Bonus Joules and the Knowledge Economy
Transfusing THE ECONOMY
Bonus Joules contemplates making the ultimate sacrifice.
Blog by Dave McArthur - published Aug 15 2006
Click through to Bonus Joules Cartoon Strip
Why do the eyes of sages twinkle with humour as they talk of the human condition? Do their insights reveal that our
behaviour is inherently funny? What’s the grand joke? I recently caught a glimpse of what makes them chuckle about the
human lot. Read on and smile.
Readers of my blogs and followers of the Bonus Joules cartoon will know how about six years ago I set out on a journey
to reveal the nature of energy. Please excuse me while I bring new readers up to speed. And as I welcome new readers I
will quickly say that I well understand that the subject of energy may well have been a very boring experience for you
at school. Indeed it you may have found the subject a thoroughly confusing experience and long ago you decided to leave
it to the “nerds”, the “smarties” and the “brainies” in your class. Maybe the subject is as dry, dusty and
unintelligible as algebra to you. Perhaps E=MC2 is as boring as the chalk dust from a blackboard of equations written by
a mad scribbler from another planet.
Well hang in. I am like you. What got me interested in the subject in my sixth decade was the smell of bullshit. I
became aware of the fact that our so-called scientists and “energy” policy makers are generating nonsense and our
education system is little more than an open sewer feeding PR industry effluent direct into our children’s minds. As I
explored the issue more deeply I became aware that the most powerful sewer facilitators are the growing legions that
form the Environmental Education industry. What is going on?
Originally I became involved in the NZ Green Party, Greenpeace, WWF, the NZ Association for Environmental Education and
other such organizations because I wanted to learn how to look after the environment better. I was aware of the general
state of confusion in our culture and figured it to be very unsustainable. What I struck in the Environmental Education
industry was even more profound confusion than existed in the general public. How could this be?
Click through to Bonus Joules Cartoon Strip
What I discovered was that the industry is generating great piles of what I came to describe as Energy Gobbledygook. My
brief definition of Egook is that it is uses of the “energy” and “power” symbols that are designed to generate nonsense
and reduce science. These nonsense products, bereft of science, I call Energy Gobbledygook.
My journey of exploration is proving to be as fascinating and gripping as any detective story there could be. It
involves money and greed on an epic scale in a drama in which a few mad individuals strive to control of the world’s
wealth by re-engineering our visions of life for the personal short-term benefit. They play for stakes that threaten the
survival of humanity.
It is as personal as it is epic. Each of us is a major player in the drama. Are you a prime suspect? Am I, the explorer,
the prime suspect? I ask you. What more can you want in a thriller?
Five years ago, as part of the exploration, I dreamed the idea of sending a cartoon character into this confusion to
find its source and soon the cartoon had a life of its own. Bonus Joules and the Knowledge Economy is based on my
experiences with “scientists”, government ministers and officials in New Zealand. It’s part biography and history of the
period 2000- 2004 in this country. In the cartoon panel from that period that accompanies this blog, Bonus Joules has
written to the Minister of Energy, then Hon Pete Hodgson, and learned the Minister does not have the energy to meet to
discuss our nation’s flawed images of energy. So Bonus Joules goes to Parliament. It is chilly in the shadows of the
concrete and glass towers of downtown Wellington and in the last panel Bonus Joules sat in the sun to warm up. This
simple act generated a crisis in THE ECONOMY and panic in THE MARKET. To prevent the total disintegration and collapse
of these structures, Bonus Joules does as instructed and buys, buys, buys..
In general, as Bonus Joules follows the paths signposted by the great symbols of our “green era” and “energy conscious
age”, each is revealed as a cul de sac and lacking a future. Indeed many lead straight to war and oblivion. One after
another the great symbols of our age – “global warming”, “climate change”, “energy conservation”, “energy efficiency”,
“energy”, “power”, “greenhouse gases” etc – are revealed as signposts to misery.
Click through to Bonus Joules Cartoon Strip
Bonus Joules does not begin the cartoon exploration of our current confusion lacking a vision of energy. As I wrote
early in these blogs, I enjoyed a wonderful childhood running fleet as a deer through the forested hills of my home and
spending countless hours playing in the Waiorongomai stream. I grew up with a sense that energy is as bounteous as the
universe(s). For some reason I enjoyed a great sense of the potential of existence.
I also early learned from my possum lines that life could change with the snap of a trap. I watched the light go out in
the eyes of the sheep and cattle as they were slaughtered to be and dissected to be food on our tables. I was no
stranger to our mortality. I was under no illusions that living, pulsing, breathing forms die so that my form is
sustained. We are Trace Beings.
At the same time I heard the wind in the stars, saw clouds race across the moon and went to sleep to the sound of the
tinkling waters of Waiorongomai stream echoing in the still of the night to near eternity. I was often aware of an
existence magnificent beyond words. When I did get to learn of the Principle of the Conservation of Energy it resonated
in me. It expressed the vast potential I enjoy. It made sense.
So the potential of the universe(s) was my measuring stick as I explored the popular use of the vital symbols in our
culture and attempted to make sense of them. And very often their use registered as mean-minded, miserable and hilarious
when measured against the generous reality I enjoy.
Now to say their use is hilarious may seem arrogant, derisory and even cruel. However I don’t think my sense of humour
derives from such emotions. I suspect it more derives from a sense of humility and the reason I think some humility
exists in me is that I am sure I could not enjoy the vision of energy that I do if I did not experience some degree of
humility and awe.
The other night I woke for some reason in the small hours of the morning. Even the airport below my cottage was quiet
though occasionally I heard the deep bonks and clonks of the construction team expanding the runway in preparation for
the anticipated expansion of the Wellington airline industry that will not happen as quality oil reserves are depleted.
Anyway I woke up chuckling.
Maybe it was the news report that the Delai Lama is coming to New Zealand again at the invitation of Tibetans living
here. Now this guy seems to know the enormous suffering of the Tibetan people and he lives the life of an exile. He is
schooled in the ancient wisdoms and psychological insights of Indian continent. He regularly debates with our greatest
nuclear and neuro physicists. A recent Scientific American MIND reports that his address to a conference of 4600
neuro-scientists impressed even the cynics there with its evidence of his reverence for science. He does seem able to
mirror reality more then most. He’s one of these sage guys with that twinkle of humour in their eyes. He seems to be in
on the Big Joke.
Maybe it was because I recently viewed the Laurie David and Al Gore movie. You can read my review of An Inconvenient Truth as it was originally published on SCOOP News
or on the Update Page
of my bonusjoules website. As I say in the review, Al believes he expresses the issues surrounding our use of the
climate so clearly yet for me the movie frames all in confusion. I can see how many viewers of the movie will return to
daily life with all its pressures and influences and be filled with an additional sense of confusion and hopelessness
within the hour. What had seemed so simple in the movie becomes impossibly complex. This is because the film mirrors the
very reality it says is unsustainable.
(Note: in my review I mentioned the vast implications of the recent of our mirroring capacity and said I would discuss
it in an accompanying blog. That blog has been largely written but I have decided to publish this one first.)
Maybe it was because I know well how worries, doubts, pains and fears so easily dominate our consciousness. No sooner
have we confronted them and caused them to evaporate then they return in another form. Often that form is so cunningly
disguised it takes a long time to recognise it as the same doubt or fear. People who attempt to meditate will know what
I mean. Always the ego keeps managing to sneak thoughts back into the awareness with such ingenuity that one is caused
to stop and laugh with compassion. And even that laughter is a form of distraction….And you end up chuckling about that
Click through to Bonus Joules Cartoon Strip
Maybe it was because I had just pulled together my explorations of our uses of the key symbols of our Western culture.
The enormity of the possible implications of my insights is at the point of being so ridiculous and so easily
overwhelming that I can only laugh. Also sometimes when you realise that what you have been searching for so long has
been staring you in the face all along, the only recourse is the laughter of self-compassion.
Maybe it was because the pair of paradise ducks has returned to the valley to nest, as they do each year. The previous
afternoon a teacher and I had been watching the pair feeding together in the middle of the school playing fields and I
had been telling her of what splendid actors they are. As a boy I soon learned that it is possible to detect where the
nest is. If I got close to their nest, one of the ducks would land near me and topple over with a smashed wing and leg.
It would emit heartrending cries of pain and distress and attempt to drag itself away from me, trailing its smashed
limbs After some distance it would suddenly be miraculously healed and fly away, especially if I was getting to close to
it. I soon learned to head in the opposite direction of its initial path and sure enough – there would be the nest. I
have often joked that paradise ducks should be members of the Actors Union.
Whatever the maybe, I woke in the middle of the night recently chuckling with enormous affection for my own self and for
my fellow humans. In that moment I was deeply aware of enormous hilarity in the capacity of humans to rationalise their
actions. I realised maybe this is the class act that the sages smile about. We are no different to those ducks.
We too are superb actors and display all these decoy signals that are so real we even kid ourselves they are our
reality. Our petty egos, vanities and fears perform these elaborate dances attempting to lure us away from our base
common sense. We say think one thing and we do the opposite. Our cells register something as positive and our minds say
it is negative. Our civilisation is based on our use of symbols and yet we dismiss them as meaningless. When confronted
with their nonsense we say “, oh they are just symbols, just pictures, just words, just metaphors”…they are not to be
taken as a reflection of our primal beings at all. Goodness, no!”
And if we become conscious of the discrepancy between our talk and our walk we create elaborate intellectual plays to
rationalise it. Sometimes we even inflate our sense of importance to patch over our contradictions. We may consciously
acknowledge our own life style is unsustainable for humanity. And then we reason and justify it by saying our work is so
vital and important that we need be the unique exception to the sustainable rule.
In the extreme example of this phenomenon we find the people who most stridently call for change are the most resistant
to change themselves. The environment educator jets around and around the globe warning people not to jet around the
globe. What do we, Jo Citizen, and our brains naturally mirror? Their words or their ways? Mirror science is telling us
actions speak louder than words.
I am very aware of my own capacity to fool myself. I had donated blood dozens of times without any problem. Then for
some reason on one occasion I decided to watch the nurse insert the needle into the vein in my arm. The needle just
bounced off my vein. No matter how she adjusted the tourniquet and from what angle she tried, the needle bounced off.
Soon the poor nurse was looking very embarrassed and had beads of sweat popping her brow. She said she had never had
this difficulty before in 14 years in the job. She concluded my vein must now be very scarred and so the transfusion was
set up for my other arm. Still the needle could not penetrate my vein.
At this point the thought occurred to me that may be I am not as brave as I believed myself to be. Perhaps something in
me rejected the needle for some reason. I looked away and the needle slid in as sweet as you like. The interesting thing
is the powers of our bodies that we rarely use. The funny thing is I know that if I consciously attempted to stop the
needle penetrating my vein those powers would not work. Such are our powers of rationalisation and the paradox of human
When I awoke in the middle of the night I lay there thinking of all the hilarious rationalisations we do. I was deeply
aware of the misery they generate but I was able to transcend that reality somehow to sense the joke we are. Many
examples floated by.
I observed our New Zealand politicians, economists and business editors claiming with utmost confidence that they can
cure inflation with their fiscal measures. They remain sublimely oblivious to the fact that our nation’s addictive use
of oil and Gas determines our economic wellbeing. All the fiscal measures in the world cannot contain inflation in an
oil-Gas addicted nation when the price of these resources goes up.
I observed the confusion of the same people as they flounder in their confusion, lost in their unreal worlds where they
describe our unsustainable resource use as “energy crises”, where oil and Gas are defined as energy, where combustion
occurs without the atmosphere and where humans can trade away their souls. I smiled at the solemn pomp with which our
universities revel in their sense of intellectual superiority and confer degrees on all these same politicians,
economists and business editors and feed their unreality.
I observed our Parliament pouring billions of dollars into mad motorways and the inane air travel industry at the
expense of sane rail and our children’s future. Our MP’s rationalisations that they are doing this in the interests of
the people, even as the investments patently drive the average New Zealander into needless poverty as oil and Gas
reserves vanish, is the stuff of hilarious comedy.
I observed our media and the food/pharmaceutical companies pretending to an interest in our health while evoking every
image they can to get us to loath our bodies. They create the disease of underweight and overweight with their
blandishments and then seek to profit from selling their potions to cure the disease. They portray change as a scourge
and play up our fears of mortality by promoting everything from Botex to Viagara to fast cars to McLife.
And I may have laughed out loud as I thought of one of the most hilarious denials of all. I saw our editors creating
their editorials and framing their content in an interminable rail against taxes and the exploitation of taxpayers even
as their own existence depends on the wasteful advertising levy placed on almost every item we buy.
I observed the elaborate games lovers play as they seek to deny that the hormone surges they experience have nothing to
do with natural transformations, change and biological needs to procreate. And when they do procreate in the knowledge
that humanity is put at risk by their addition of extra humans in a resource-constrained world, they rationalise that
their child will offer something special over that which any other could.
I observed our business leaders and politicians, often with great sincerity, shaping our culture and economy in the name
of freedom and justice for all. So many of them somehow remain oblivious to the fact that their policies condemn
countless children to miserable deaths by starvation and disease. In all righteousness they send mass armies pouring
across the planet, slaughtering countless millions of humans and despoiling the landscape. And the more they believe it
is in the name of freedom the bigger the joke.
Yes, I even found humour in this, even as I was aware of the unspeakable suffering such rationalisations cause. To
understand this you have to know the sense of kindness and fondness I felt for humans and indeed, for life in general. I
saw the canny crow pretending to find food under an empty container as a decoy to deceive its mates so it can eat the
food hidden elsewhere while they were engrossed searching the decoy for food. I saw the paradise ducks. I saw the
elaborate mausoleums and giant pyramids humans create.
And as I reviewed my recent insights into our use of vital symbols, I saw in all these funny rationalisations of
humankind a grand and elaborate denial of reality, of change, of the essential nature of energy, of personal
In particular, as I lay there, I experienced a special gratitude for the many Environmental Educators, “energy experts”
and climatologists I have been privileged to share life with these last few years. I value their sensitivity to the
environmental balances that sustain us. Who really knows? I may even share their concern that our children shall inherit
these balances. I certainly admire the dedication and perseverance of their efforts to ensure this future.
It is in my awareness of their sensitivity and concern that I became aware of the phenomenon of “grand denial” that I
write of. I became aware of the ability of our so-called scientists to display a chronic lack of science in the
communication of their knowledge, despite their enormous knowledge of their subject. I became aware of the profound
discrepancy that can exist between the walk and the talk of our Environmental Educators. And time and again I have heard
these folk express despair at getting their message across to the wider population and at the level of public confusion
of the issues.
When I searched for the source of their despair I became very aware that their use of key symbols often generated
nonsense and framed excellent content with non-science. Maybe they communicate only too well? Maybe they communicate
their own confusion with great precision? This possibility caused me to ask the following questions:
What fundamentals might drive the behaviour of such unsustainable symbol use?
Could it be that their unsustainable uses of vital symbols reflect a primal dysfunction in the user? Is there a pattern
to the use?
Could it be that Environmental Educators and climatologists are especially vulnerable to this dysfunction and denial?
The possibilities of the last question occurred because I was aware that many of these experts are more aware than most
people of their impacts on environment balances. Thus they are more likely to be more stressed by their inability to
mirror the natural balances because of family, career, societal and other pressures to conform to unsustainable
behaviours. Hence they might be at the forefront in promoting symbols generating confusion and denial. Clearly something
is wrong when the people we esteem as scientists believe warming is the same thing as warming up. Everything - physics,
the amazing technology they use and the very cells in their bodies - tells them one story about warming/cooling and yet
they tell the opposite.
I trust people can know the humility with which I observe and record this phenomenon of rationalisation and denial. I
trust people will know it is only with humility that I was able to reflect on my own denial of the nature of energy and
my mortality. Without some humility I could never have gained the insight into how we can far better use key symbols to
express science and sustain civilisation. My gratitude is as real as the greater vision I now enjoy.
My special thanks to my daughter Bianca for all her insights. She happened to give me a book containing Buddhist wisdoms
recently at the time when the possibility was dawning on me that the following list of symbol uses shared a common
phenomenon: they are driven by a fundamental denial of change. For six years I had explored what drove the use of each
symbol. Suddenly the fog lifted to reveal that common factor. How could I communicate this simple truth with the
The book, a simple tome by William Hart on Vipassana meditation as taught by S.N.Goenka, is called the The Art of
Living. It articulates very clearly that our tendency to deny our mortality is not a phenomenon of our century. For over
hundred generations of recorded history sages have observed the phenomenon of our powers to rationalise away and deny
our mortality. It is a challenge that people of every era experience and the civilisations that have failed to meet it
often achieved very premature mortality.
And is our civilisation about to come to an abrupt end because of a grand denial? As you peruse the following list of
symbol uses you will see how increasingly their uses shape our global view as the multinational corporations extend
their influence into our lives. This is because these corporations are the prime source of the symbol uses in the list.
The psychotic nature of the Corporations means they tend to work to destroy science, they feed our fears and they tend
to be unfeeling of the welfare of future generations.
And now for the good news. Once this reality of our grand denial is observed, then hope flourishes. We can free
ourselves and enjoy a greater sense of vigour and meaning in our lives. That is because we are freed to enjoy the
benefits of science. In being able to appreciate the visions we inherit with understanding the Principle of the
Conservation of Energy and the Uncertainty Principle we can enjoy equanimity and better reflect reality.
You do not need great intellectual powers to enjoy the vision. If it helps, know that I averaged under 10% for my Maths,
Applied Maths, Physics, Chemistry and English the year I left college. Trust in the scientist in you that enabled you to
learn to walk, talk and read. I will finish with a small story to remind you of your innate common sense.
Recently I attended a lecture by the most prominent climate event expert in New Zealand. It was hosted by the Royal
Society of New Zealand at Te Papa, our national museum. He talked of thermal build-ups in the atmosphere and of rising
temperatures, which he then called warming. At one point he said how he was perplexed at why the wider public (that’s
souls like you and me) could not understand the science of climate change. So in question time I suggested the problem
might lie with the experts like climatologists. I asked this simple question:
“What are the public to think when you say warming = warming up? If this is true, then what do you call warming?”
Up till this point he had been very clear, confident and articulate. My simple question clearly reduced him to a state
of confusion. He searched for and found no simple answer and in his confusion I found hope. This is because warming =
warming up is an impossible idea.
Around me the audience seemed very embarrassed for him as he stood there attempting to make sense of my question. I was
uncomfortable too. I do not like to put people in embarrassing positions. Then the Royal Society chair of the meeting
stepped up to the microphone to relieve the speaker in his moment of discomfort.
It was patent the Chair had not even begun to understand my question and in that he is typical of my experiences of our
NZ Royal Society. The society is paid millions of taxpayers’ dollars to uphold standards of science and yet I find its
members do not even enjoy the fundamental requisites of science that you and I know.
The chairperson began an extended description of the warming impact of the sun on Earth and after a while I had
interrupt to say that I understood that as warming and not as warming up and to say my question had not been answered.
Also I knew this audience was well aware of the solar Earth-warming process and his kind, well-meaning explanation was
tedious for them. There was a palpable sense of relief and escape in the room as we moved on to the next question from
the audience. Understand this was a room of highly educated people who are motivated to travel through a rainstorm to
attend this Royal Society meeting.
In retrospect I realise their discomfort probably stemmed from their confusion as they attempted to answer what was an
impossible question for them. They were glad to move on from it and relieved not to confront it.
So be confident. Read on. Just flick through the intro and scan the list. Chances are you will see the nonsense from the
sense, the non-science from the science. And if you sense a pattern of truth in my observations but cannot say what it
is, don’t fret. Simply begin using them if you sense the symbol uses I propose make general sense. If they are true,
then their use will resonate with the science inherent in you at birth. You were born to experiment. This is just
another experiment and you have little to lose. If you do find that once you have got through the initial period of
unfamiliarity and conflict that you begin to have a sense of enhanced clarity and vitality, then know that the future of
children contains new hope. They will have more opportunity to enjoy all the benefits science can bring us.
And what’s another few minutes reading in your life if it may possibly bring so much extra life to your children. Enjoy.
And here’s hoping you too end up smiling at the absurdity of our powers of rationalisation and grand denial.
(An explanation of why our culture uses vital energy symbols to generate nonsense (non-science) at our peril and how we
can generate science and be more sustained.)