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As an atheist it is sometime easy to become hyper focused on what those people over there are doing wrong and how they need to fix their views and join the 21st century.  Sheldon Wolin takes this view and compares it to what we have going on right now in society, rightly criticizing the capitalist-consumption aesthetic that, by any other name, is doing exactly what religion does.

 

“There was , he [Max Weber] contended, no room any longer for occult forces, supernatural deities, or divinely revealed truth.  In a world dominated by scientifically established facts and with no privileged or sacrosanct areas, myth would seemingly have a difficult time retaining a foothold.  Not only did Weber underestimate the staying power of credulity; he could not foresee that the great triumphs of modern science would themselves provide the basis for technological achievements which, far from banishing the mythical, would unwittingly inspire it.

    The mythical is also nourished from another source, one seemingly more incongruous that the scientific-technological culture,  Consider the imaginary world continuously being created and re-created by contemporary advertising and rendered virtually escape-proof by the enveloping culture of the modern media.  Equally important, the culture produced by modern advertising, which seems at first glance to be resolutely secular and materialistic, the antithesis of religious and evangelical teachings, actually reinforces the dynamic.  Almost every product promises to change your life: it will make you more beautiful, cleaner, more sexually alluring, and more successful.  Born again, as it were.  The messages contain promises about the future, unfailingly optimistic, exaggerating, miracle-promising – the same ideology that invites corporate executives to exaggerate profits and conceal losses, but always with a sunny face.  The virtual reality of the advertiser and the “good news” of the evangelist complement each other, a match made in heaven.  Their zeal to transcend the ordinary and their bottomless optimism both feed the hubris of Superpower.  Each colludes with the other.  The evangelist looks forward to the “last days”, while the corporate executive systematically exhausts the world’s scare resources.”

Sheldon Wolin.  Democracy Incorporated, pp. 12-13.

So, I think it is time to work on our own epistemology.  I’d like to be able to square our expectations of others with those we place on ourselves.

 

We have too much oil in Alberta.

“The province’s landlocked oil is selling for a massive discount. The world price is hovering around $55 US per barrel. The price Alberta gets is called the Western Canada Select price — and that’s worth about $12 per barrel. The gap is called the price differential.

It’s just one bit of bad news after another for Alberta’s NDP government.

As if inheriting an economy heading into a recession in 2015 wasn’t bad enough, the NDP has watched the world price of oil stabilize while the price our landlocked energy industry receives has dwindled to a record low.”

We just can’t sell enough of the damn stuff to make it profitable, and the current status quo is making other people rich so it appears we’re kinda stuck at the moment.

What an incentive to actually put the dollars into diversifying our economy and weaning the oil industry off of the huge public subsides it receives.  I would also like to see our domestic gas prices reflect the current glut of oil in Alberta.

Of course, to even question the primacy of Oil and Gas in our province is akin to heresy, but it doesn’t mean questioning the priorities of our government should not be done.

We have a NIMBY problem here.  The bad news is that said NIMBY problem is on a planetary scale and my backyard is really everyone’s back yard so to speak.  The doom of our time is coming, human driven climate change, and we merrily continue to do that very things that will cause our end.  It’s fascinating watching the ecocide play out because if there is one truth to the entire situation it is this – until the elites of our society feel the pain of AGW, nothing will be done – because the current status quo is a just too darn profitable and comfortable to want to change toward a future that might sustain the future of the species.

Of course, from my small balcony in which I view the world, I can point to one system that has been royally screwing the planet since it’s inception – capitalism.  And yes, yes, yes, apologists I’m happy I’ve been given the few crumbs of technology and relative stability that make my balcony observations possible but – and it’s a rather large but – would I trade my technology and relatively easy life style for one that works withing the boundaries of the carrying capacity of the earth?  Absolutely.  It is the adult and responsible course of action; the only hitch is that doing the right thing is rarely a profitable venture and we all know how the ‘right thing’ vs. ‘making money thing’ goes, at least in our current economic paradigm.

Paul Street adds to the argument:

   “Other thinkers of an eco-Marxian bent, myself included, narrow the diagnosis. They historicize the climate crisis, situating it in the specific historical context of capitalism. The concept of “the Anthropocene” has rich geological validity and holds welcome political relevance in countering the carbon-industrial complex’s denial of humanity’s responsibility for contemporary climate change, they note. Still, they counsel, we must guard against lapsing into the historically misleading, fatalistic, and often class-blind use of “Anthro,” projecting the currently and historically recent age of capital onto the broad 100,000-year swath of human activity on and in nature. As the Green Marxist environmental sociologist and geographer Jason Moore reminded radio interviewer Sasha Lilley last a few years ago, “It was not humanity as a whole that created …large-scale industry and the massive textile factories of Manchester in the 19th century or Detroit in the last century or Shenzen today. It was capital.”

Indeed, it was not humanity as a whole that built the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL)in 2015 and 2016. It was capital, corralled in the accounts of Energy Transfer Partners, under the supervision of a reckless, eco-cidal and profit-mad billionaire named Kelcy Warren, who funded  the DAPL with billions of dollars from across the world’s leading financial institutions.

It was not humanity as whole that hid evidence of Greenhouse Gassing’s deadly impact on human prospects.  It was capital on various levels but most particularly in the form of Exxon-Mobil, who (in the greatest climate and environmental crime in history) buried the findings of its very own cutting-edge scientists in the 1970s and 1980s— an offence that that, as Chomsky says, “is almost hard to find words to describe.”

Moore and other left analysts argue with good reason that it is more appropriate to understand humanity’s Earth-altering assault on livable ecology as the “Capitalocene.” It is just a  relatively small slice of human history – roughly the last half-millennium give or take a century or so – during which human society has been socially and institutionally wired by a specific form of class rule to relentlessly assault on an ultimately geocidal scale.

It is only during the relatively brief period of history when capitalism has ruled the world system (since 1600 or thereabouts by some calculations, earlier and later by others) that human social organization has developed the inner, accumulation-, commodification-, “productivity”-, and growth-mad compulsion to transform Earth systems – with profitability and “productivity” dependent upon on the relentless appropriation of  “cheap nature” (cheap food, cheap energy, cheap raw materials and cheap human labor power)  Moore maintains that “humanity’s”  destruction of livable ecology is explained by changes that capitalism’s addictive and interrelated pursuits of profit and empire imposed on its behavior within “the web of life.”

It is capitalism and its quarterly earnings obsession with short-term profits, not Rich’s “human nature,” that constantly plunders and poisons the commons and trumps long-term planning for the common good.”

Hurricanes give no fucks about your socioeconomic status.

Our short-sighted nature will be the end of us.  Unless…

“This in one of the timeworn paths to societal ruin discussed in a paper published five years ago by mathematician Safa Motesharrei, atmospheric scientist Eugenia Kalnay and political scientist Jorge Rivas in the journal Ecological Economics. Reviewing past societal collapses, they reflected on a potential current global scenario in which:

“[T]he Elites—due to their wealth—do not suffer the detrimental effects of the environmental collapse until much later than the Commoners. This buffer of wealth allows   Elites to continue ‘business as usual’ despite the impending catastrophe. It … explain[s] how historical collapses were allowed to occur by elites who appear to be oblivious to the catastrophic trajectory (most clearly apparent in the Roman and Mayan cases). This buffer effect is further reinforced by the long, apparently sustainable trajectory prior to the beginning of the collapse. While some members of society might raise the alarm that the system is moving towards an impending collapse and therefore advocate structural changes to society in order to avoid it, Elites and their supporters, who opposed making these changes, could point to the long sustainable trajectory ‘so far’ in support of doing nothing.”

Is this not the state of “humanity” under the command of capital today, with many millions of disproportionately poor and powerless people already suffering from climate disruption while the wealthy few continue to enjoy lives of unimaginable, environmentally shielded opulence atop a recklessly fossil-fueled planet so vastly unequal that the world’s eight richest people possess as much wealth between them as the bottom half of the species?

It’s “the rich,” not humanity in general, that “are destroying the Earth,” as Herve Kempf noted in the title and text of an important book eleven years ago. At the same time however, it is in fact up to “our species,” yes, humanity, to save itself and other Earthly life forms by engaging in a great mass uprising against those who have plundered and poisoned the commons for private profit. (If there’s another intelligent life form out there that survived the transition to high-tech modernity and developed the capacity to save other species in the galaxy, now would be the time for them to travel through tie and space to lend us a hand.  I’m not holding my breath for that!)   The best bet we have, my fellow world citizens and common(s)ers, is is eco-socialist people’s revolution here on the planet itself.”

Revolt or die comrades.  :/

 

Bonus Reading: Human Nature and Dynamics There is a good deal of math here, however, also a very readable paper on the collapse of complex societies. It’s a good read and worth your time.

 

 

It would seem that a different set of choices were made during the 2008 recession in China than here in the West.  I’m having trouble seeing the problem with the economic strategy the Chinese pursued.  Of course, it was because the centralized power of China’s government put the needs of the country first, as opposed to the needs of the investor class.  China’s growth continues to chug a long while the sclerotic US economy seems unfocused except for the primal urge to grind it’s underclasses into the ground.  If as what Clegg says is true about China eclipsing the US in 2030 is true, perhaps a new paradigm might enter our Western consciousness, one that focuses on the welfare of the nation instead of exclusively on the welfare of the wealthy.

It is clearly hard for any dominant power to accept the need to adjust to a rising power and avoid the ‘Thucydides trap’, but what is all the harder is for the West – the US and its allies – to acknowledge that China’s advance, in contrast to their own sluggish performances, exposes the difference between a system which chooses to bail out the banks and one which sought to bail out the economy; between one that does all it can to boost its financial sector, and one which promoted economic stimulus to boost production; between one which squeezes those poorer in the blind pursuit of profit and one which raises up the poor, organising development in a systematic way; between one that pumps out huge amounts of ‘hot money’ into the world economy to play havoc with other countries’ financial systems and one that offers patient capital to help others manage their financial difficulties to avoid crises.

In the last 10 years, whilst Western economies have endlessly pumped their ‘printed’ money round and round the ether of financial markets in the same exhausted circles, China has become a different country and indeed the world is becoming a different place. Yet the US remains utterly committed to blocking change to keep the world dependent on the American dollar and the American consumer even at the expense of huge trade deficits. And now comes the trade war.

China is on course to overtake the US as the world’s largest economy sometime before 2030, an event which will mark a psychological turning point. However right now, debt levels remain high and a Chinese-style crash is still possible. Can China limit, or failing this, withstand the pressures of a US trade war? In fact, the prospects for the US-economy not that great either – the Trump tax cuts bounce may be short-lived, and the ‘America first’president may have to learn that the US and China need each other.”

Why would rational people choose the least efficient method of priming the economic pump? I’m sure it has much to do with making the the correct people and factions in society benefit from the policies put in place. The notion of the ‘public good’ seems almost a quaint notion in the realm of US politics.

 “The Pentagon’s Covert Industrial Policy

One reason the Trump administration has chosen to pump money into the Pentagon is that it’s the path of least political resistance in Washington. A combination of fear, ideology, and influence peddling radically skews “debate” there in favor of military outlays above all else. Fear — whether of terrorism, Russia, China, Iran, or North Korea — provides one pillar of support for the habitual overfunding of the Pentagon and the rest of the national security state (which in these years has had a combined trillion-dollarannual budget). In addition, it’s generally accepted in Washington that being tagged “soft on defense” is the equivalent of political suicide, particularly for Democrats. Add to that the millions of dollars spent by the weapons industry on lobbying and campaign contributions, its routine practice of hiring former Pentagon and military officials, and the way it strategically places defense-related jobs in key states and districts, and it’s easy to see how the president and Congress might turn to arms spending as the basis for a covert industrial policy.

The Trump plan builds on the Pentagon’s already prominent role in the economy. By now, it’s the largest landowner in the country, the biggestinstitutional consumer of fossil fuels, the most significant source of funds for advanced government research and development, and a major investor in the manufacturing sector. As it happens, though, expanding the Pentagon’s economic role is the least efficient way to boost jobs, innovation, and economic growth.

Unfortunately, there is no organized lobby or accepted bipartisan rationale for domestic funding that can come close to matching the levers of influence that the Pentagon and the arms industry have at their command. This only increases the difficulty Congress has when it comes to investing in infrastructure, clean energy, education, or other direct paths toward increasing employment and economic growth.

Former congressman Barney Frank once labeled the penchant for using the Pentagon as the government’s main economic tool “weaponized Keynesianism” after economist John Maynard Keynes’s theory that government spending should pick up the slack in investment when private-sector spending is insufficient to support full employment. Currently, of courseOK, the official unemployment rate is low by historical standards. However, key localities and constituencies, including the industrial Midwest, rural areas, and urban ones with significant numbers of black and Hispanic workers, have largely been left behind. In addition, millions of “discouraged workers” who want a job but have given up actively looking for one aren’t even counted in the official unemployment figures, wage growth has been stagnant for years, and the inequality gap between the 1% and the rest of America is already in Gilded Age territory.

Such economic distress was crucial to Donald Trump’s rise to power. In campaign 2016, of course, he endlessly denounced unfair trade agreements, immigrants, and corporate flight as key factors in the plight of what became a significant part of his political base: downwardly mobile and displaced industrial workers (or those who feared that this might be their future fate).”

If we have to live within a capitalist framework, the very least we can do is make sure everyone has a chance.

Now is it just me, or did we forget that solar power isn’t available at night? :>

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