The futility of words on a screen
Another shooting followed by frustration and anger being written on keyboards, displayed on screens.
We must show our outrage.
But give it a day or two. That’s right. Take a deep breath. Go ahead, treat yourself to that episode of Ted Lasso. Mmmm, feel better?
Settle back in. Sure you’re still angry and frustrated but just save that for the next shooting. Your next post will be even more expressive of your severe disapproval. Get to bed, you’ve got work tomorrow.
It’s going to be okay. Surely with so many people in agreement, THIS time will be different. We can rest easy knowing that THIS time lawmakers will have a moment and fix this problem.
You’ve shared you post and even a few links. You’ve done your part. Nothing else you can do but wait.
Just wait, they’ll fix this.
Whether the problem is gun violence, the climate emergency, denial of healthcare and access to abortion, attacks on the LGBT community or any of the other crises we are facing, the majority of citizens in the US refuse to leave their homes to protest or strike. We’ll go out to shop, watch a ball game, work or any number of things. But most still refuse protest.
If you’re angry and frustrated with things as they are ask yourself, with the evidence of dysfunctional government in front of you, really, how much do you care? What would it take for you to help organize or, at the very least, join, repeatedly, in organized protests for social change?
I ride lots of quiet county roads and while I love the landscape of rural Missouri, I no longer view the small churches that dot the roads as quaint. They are, increasingly, the grassroots of Christian fascism.
Yeah, I'm not a fan of the Democrats at all. Or the two party system or the system that we have in place now. It needs a complete renovation from the ground up. Even so, this is worth a watch.
My group of local friends share a Slack group. This morning one of them asked:
(What the is the matter with the @$&-“.! Democrats)
No doubt a response to the recent maneuverings in regards to legislation for Covid relief and raising the minimum wage.
Here’s the response I posted and upon posting decided it should be a blog post here.
Oh, I’d say nothing is the matter. They seem to be doing EXACTLY what they always do. There’s absolutely nothing out of the norm with this.
This is who they are. On the whole are just a slightly less fucked up version of the Republicans. Add to that the politics of getting reelected, blah, blah, blah and all the other garbage of this filthy fucked up system and this is exactly what we have had for decades.
While the Trumper folks are unhinged and racist and seeping in conspiracy, the anger and rage and frustration seems to be a fairly common trait amongst much of the population… hence Occupy Wall Street. The 99% - which is why the whole system really does need to be uprooted
All we’ve accomplished is temporary removal of an idiot, arrogant, fascist wannabe dictator.
The dysfunction of the 2 party system is still in place. It will function well enough for the 1% as it has for decades. And that’s all that matters.
I’d guess that the democrats will remain split, progressives and establishment… they’ll fumble around for 2 years then 2 more years. Meanwhile, the republicans will do what they can to suppress the vote in future elections. It’s a clusterfuck that won’t end until the polite liberals of the U.S., step out of their apathy and get a bit angrier, more agitated and more willing to engage. That said, seeing the lunacy of the angry right, I don’t know what an energized liberal population would really look like. How would it, could it, actually engaged with the “other half” of the 99%?
It would seem to me that the way forward, if there is a way, is to chart some new social territory.
Which is to say, the structure has to be rebuilt. And, which is to ask, are the people that would need to work together to do this capable of doing it? Can common ground be found and trust established so that the 99% can figure out a way forward? Personally, trying to not veer into pessimism but to remain honest, and I don’t know what it would take in this current culture for people to begin that move. Is it possible for us to just be neighbors, to view one another as people and step past the labels, emotions, distrust, fear, etc?
Which brings me to the way forward. I’ve spent the past couple weeks dwelling again in thoughts of Social Ecology and Murray Bookchin’s ideas for how humans might organize society more democratically, more rationally. In short, building local, community based democracy as the foundation and working up from there. It would mean turning everything we know about government and economy on it’s head.
So, what’s possible? Is this kind of radical change possible in the U.S.? It’s interesting that we, as a nation, have become so pessimistic about the possibility of change. And yet, we can look elsewhere on the planet and see such examples. Most recently and very inspiring is Rojava. Why would this not be possible here? Of course it would be possible.
Thinking about what is possible or not possible. Somewhere along the way we, as a national culture, fell into a deep rut of pessimism. The idea that we might turn things on their head seems an impossibility! Why, why, we couldn’t do that! We just can’t! Direct, participatory democracy?? No, it’s simply not possible! We collectively seem to have lost (or given up) our ability, our will, to experiment, to problem solve and to really work towards solutions.
I’ve not posted much about the shitstorm that is 2020. For that matter, I’ve not posted much about the swamp that is the Trump presidency.
Here it is, short and to the point.
Trump is a criminal, bully and generally of the lowest character possible. I voted against him in 2016 and again in 2020. The Republican Party has shown itself to be criminal and racist, not a surprised. The people that have come out of the cracks in the past 4 years to support Trump… well, that’s another whole discussion involving racism, white supremacy, pent of frustration with the U.S. political system and economy and more. Another time.
The Democratic Party is another sham. Criminal in it’s own ways. Representative not of people but of global capitalism (just as the Republicans are) but with a more reasonable, psuedocompassionate face. But again, the establishment.
The two party system is obviously broken. Politics in the U.S. are broken and toxic. What we have serves corporate interests and it needs a complete re-write in a different, completely rethought and new form.
All that said, social media and Trump have illustrated just how broken, toxic and divided the general culture of the U.S. has devolved into. We’re a long, long, long way from the important solutions to our immediate, mid-term and long-term problems. It’s going to get uglier. There might be others out there framing it all with a more constructive, positive light. It’s a crisis and often the disruption of crisis can also be the groundwork for new solutions and progress. We’ll see. But in the short term, yeah, ugly. Dangerous.
With the exception of about 45% of the US population and current Republican lawmakers, much of the world seems to agree that Trump is a criminal. Republicans in the Senate don’t seem likely to impeach and the leadership has already come out in support of Trump. In short, they’re not doing their jobs. Not surprising. It’s corrupt and broken. Really, it has been for a long time but it’s becoming more obvious. “Democracy” here has never been much more than a veneer. In recent decades that veneer has become increasingly thin.
One of the latest news items seems worth mentioning: More than 700 historians call for Trump to be impeached as key vote looms:
“We are American historians devoted to studying our nation’s past,” began an open letter posted to Medium, “who have concluded that Donald J Trump has violated his oath to ‘faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States’ and to ‘preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States’.”
An excellent thread on Twitter in coping with the constant flow of lies and the integrity of democracy. I’d argue that what we have isn’t really a democracy anyway but that’s another discussion.
This is an extremely important question.
We are being drenched in a Tsunami of Lies.
The better people understand the goal behind those drenching us, and how to respond, the better chance democracy has of surviving. — Read on mobile.twitter.com/Teri_Kanefield/status/1204791540771504129
I've not said much here about recent goings on in the U.S. But like anyone not living in a cave, I've been paying attention. I am aware. I am frustrated. And angry. And sometimes frightened. Several weeks ago many folks were posting on Twitter in support of Elizabeth Warren. And then I saw two tweets:
@danielpunkass: The Senate may be surprised how many previously apolitical people are awakening to the reality of our shameful representatives.
@danielpunkass: I consider myself politically astute, and I'd been relatively tuned out. Now, many who never game a damn are active daily. New democracy.
I responded with:
@dennyhenke: @danielpunkass I would suggest that it is shameful that our citizenry allowed itself to become apolitical. That should NEVER happen in a healthy democracy.
@dennyhenke: @danielpunkass We have this thing we refer to as activists which is an indicator. There shouldn't be “activists” as all citizens should be active.
But then, a little bit later I got on a roll, what do the youngsters call it? A thread. And realized after that really it's the sort of thing I should have posted here. So, I've edited a bit.
I'm not a fan of the 2 party system in the US. I'd love to see it fracture into many. I'd love to see Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders start a new party. Which is to say, begin the break-up of the Democratic Party into several parties. We need stronger progressive politics and the Democrats won't do it as they are beholden to capital just as the Republicans are.
Not that party politics is the answer. We need US citizens to remember they are meant to be in power. All citizens should be “activists”. And it's not just about politics in D.C. or our state gov. It's our counties and cities and neighborhoods. And it's not even just politics but community. Active citizenship should encompass how we live our lives, which is to say, how we meet our physical needs. How we work and purchase. Democracy, if it is meaningful, should encompass economy and community. It's all interwoven like a tapestry. A participatory tapestry.
Politics isn't something owned by a group of predominately white guys in D.C. It is our food supply and our electricity and transportation. We make choices everyday that contribute to our problems. We should stop waiting for solutions to be provided by a broken system. We should be the solution in our communities empowering ourselves with green technology and healthy relationships with our neighbors.
The world is what we make it and for too long we've been silent and complicit. We've waited for solutions to come to us, to be delivered.
So, what does it look like, this community-built life, this tapestry? It looks like every kind of co-op you can imagine. People working together to recycle bikes and teach each other how to repair them. People growing food together in neighborhood gardens. Community resource centers in garages and un-used spaces with shared tool libraries for check-out. Educational workshops for everything. Each one teach one. It's people taking care of one another. It's meals together. It's bartering and sharing. In other words, it's a life with reduced consumption of resources and energy that is better for the planet and very likely better for all of us. It's reducing the role of middle men we call capitalism. It's a reduction of he profit motive in exchange for greater fulfillment and health.
Specifically my personal future and also thinking a bit about this blog. I’ve obviously not been very consistent with updates. Honestly, I put some of the blame for that on Facebook. I’m sure I am not the only one who spends too much time there. While it is great for sharing I thing the downside is that much of that sharing is just reposting. I am also leery of so much content being under one roof so to speak.
So, still here. With the crazy heat and drought of this past summer my garden suffered as did the many trees and bushes I put in over the past four years. That said, almost all of my perennials survived even if they didn’t thrive. Luckily the veggie garden was, by chance, smaller. The climate future looks increasingly scary for those of us that want to eat food, wink wink.
As for my project here, it will continue for the time being though I struggle to remain enthusiastic with the annual veggies. Something about three months of intense drought and heat seems to make my garden time outside a bit less enjoyable. Our well is shallow which means I either need to haul water from the lake or invest several thousand into a new well. Climate change is ugly.
So, I’m thinking that it is time to add in a new element of activity which reflects a new interest (actually a childhood/life interest that has been sitting in a corner of my mind): astronomy! Well, science in general, but astronomy especially. While I have no intention of abandoning the permaculture work I think having another primary activity is a good thing and in the winter when growing is out I’ll have something very interesting to explore, namely, our universe.
Which brings me back to one my thoughts on the blog. I’ve not been consistent in writing about my permaculture/homestead efforts but do think I might be more consistent in reporting on my astronomical explorations as it is the sort of interest that lends itself to data collection and reporting. Should I do that here as a supplement to my other interests or do I start an astronomy based blog? Actually, I think I just sorted it out as I write. I’ll keep it here but will not just add in my astronomical observations but will also add in other science related material.
Actually, and don’t laugh, but I have this vision of humanity (or myself?) that connects to a few episodes/films from Star Trek that have always stuck with me. In particular, those which seem to showcase small, egalitarian villages in which science seems to not only co-exist with daily life, but informs a deeper and greater understanding of the relationship between humans and nature and the larger universe. Contrast this to our modern manifestation which seems to have largely become a tool for corporate profit with little regard to ethics. A great example would be GMOs and modern industrial agriculture as it might compare to a decentralized permaculture-based system informed by local and thoughtful observation.
One outlook, the modern corporate/capitalist/industrial, uses science primarily as a tool for the accumulation of wealth. The other uses science as a method for deepening our understanding of the natural world around us not just for technological development, but for the sake of understanding. In this second outlook the ethics of use would be an important part of the overall process and would include all sorts of new questions and concerns in any sort of possible application of scientific knowledge. In fact, one might say that the second view represents a kind of democratization of applied science.
Wow. I didn’t expect to take this post in this direction but it is interesting and it is something I’ve thought about off and on over the years so, yeah, I’ll be back to this at some point. Another area that I’d like to explore is science literacy and critical thought. There has been a long trend in the U.S. which seems to be gaining a bit of steam when, in fact, it should be losing steam and that is the movement against science. Such a movement can only happen when there is a lack of communication of knowledge. When people are ignorant of established scientific knowledge and the basic method which serves as its foundation there is room for manipulation.
So, you can expect that I’ll be spending some time discussing not just science but specifically science literacy. I’m not a trained scientist but I think I know enough to discuss some issues as a citizen. Specifically I’m likely to dig into the entwined relationship of politics, religion and global capitalism have been used to undermine science literacy to further their capacity as control agents: social, political, economic, ecological… everything from the genetics of corn to humans, from crowd control to the “entertainment” that comes out of the glowing screens in living rooms. Science and technology can be used in many ways for many different and often opposing agendas. I think that will be some interesting exploration.
There is also some real life stuff I’m hoping to make happen that reflects all of this, specifically a few ideas for how I might further science literacy here in rural Missouri where it is greatly needed. I’ll share that as well.
I’ve FINALLY gotten around to reading through Dimitri Orlov’s blog and it is excellent. Some will think he is a bit harsh in his humor but I’m loving it in part for that reason. A recent post on Selling Climate Change is a great example. But not only is it funny, it is right on target.
Climate scientists and environmental activists who support them have been struggling to get their message across: that an increase in average global temperature of 6 degrees Celsius by the end of the century is likely and would be a catastrophe.
Let’s deconstruct this message on behalf of the person you see seated here. Starting at the end, there is this big scary Greek word. Tune that out: ‘cat… here, kitty-kitty!’ Let’s also cross out all the words he doesn’t care about: ‘scientists,’ ‘average,’ ‘global’ and ‘Celsius.’ These are all noise words. What we are left with is ‘It will be 6 degrees warmer.’ If he were wearing a sweatshirt, he might be prompted to think about taking it off, but as he is already down to just the boxers and the wife-beater, we shouldn’t wish him to disrobe any further. If he succeeds in processing ‘by the end of the century,’ he would translate it as ‘not any time soon.’ If the word ‘likely’ makes it through his cognitive filter, it would come out as ‘maybe.’ The message, as received, thus reads: ‘Maybe it will get a bit warmer long after I am dead. Well, whoop-tee-doo! What else is on TV?'
You may ask yourself, What difference does it make what this individual thinks? Well, it does and it doesn’t. It doesn’t because he has zero political or economic power or influence. It does because those who run the country in which he resides find it convenient to pretend that his opinion matters, to dumb down public discourse so as to frustrate the smart, educated people to the point of not wanting to participate, because dumb people are easier to exploit than smart people. If we want to influence public policy and try to prevent climate catastrophe (to the extent that it is still preventable) we need to have this fellow squarely on our side. This is not impossible by any means, but it is a dead certainty that scientific mumbo-jumbo won’t make a convert of him.
The word ‘climate’ is a bit of a non-starter already. He likes ‘climate control,’ and what we are telling him is that he might have to get a bigger air conditioner… by the end of the century. That’s just great. But the real howler is the persistent use of the word ‘average.’ Imagine him poking his head out of his double-wide trailer home to surmise the weather, and, turning to his Spandex-clad, morbidly obese wife, exclaiming ‘Sweet Jesus, what an AVERAGE day! Take out your teeth, woman! Let’s celebrate!’ Are you beginning to get the picture?
Here is a mapping I would like to contribute to the question of how to sell climate change to the general public.
Unlike the problem of stopping climate change, I see this communication problem as solvable. The issue, as I see it, is that nobody has really tried to solve it. The reasons for this are many and varied, but none of them is particularly good.
…I would like to believe that Americans, when pushed to their limits, would rise up en mass against the corporate greed that holds them in check. But it seems this would have happened before now.
When I survey the rape of the American psyche that transpired over the past nine years, I wonder: have We, the People, become the victims of domestic violence? Just as a battered wife stays in her place, does not question her husband, does not try to protect herself or flee the abusive situation, have we become so accustomed to the abuse of our perceived authority figures that we are unable to entertain notions of standing up for ourselves? We must remember that we pay the salaries of the people who abuse us. We can choose to cut off our financial support, thus rendering the batterers impotent. But this sort of revolution is even harder to imagine than the sort with arms. The people who would most benefit from a revolution are too busy feeding their families to start one. Those who can afford to fight don’t care enough about the cause to do so. They are comfortable and complacent - as long as they have their numbing substances of choice on hand.
I have become disheartened. ‘What then must we do?'
I disagree with the idea that this is a problem which has developed over the past nine years but I agree with the general idea. I think we’ve gotten ourselves into a cultural, behavioral rut so deep that we have no idea how to get out. We’re terrified of what it might mean for our comfortable but degraded lives. Our political system was stolen several decades ago and has since been controlled by corporate capitalism. Whether the party in control is Democrat or Republican is irrelevant, the two party facade is just a distraction, a news-network soap opera.
Sadly, we’ve become twisted perversions of the citizenry we one were striving to be. We’ve allow ourselves to be remade into hyper consumers obsessed with the latest gadgets and the lives of celebrities or ranking of sports teams. We traded away meaningful lives lived in the context of community, seeking our to develop our better selves. Instead of helping one another develop to our fullest potential we accepted a bribe of cheap thrills and trinkets from China.
Exactly. In his latest post, The Abyss Stares Back James Kunstler writes:
In the broad blogging margins of the web that orbit the mainstream media like the rings of Saturn, an awful lot of reasonable people have begun to ask whether President Obama is a stooge of whatever remains of Wall Street, with Citigroup and Goldman Sachs’s puppeteer, Robert Rubin, pulling strings behind an arras in the Oval Office. Personally, I doubt it, but it is still a little hard to understand what the President is up to. For one thing, the stimulus package, so-called, looks more and more like national sub-prime mortgage itself, a bad bargain made under less-than-realistic terms, with future obligations fobbed onto whoever inhabits this corner of the world for the next seven hundred years – and all to pay for a bunch of granite counter-tops and flat-screen TVs.
We’ve heard it over and over and over and over from those in power in reference to this coming depression: “We have to do something.” My thought? No, no actually you don’t HAVE to do something especially when doing something is the wrong thing to do. Action for the sake of action is stupidity. But they are not just doing something. They are doing the same thing that got us into this situation. Taking on more debt to fix debt for the sake of growth that is not even real growth. Well, the consumption was real and the growth for China was real, but the debt taken on in the U.S. was just that, debt. We got in the habit of telling ourselves, as a nation, that credit and debt were wealth but they are not even close to wealth. They may create the illusion of wealth but when it comes time to pay back what you don’t have the reality comes home.
There will be no getting out of this mess, no way to navigate around it. The hard truth is that we will have to slog through it day by day. This collapse was a very long time in coming and the going will be an equally long time. Unlike the first Great Depression though, when we begin to come out of this we will not find a ready, seemingly limitless supply of oil to tap into. We’ll discover that the production peaked sometime between 2005-2007. The good news though is that by that time we will have gotten used to a scaled back, lower income, lower energy way of life.
Again, to quote Kunstler:
Among the questions that disturb the sleep of many casual observers is how come Mr. O doesn’t get that the conventional process of economic growth – based, as it was, on industrial expansion via revolving credit in a cheap-energy-resource era – is over, and why does he keep invoking it at the podium? Dear Mr. President, you are presiding over an epochal contraction, not a pause in the growth epic. Your assignment is to manage that contraction in a way that does not lead to world war, civil disorder or both. Among other things, contraction means that all the activities of everyday life need to be downscaled including standards of living, ranges of commerce, and levels of governance. “Consumerism” is dead. Revolving credit is dead – at least at the scale that became normal the last thirty years. The wealth of several future generations has already been spent and there is no equity left there to re-finance.
It really is that bad and wishful thinking will not help.
Banks, Barack Obama, Capitalism, Economic Collapse, Economic Depression, Economy, Energy, Energy Conservation, Global Depression, Great Depression, Natural Resources, Oil, Peak Energy, Peak Oil, Politics, Recession
Want to get a better foundational understanding of the Greater Depression that we have now entered? Here are a few blogs I’d suggest you read every day or at least a few times a week.
Sites which focus on the economic system specifically:
The Automatic Earth
The Market Ticker
Sites which discuss a broader range of issues (peak oil, self reliance, homesteading, climate change, suburbia…) related to the current collapse and what will follow:
The Archdruid Report
Here’s a little sample from November 7 post from
The Automatic Earth: Debt Rattle: Hocus Focus:
Obama’s chief of staff is a former Freddie Mac board member and fervent supporter of the invasion of Iraq. Many of the ‘experts’ are, or have been, Goldman and Citigroup execs. These people like the power and the money they have gathered while driving the economy into the ground. They’re not going to give that up just to build a financial system that would better serve the people. They’ll build one that best serves them.
Sure, some loose ends will be tweaked, but mostly they’ll spend the nation into a depression by attempting to salvage corporations that would have long since died if it were not for America’s 21st century version of Mussolini’s corporate fascism, and the unlimited access to the public trough it provides.
The broke man in the street will be broker, until he’s broken, until he lives in the street, his last hard earned penny squeezed from his hands and dumped into banks, insurers and carmakers that have zero chance of ever turning a profit again.
The taxpayer will be taxed, and will be forced to pay until (s)he can pay no more, if need be at the barrel of a gun, until (s)he no longer has a job, a home, dignity or a future. And then the growth machine will spit her out. Whoever can’t produce or consume is a write-off.
We’ve spent too much, and now we’re broke. Let’s spend more, and lots more, ‘cause then we will be whole again. Double or nothing, it’s all we know.
The dice will come up nothing.
Barack Obama, Capitalism, Conservation, Consumerism, Consumption, Economic Collapse, Economic Depression, Economy, Energy, Energy Conservation, Energy Crisis, Energy Shortage, Food, Food Production, Gardening, Global Depression, Great Depression, Homesteading, Living Simply, Natural Resources, Obama, Peak Energy, Peak Oil, Recession, Self Reliance, The Long Emergency, Working Less
While the middle class collapses, the richest people in this country have made out like bandits and have not had it so good since the 1920s. The top 0.1 percent now earn more money than the bottom 50 percent of Americans, and the top 1 percent own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent. The wealthiest 400 people in our country saw their wealth increase by $670 billion while Bush has been president. In the midst of all of this, Bush lowered taxes on the very rich so that they are paying lower income tax rates than teachers, police officers or nurses.
Now, having mismanaged the economy for eight years as well as having lied about our situation by continually insisting, ‘The fundamentals of our economy are strong,’ the Bush administration, six weeks before an election, wants the middle class of this country to spend many hundreds of billions on a bailout. The wealthiest people, who have benefited from Bush’s policies and are in the best position to pay, are being asked for no sacrifice at all. This is absurd. This is the most extreme example that I can recall of socialism for the rich and free enterprise for the poor.
Via Chris Martenson who had this to say:
This looks like the old populist message that has been so long dormant/suppressed in this country. Should that animal spirit re-awaken, social unrest will follow. Hell hath no fury…
Want to know more about the current economic situation and coming Depression? Check out the Crash Course by Chirs Martenson. This is a fantastic series of flash video/slide presentations that explains money, inflation, and the economy. Watch it and share it. This guy does a really excellent job of presenting the history and the current situation… everyone should watch this at least once. It is… STUNNING.
Pass it on.
Capitalism, Consumerism, Consumption, Economic Collapse, Economic Depression, Energy, Fossil Fuels, Global Depression, Natural Resources, Oil, Peak Energy, Peak Oil, Recession, The Long Emergency, Economy, Poverty, Banks, FED, Dollar
Over the years I’ve spent countless hours reading, learning and speculating about the future of humanity and the planet we call earth. In my first years of college in 1988-1990 I first started learning about the human rights movement, alternative agriculture, and the budding american Green movement. I founded a Green local in my college town, Kirksville, MO and I began to identify myself as an activist. Between my time away from family as well as this fundamental shift in my identity I began to notice a crack which became a gulf in how I related to my fellow humans and they to me.
Looking back I’ve come to realize that the “activist” is actually a strange phenomena. In a participatory democracy, there would not be a need for “activists” which are really just citizens which are involved in the community process of self-government. In a participatory democracy all citizens are active. The republic that we have today is, of course, a far, far cry from a real democracy. To suggest that it is democratic is to twist and pervert the word to such a degree that it no longer resembles its original meaning. (It was never a participatory democracy at all, but a republic that was supposedly controlled by citizens via representatives via “democratic” elections. But really, the differences, while important, are another topic for another time.)
Over the years (most notably beginning after WWII and the rise of suburbia) the people of United States have been taught that life is about the American Dream. It is about being happy which comes with certain material possessions as well as a neatly defined nuclear family of husband, wife, and kids. Of course the American Dream is open-ended and the list of material possessions grows and grows and is never completed. In accepting the American Dream as our way of life we gave up citizenship and became consumers who were no longer concerned with the serious responsibilities of being involved in government. In allowing ourselves be redefined we gave up power to those who did the redefining: the wealthy upper-class which controlled corporate capitalism and the state.
The role of “activist” came about because there are still citizens that strive to be actively engaged. I’ve come to realize that the disdain and outright hostility that I’ve faced as an activist is a fairly common experience and is related, at least in part, to the psychological and life investments made by the majority of people in the U.S. People went along for the ride. They were offered a way of life and they took it. They may not have even realized what was happening. My parents are a good example. They were a product of their socialization and they accepted what was put before them as the normal way of life. The development of suburbia and a shift to consumerism were the next steps to be taken after the Great Depression and the emergence of the U.S. as a world power after WWII. My parents got their jobs, bought their car and home then started having children. They moved, kept their jobs, bought another car and continued to raise their kids. They invested their lifetimes in this way of life. They believed in this way of life. My two siblings followed suit with their own families, jobs, homes, cars, pools and kids.
Imagine the emotional response of having that way of life criticized. By definition an activist (active citizen) is critical and vocal. The role of the citizen is to strive towards informed and ethical decision making for the community good. It is an unfortunate fact that to be an active citizen in our society often leads to separation from the majority in thought and behavior in part because we are often considered to be “judgmental” which, of course, we are. We do “judge” in the sense that we form opinions and conclusions regarding the everyday life around us. Being an active citizen is a never ending process of responsibility which leaves no stone unturned. It means looking at how we get things done: transport, growing of food, production of material goods, etc. and making determinations of how those actions and systems are working or not working.
In the 20 or so years that I’ve considered myself an active citizen I have consistently been met with resistance. Most people are not open to the idea that their way of life requires the suffering of others. It’s not comfortable or convenient because it implies a sense of guilt about both the system and the people who are a part of it. If a way of life is implicitly unfair and unsustainable and we willingly participate in it what does that say about us?
With the arrival of peak oil, climate change, and serious economic crisis all at the same time, many people are seeing the cracks in the way of life that they have taken as a given. As the cracks begin to expand and the system crumbles the whole gamut of emotional and mental states will run its course through the “consumers” of this nation. I suspect that anger, fear and confusion will dominate. The process is already well under way and if we’re lucky it will continue to unwind slowly. If that is the case then perhaps panic and violence will give way to community-based movements of cooperation. I don’t hold out much hope for this. The shift in our way of life is going to be monumental. Every aspect of how we live is about to change as the cultural, political and ecological repercussions of the past 60+ years step onto the stage. Perhaps the two most significant differences between the Great Depression of the last century and this “Long Emergency” (as James Kunstler refers to it) are the planet’s population of 6.5 billion people and dwindling fossil fuel resources.
Eleutheros of the excellent blog How Many Miles from Babylon describes it as a
shift in paradigm :
Facing the realities of our immediate future calls for a shift in the paradigm, a shift in thinking, a shift in the mindset.
We are mentally conditioned to think that we would be happier, more comfortable, in a larger over heated and over cooled house. We think prepackaged food is vastly easier to prepare. We think a food processor is a hundred times easier than a knife. Of course this farmstead is on the lunatic fringe. We have experimented with cutting all the firewood we need for heating and cooling with hand tools. It’s some more work, to be sure, but not much. Yet in the imagination of the uninitiated, a chainsaw is many hundreds of times less work.
On this farmstead 85% of our food involves zero food-miles and almost all the rest is bought bulk, we use very little electricity and no commercial gas or other fuels. We wear used clothing. We drive bottom feeder vehicles and those only very rarely. Yet how much do we impact global energy and resource use? None, negligible at any rate. The random motion of molecules accounts for more fuel savings that we do in the scheme of things. What we represent is not some quantified amount of energy and resources saved, but rather a complete paradigm shift from the consumerist world.
I’ve said many times before that I think it is far too late to stop what is coming. It is a done deal. The question is how will we handle ourselves as this amazing shift in our way of life occurs. Will we rise to the occasion? Will we learn and share the skills necessary for survival? Will we step out of our air-conditioned lives and do the work that is now required? Billions of people on planet earth deal directly with survival issues every single day. They know hunger, thirst, extreme cold and heat… for them, survival is not a reality television show but a fact of everyday life.
When fossil fuel based agriculture fails and the shelves remain empty will we eat the drywall of our over-sized homes or will we learn to grow and preserve food the way our ancestors did? I wonder how many people have a basic understanding of how to garden and preserve food? How many have actually tried it and thus have an awareness of how much can actually be grown on any given amount of land or how much time is required? What about growing from seeds and saving seeds for the next season? Will they have access to gasoline and a tiller to prepare the soil or will they double dig by hand or sheet mulch with cardboard? Do they know about squash bugs or japanese beetles? What will they do about water during times of drought? Will a nation of people used to consuming fast food and microwaveable box dinners even know what to do with the vegetables that they’ve grown? How long will it take them to learn to enjoy real, whole and healthy food?
As individual people we have a lot of growing to do. As individuals that inhabit rural roads or streets in towns and cities, we’ll need to develop better relationships with neighbors which can then be grown into communities.
Activism, Agriculture, American Politics, Capitalism, Climate Change, Consumerism, Consumption, Economic Collapse, Economic Depression, Energy, Energy Conservation, Energy Crisis, Energy Shortage, Environmentalism, Food, Food Production, Fossil Fuels, Gardening, Global Depression, Global Warming, Living Simply, Natural Resources, Oil, Peak Energy, Peak Oil, Permaculture, Politics, Recession, Self Reliance, Sustainable Development, The Long Emergency
“We’ve written a lot about the FISA Amendments Act this year. There’s quite a bit to learn if you really want to understand the law, and what makes it such a danger to the survival of democracy and liberty in the United States. The issues can seem overwhelming.
That’s just what the supporters of the FISA Amendments Act are counting on, though. They’ve tried to make the law so complex that Americans become deterred from even trying to understand it.
Don’t fall for that trick. At its core, understanding the FISA Amendments Act is quite simple. All you need to know about the FISA Amendments Act in order to understand its essential nature is one thing:
The FISA Amendments Act allows the White House to break the law on spying."
I strongly suggest reading the rest of the post.
Just popping in to offer up a thought about the current thinking regarding climate change and the economy in relation to current political discourse and media. It is generally accepted thinking that economic recession is bad. It is also now generally accepted that climate change is a serious global problem which needs to be addressed in a very serious manner by governments and citizens.
Let me point out the hard truth which will never be uttered by any candidate for U.S. president, not even Barack Obama who seems to have a great deal of support of liberals and progressives in the U.S. No current Democratic or Republican candidate is even close. If we are going to solve the climate crisis we must reduce our carbon emissions immediately and let me be clear by what I mean by reduce and immediately. I mean that we need a reduction of 50% by yesterday and 90% by tomorrow. We need a global economic recession because we need an immediate end to economic growth. We need an end to a global economy that is based on ever increasing consumption and which promotes consumerism as a way of life. It is not what most people want to hear and it is not what a candidate will say if they want to get elected. But it is the truth.
Our level of public and political discussion regarding climate change and natural resources reflects our thinking on the issues and it is purely delusional. The time for making gradual but serious changes to our way of life was 1990. In 2008 we have runaway climate change and a planet of 7 billion people which has reached peak energy production.
Buckle up for a very rough ride.
Juan Cole has an interesting post on How the Republicans are Stealing the November Elections:
Or, Bushes and Bonapartes
On November 7, the American people delivered a stiff rebuke to the Bush Administration and the Republican Party over its far-right policies. They were especially worried about the Iraq fiasco, and upset over the mounting US and Iraqi casualties. But they also worried about Bush’s coddling of the Religious Right and the erosion of the separation of religion and state, along with the assault on civil liberties.
You see, we do not have a democracy, with the Bush administration in power. We have an elective dictatorship. The elections are like lotteries. Many of them don’t even reflect the popular vote or the general will. The Rehnquist Coup of 2000 was not intrinsically different from the Rounds Coup (if it happens) of 2006. Nor would the techniques whereby elections are “won” bear much scrutiny. Ask Tom Delay, through the penitentiary window. And the incumbents feel they owe nothing to the electorate, nothing whatsoever. They have the Power. They act as they please. The rest of us are just onlookers.
So Bush’s response to the clear public demand for a change of course and a disengagement? It is to run to Henry Kissinger’s apron strings. And what does the Butcher of Chile and Indonesia urge? That Bush should put another 40,000 US troops into Iraq!
The problem is that Iraq is a 500,000 troop problem. Another 40,000 are just going to anger locals. And, apparently, they would be sicced on the Shiite Mahdi Army in hopes of permanently crippling the Sadr Movement headed (in part) by Muqtada al-Sadr. And maybe they’d be used in a new offensive against the Sunni Arab guerrillas.
Let me explain why it won’t work. It won’t work because Iraqis are now politically and socially mobilized. This means that they have the social preconditions for effective political and paramilitary action (they are largely urban, literate, connected by media, etc.) And they are politically savvy and well-connected. They are well armed, gaining in military experience, and well financed through petroleum and antiquities smuggling and through cash infusions from supporters abroad. The Mahdi Army fighters can be defeated by the US military, as happened twice in 2004. But they cannot be made to disappear, as they were not in 2004. That is because they are an organic movement springing from the Shiite poor, and are the paramilitary arm of a large social movement with a national network and ideology.
Attempts to crush popular movements once they have mobilized have most often failed. No attempts at counter-revolution in France in the 1790s were successful. Even powerful empires like Austria were helpless before the mobilized French infantry (who for the first time used large numbers of conscripts).
I am not saying that popular protests cannot be crushed. They can and have been. I am saying that when you have a whole country that is politically mobilized and has substantial resources, a crack-down is likely doomed unless it is almost genocidal (Saddam’s use of chemical weapons in 1988 and of helicopter gunships against civilians in 1991 are examples, as is Truman’s use of the atomic bomb against Japan).
The US is not going to commit the half a million troops it would take to have a chance of winning in Iraq. Nor is it going to use genocidal methods to strike absolute terror into the hearts of the Iraqi people.
Bush is the Napoleon of our age, trampling on whole peoples, a Jacobin Emperor mouthing the slogans of liberty and popular sovereignty while crushing and looting those he “liberated.” And Kagan and Kristol (playing Talleyrand 1798) and Emperor Bush are readying a further slaughter of our US troops, 24,000 of whom have been killed or wounded, and of innocent Iraqis, 600,000 of whom have been killed by criminal and political violence since spring of 2003.
And you thought a mere election would make a difference. No one had to elect the American Enterprise Institute. No one needs to crown the emperor, he can do it himself. Welcome to Year 1 of the Empire.
I’ve been saying now for 3 or 4 years that there would be no presidential election in 2008. The theft of the 2004 elections just affirmed it for me. Now, for any Republicans that may stumble upon this post, let me be very clear about something from the very get go. I’m not a Democrat and I don’t like the Democratic Party any more than the Republican Party. I think they are both deeply flawed elements of a very broken system. In fact that brings me directly to my first point.
The two party system is a false set of choices and always has been. America is not, in any way, a democracy. Never has been. The democracy of this republic has never been anything more than a facade created to give the appearance of democracy. Another way to describe it would be to say that it is a carefully designed cage that is large enough and fine enough to give the appearance of freedom and a sense of mobility and choice.
As a facade “our” democracy has functioned fairly well in terms of its real purpose. But even its performance as a facade is now beginning to break down. I think that’s because the real structure underneath is strained and it’s flaws, fundamental and deep, are beginning to weaken. The real engine has run into social, political, and ecological realities that it is unable to adapt to and may not have planned for. The result is that the foundation is now out of balance and is shifting quite a bit and that energy carries over into the facade.
Seems to me that the facade only really works as long as a middle and moderate path is taken because the whole point is to sustain the illusion of freedom and democracy. It has to keep the majority happy by giving them a sense of control in its periodic swings to the left and then the right and that’s not just for it’s own citizens but also its image in the larger community of nations. In the past few years, really the past few decades, we’ve taken such a significant swing to the right that the sense of balance is gone. This current group in the White House is, in many ways, a logical and predictable result… at least certain aspects of it are. Other aspects of it are, in a strange way, the contradiction to what was really needed.
The contradiction is that this swing too far to the right is detrimental to the existence of the core machine, often called the “State”. The State is something that exists in the background, it is the real power center. Of course global capitalism also plays a role and there are relationships between the two. But the entities that make up the State and Capital, powerful as they may be, must still deal with the reality of billions of people on a planet of finite resources and this is perhaps the fundamental problem at the moment. Peak oil and peak energy will become a major issue in the short term and I believe that the effects of climate change will only complicate the matter. Add to this scenario the many variables and complications of expanding war in the Middle East and the situation begins to seem dire.
In an article describing the well developed pattern of lies by Bush and his fellow Republicans, Juan Cole has this to say about the one-party state:
The United States has a one-party state. The presidency, the vice presidency, the cabinet, the House of Representatives, the Senate, the Supreme Court– are all and have for some time been in the hands of the same party. Not only that, but the most extreme factions within the Republican Party: the theocrats, the Neoconservative ex-Trotskiyites, the John Yoo Torture Apologists, the Grover Norquist advocates of Mr. Scrooge plutocracy, the corrupt Abramoffist lobbyists and Delayist horse thieves–they are ascendant. Parties don’t investigate themselves. They are about power, interests, and money. They are about winning. They aren’t a charity.
The American public has been unwise to allow this one party state to grow up, which is chipping away at our liberties as Americans and creating a new monarchy and a new aristocracy. It works by lies and cover-ups.
Another four years of the one-party state, and the Republic will be finished, if it is not already.
I would add to this that the two-party state is not much better. I’d also add that the Republic is already finished. There are very dark times ahead but in truth, I think they’ve been a long time coming and are probably a necessary development. Americans have been living in fantasy land for the past 50+ years. We took the bribe of suburbia, gadgets, and cheap entertainment, we traded in our role of citizen for that of consumer. The simple truth is that freedom and democracy, if they are to be meaningful and real, must be a part of everyday life. Which brings me back to the original point of this post: the 2008 elections.
Over at Another Day in the Empire Kurt discusses Keith Olbermann’s July interview with former Nixon White House counsel, John Dean. He writes that Dean “comes within a hair’s breadth of declaring the neocons have specifically created terrorism in order to run roughshod over our former republic. Of course, as ample documentation reveals, this is precisely what the neocons have done.”
I agree with that and also his assessment that last week’s approval of HR 6166, S 3930 was the next step and that a clamp-down will soon follow. This is the New America:
Dean’s interview is interesting as well because he describes the neocons as dangerous authoritarians who will do anything to remain in power and aggressively foist their agenda on the nation, even if it ultimately destroys the nation.
As the so-called “detainee bill,” more accurately characterized as the Habeas Corpus Murder bill, reveals, the neocons will sacrifice our republic without a second thought in order to realize their forever war agenda.
The Habeas Corpus Murder Bill is an obvious attempt to remove all constitutional restraint prior to the coming authoritarian clamp-down, as dissent will not be tolerated after the neocons shock and awe (with nukes) Iran in the anticipated kick-off of World War Four, a catastrophe that will demand the sort of imperious society Straussian neocons have dreamed of implementing for decades.
Elections in 2008? I don’t think so.