very radical reconstruction that is required for us to save civilization?
How do we pull back the curtain?
And here’s the technique:
Deconstruct concepts, and the terms that represent them — and create new concepts, and new terms.
It’s like: “the Global War on Terror in order to defend America”?
Well, if I had to pick a concept to replace that, it would be “the Global Rule of Law” in order to create a level playing field, all the time, for all across, all the nations in the world, so as to enforce international law, as it is, on the books. Article 2.4 of the UN Charter says, it prohibits “the threat or use of force.” Even the threat is a crime. Yet every American president says “all options are on the table” — and nothing happens. Even though that treaty is “the supreme law of the land” according to 6.2 of the Constitution.
So there are lots of things that we can challenge. I want to focus on one — which is financial power.
I’ve been thinking about Modern Monetary Theory — MMT. Has anybody heard of that? Or read about it in the news. [A few hands go up.] It’s a macroeconomic theory that has been adopted by Stephanie Kelton, and a number of other economists.
So I contacted Randall Wray, who was looking for reframing MMT [starting at 11:50]. And I found that he had an interest in a conversation about what I thought were mistakes that they were making with their concepts and terminology. And so we had a 50-minute conversation last Monday. And he liked what I was saying. So he sent me a book, and I took a chapter, and I rewrote it with the new terminology.
Part of it was changing “budget deficit” to a “net spending surplus.”
“Budget deficit” is typically “more spending by the government than taxes coming in.” But the government spends money and creates dollars by using keystrokes these days, so the government doesn’t need taxpayer money to fund anything. Big secret! So you can call it a “net spending surplus.”
That changes everything!
Because then, when we spend more in, than is taken out of the economy by taxes, and we keep doing that, the so-called “national debt,” becomes something else — the national savings.
It’s a complete reframe.
So I don’t trust my own ideas about that. I needed confirmation. So I talked to Randy about it. I sent him this thing, with that, and a number of other definitions, and he said:
“I agree with everything you say about debts and deficits. And as I edit the book, I will see how the substitute wording works.” Well, he also said, “Can I bring Stephanie Kelton into the conversation.” I said “Okay.” For me that’s a big deal.
So that’s one example. . [See below for a call for help with more examples.]
Any one of us can deconstruct concepts, that form the narrative, that prevents solutions — be it political will; be it warfare; be it financial power; be it anything else that we need.
So in conclusion, what I would like to say, is that this idea of deconstructing concepts is something you’ve done many times before. You know, think about when you’ve thought, “Could that be right?” “Is there another way of thinking about that?”
So rather than saying “I’m delusional,” say:
• “Maybe I’m onto something here.”
• “How can I flesh that out?”
• “Look deeply?”
So I’d like to conclude with a little meditation on these ideas, to propose a way for those ideas that you’re interested in, to move out, into your life.
And I don’t know if the musicians are coming up before. Or you can start to come up if you like.
As you ponder — as we all ponder — our capacity to think differently, our capacity to engage in new types of thinking … think about when you leave church here today. You’ll be going out into many contexts; into many situations; into the many roles that you occupy. Notice the opportunities to amplify and extend your ideas, in coordination with others. They may be key individuals; they may be professional associations; important groups; your role as an employee, or an employer; your social media activity; your role as a citizen of the most powerful country in the world; and more… These are all areas of your life where you can be like Toto. You can pull back the curtain wherever you see something that might not be true, to expose lies and deceptions, anything that might be immoral or unproductive, anything that gets in the way of the transformation that we need — the radical reconstruction of society. And you can reveal the truth in doing so.
Thank you! (Applause)
Seeking Your Ideas…
How we talk about the global Existential Crisis, war, self-governance and financial power influences whether we will rise to this challenge for current and future generations. Below I’ve listed a few examples within these four categories. These examples are candidate terms and phrases for deconstructing and reconstructing towards an updated narrative for radical reconstruction of society itself. If you are interested in terminology replacement for empowering and unleashing our powers to solve our political and economic problems, and the global Existential Crisis, please look over the categories and examples and let me know your thoughts about replacement terms for those I listed, or other terms and their replacements that you come up with. You can email me at: kelgerling (at) gmail (dot) com
Naming the Crisis of Converging Global Threats
Reject so-called “Climate Change” which understates the scope of the crisis as merely changes in enduring weather — the definition of “climate.” Replace it with the term “Global Existential Crisis” which means a crisis that threatens the existence of Humanity. This term includes the converging problems of climate change, and adds many others such as ocean acidification, extinctions, ecosystem fragmentation and destruction, non-renewable resource depletion, rising oceans, mass migrations, threats of war including nuclear war, and more.
What other propaganda terms and phrases related to global threats should be replaced with more accurate, more empowering terms?
Preventing Illegal Warfare
Reject so-called “Global War on Terror” which presumes one side is a victim and the other is evil. Replace that concept with the “Global Rule of Law” to establish enforceable international law, binding on all nations, equally.
Reject so-called “enhanced interrogation” which offers an identical euphemism used by NAZI Germany in the 1930s and 40s — “verschärfte vemehmung” — to legally justify torture. Replace that phrase with “torture” which is always prohibited by the ratified treaty, the Convention Against Torture.
Other terms that need replacing may include “homeland,” “…the American homeland is the planet,” “all options are on the table,” “coalition of the willing,” “extremists,” “national interests,” “defense policy,” “drone strikes,” “peace,” and many more. Let’s replace them with more accurate, more empowering terms and phrases.
What other propaganda terms related to illegal warfare and international law could be replaced with more accurate, empowering terms?
Reject so-called “Founding Fathers,” a self-juvenilizing concept that encourages an identity as backward-looking, child-citizens who feel no need to critique or challenge constitutional designs of the distant past. Replace it with “founding leaders” who were not unified in their objectives or values, nor comprehensive in their knowledge by today’s standards. That will encourage the citizenry to become forward-looking, adult-citizens who take responsibility for self-governance.
Reject so-called “checks and balances” between “branches of government” opposing one another in a lauded but misunderstood “separation of powers” design intended to “…protect the minority of the opulent against the majority” by a “divide and conquer” structure with multiple veto-points to prevent the “leveling” of wealth and power, as James Madison advocated at the time. Replace such terms and concepts with modern constitutional designs intended, not to block the popular will, but to implement it. These designs include:
• A multiparty legislature forming a unified government
• Executive functions led by a president or prime minister chosen by parties in power, reflecting the voting of a majority of the citizens
• Provisions of direct democracy, like most of our states that serve to block, stop and replace any corrupt or tyrannical public officials or failed constitutional designs.
Reject disempowering, propaganda terms for implementing the popular will like “grassroots,” “bottom up,” and “change from below.” These terms serve and perpetuate the American ruling establishment oligarchy by conveying the absurd concept that We the People are somehow below the government, and below the Constitution we ordained and established on June 21st, 1788. Replace these terms with constitutional designs and legal understandings that place We the People over any constitution we establish, and any subsequent government under a constitution.
Other terms that need replacing for democratic self-governance may include “constitutional rights,” “equal protection under the law,” “state sovereignty,” “capitalism,” “socialism,” “our democracy,” “federal government,” and many more. Let’s replace them with more accurate, more empowering terms and phrases.
What other propaganda terms and euphemistic phrases related to democratic self-governance could be replaced with more accurate, empowering terms?
Financial Power to Solve the Global Existential Crisis
Reject net “budget deficit” to describe more annual national spending than taxes paid, because taxes are not revenue for a government that issues its own currency, in our case, dollars. Replace it with a net “spending surplus” of dollars into the economy, over taxes removed from the economy.
Reject the “national debt” to describe the savings deposits that pay interest for a fixed period of time. Replace it with the “national savings.” This is an accurate description of dollars held in savings accounts in the Federal Reserve Bank that commits to spend to pay interest to those who own the dollars in the accounts after a fixed period of time.
Other terms that need replacing for financial power to solve the global existential crisis may include “taxpayer dollars,” “tax revenues,” “balanced budget,” “balanced budget amendment,” “budget surplus,” “socialism,” “capitalism,” “economic growth,” “gross domestic product,” “how are you going to pay for it?” “gold standard,” “fiscal responsibility,” “government debt,” “monetary policy,” “fiscal policy,” and many more. Let’s replace them with more accurate, more empowering terms and phrases.