Friday, January 12, 2018

Shitholes

Does Trump really imagine there is some big line of Norwegians waiting to get into this shithole country? People tired of good healthcare and education and public transportation and clean energy? People looking for a place with no vacation pay or retirement or maternity leave. Just not enough gun crime in Oslo, I'm headed for Philly.

As for all the outrage, if you elect Rodney Dangerfield to be your President you should expect some embarrassingly candid moments. Since he has no filters, he's going to say out loud what everyone thinks. It's all about ratings. Like when Rodney claimed Mexico is going to pay for the wall, you get a big bump, and then you move on to other topics, a little shape shifting, some sleight of hand.

I just finished a book about the early tribes that inhabited the San Francisco Bay Area. Talk about blessed- abundant game, fisheries, acorns, grass seeds, you name it- the perfect climate and relative peace among neighbors. They had the technologies they needed but no more. And then came the Spanish with all their "civilization" and religion and the psychosis that went with it. Turned Paradise into a shithole in a little over two hundred years. You're welcome.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Optimists and Conservationists

Time magazine is the pop music of journalism. It gives you a predictable,simplified,uncontroversial picture of the world and the latest issue on Optimism, edited by Bill and Melinda Gates is a perfect sedative. It was the first time a civilian got to edit the magazine but Bill is special, as we all know. Special wealth, special altruism/philanthropy, special insight into the state of the planet. And according to Bill, things are on the up and up! There is no crisis,in fact, we've never had it so good! The crisis is a matter of perception, fostered by naysaying media that only reports on the bad. But according to Bill and Melinda democratic capitalism is saving the planet one child at a time and we should be checking our bad attitudes at the door.

I also picked up a copy of the magazine put out by Trout Unlimited where they describe all the great conservation work done by these great conservationists. They are conserving the shit out of trout streams. In one piece they interviewed a big donor named Charlie Johnson, a retired corporate whore who likes to fish. Charlie recalled how he called the CEO of TU and said: "Chris, Charlie Johnson here. I want you to know I will be watching you, I don't want to see TU become one of those commie-pinko organizations." Because Charlie is a millionaire conservationist who won't mention climate change and won't give money to TU if they mention it. So they plant willows in creeks that will soon be dry. Using Charlie's money (tax deductible)


I also saw that the son of Wallace Stegner just died and the obit talked about what a great conservationist (and probably optimist) he was, dedicating his life to conserving landscapes and species that are rapidly disappearing. No commie-pinko, thank God. Then there is National Geographic magazine's latest, with all the articles about all the bird species that are disappearing despite all the conservation work they have done and the articles they have written and the legislation passed and conservation yeah. Because they have conserved the shit out of it and still the ice is melting.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Looking Back But Moving Forward

A manifesto has come out of the gathering of the First Ecosocialist International held in Venezuela and attended by approximately 100 people. It is a bold and ambitious call for "recuperation" and "reclaiming" from an indigenous perspective, with an emphasis on a "return to our roots and our original ways".

Those of us from white settler culture can only participate in a project like this from a peripheral position. The guiding cosmovision is certainly anti-modern if not specifically per-modern and there is an emphasis on knowledge systems and language which is unaccessible to us privileged First Worlders with our secular, humanist traditions.

The problem is, these Indigenous ecosocialists are going to need our (so-called Developed World) help if they are serious about "reclaiming their ancestral lands". Because no modern white person is going to respect a claim for land based on how long the Natives lived there. The struggle against neo-colonialism will be different than the old decolonization. The manifesto focuses a great deal on culture and cultural/ethnic identity in the forms of food and hairstyle and interestingly, hip hop music. Here again, it is unclear how much European culture they are willing to assimilate into this "pluralist" vision or how it is to be decided.

Because culture is not static, not a fixed entity, but a process in constant flow and flux. And a romantic, overly nostalgic yearning can be problematic; a good example is the Islamist dream of a new Caliphate or Right-wing populist yearning for an innocent past that never was or the racist dream of an olden time of genetic purity. So there is no doubt a great deal of wisdom in tradition and great value in the indigenous cosmovision, but we aren't going back. It has to be incorporated into the new way of being.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Bumper Sticker Reflections

A fairly common bumper sticker up here reads: Love My Country- Fear My Government. It's usually associated with a redneck/libertarian "patriot" kind of attitude which means I Don't Mind Killing Ragheads for My Country but I Sure Hate Being Taxed by my Govment. In other words, not a super deep analysis of the role of the State- more jingoistic flag waving paranoia about The New World Order.

But it's not a bad slogan when you think about it. If by "country" you mean the landscape and physical features and by "government" you mean the gang of corrupt capitalist oligarchs that pull all the strings, yeah, I could put the sticker on the old blue car.

Unfortunately, patriotic "love my country" tends to mean disavow the history of racism and exploitation and genocide, it means embrace the mythologizing Hollywood story, the romantic epic of taming the wilderness and creating wealth. As for fearing your government: Definitely Be Very Very Afraid. Of THIS government. Doesn't mean governance is evil, just something you have to pay attention to.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Inequality

It is a commonplace that even though Occupy Wall Street didn't alter any fundamental social relations or power dynamics, at least it "opened people's eyes to the issue of inequality". I don't know how many times I have heard this speech delivered by those trying to salvage something from the experience.But in light of this recent tax legislation, so obviously skewed in favor of "The 1%", can we really cling to the notion of an awakening?

Obviously this concept of equality resonates in different ways for different people, just like the concept of fairness. The guy living in a trailer park -up to his eyeballs in debt, dead end job, etc..- who is celebrating the tax bill obviously didn't get the Occupy messaging about "greed" and inequality. He thinks inequality is a woman or black person getting preference in hiring or college admissions. He understands deep down, it is inscribed in his genes, that he is not equal to the 1%, that he could never go out to dinner with them, sit down and chat.

He can dream of having someone under him that he can boss around, helping him feel a little more equal to those above, and he can join the team of those that want to get government off their back, that want to shrink it till they can drown it, and taste a little equality in this closeness, this team spirit.

The fact is, Occupy preached to the choir, to those already on the team, who already saw the problem with unequal wealth and power. The other team thinks equality is just a sneaky way to take away liberty, the right to kick underlings around, the right to buy Hummers and yachts and shit when you finally win the lottery.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Adios Bill

"Progressive" icon and muckraking journalist Bill Moyers quietly announced his retirement yesterday, posting a few farewell words on his website about "protecting our fragile democracy." Bill had the kind of media exposure and bully pulpit a pundit can only dream about; PBS funding and Foundation funding and op-eds in any major publication he wanted. And after all those decades of influence- his life in the public sphere goes back to the Johnson administration of the early sixties- what is the state of "populist progressivism" now? How about the labor movement he so tirelessly championed? Those "Great Society" values he promoted?

Yeah. I know it is mean (and heretical) to criticize good old Bill after all his dedication and service but if "the humans" wish to see any kind of society in the next century, we need to take an honest look at what he was in service TO exactly. Unflinchingly. Along with other media stalwarts such as Robert Reich, Jim Hightower, Paul Krugman, Jeffrey Sachs, Eric Alterman, John Nichols, R. Mc Chesney, A. Bacevitch, Thom Hartman, the whole MSNBC crew, Moyers relentlessly pushed for a light social democratic program based on economic growth with a growing middle class and a caring welfare system for those less fortunate. He pushed for New Deal "re-distribution", basically a perpetual re-action against "conservatism" or economic "libertarianism" and even neo-liberalism, though that term was a bit far into the "ideological" deep end for most liberals to wade into. All these people carried water for the Democrats while gently scolding the Third Way craven fealty to Wall Street.

Basically, if Bill mentioned a critique of capitalism it was always qualified with an adjective, "crony" capitalism, "predatory" capitalism, "corporate" capitalism etc.. What he promoted instead was "capitalism with a human face" an American Sweden with strong unions and a tiny military and great schools and healthcare etc. etc. ... but something was always thwarting these idyllic policies...some strange human failing like greed, or corruption, or racism...or some nefarious force like FOX news or the Koch brothers or big corporations...or some bad decisions like Citizen United or Shock and Awe or drilling in the arctic. But capitalism could work for all if only it was a bit kinder and gentler. If only it was regulated, governed democratically, constitutionally, the new order could bring full employment and sustainable prosperity.

The dark side of this "progressive" program is the subtle way it excluded, even demonized, radical thought. By that I mean anti-capitalist. As the chosen gate-keepers, these progressives silenced dissent from the left using fear and ridicule; too utopian, too divisive, too dogmatic (maybe even totalitarian!) too unwilling to compromise and accommodate, too antagonistic. So take a look around and ask yourself, as Bill retires into the long twilight, how did that work out for you?

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Getting Moody

From the NYTimes today: The credit rating agency known as Moodys (the one that didn't notice the housing bubble of the early 2000's) today says "governments must prepare for heatwaves, draught, flooding and coastal storm surges or face credit downgrades". They are under pressure to "address the underlying climate risks they face." Or else.

So you are a town on the Georgia coast and now you have to build a seawall that will withstand what? How "prepared" can you be for the climate in 2100? Especially if those same governments continue to prop up fossil fuel energy development. So the citizens (who hate taxes) will face higher taxes to build the absurd wall or face higher taxes because no one will insure their city. And face higher insurance rates no matter what they do.

How will they face the "underlying risk" of civilization collapse? How would I calculate that in terms of dollars and cents? As soon as Standard and Poor and Fitch (the other credit majors) start downgrading there is going to be some serious whining. Once the giant illusion of "preparedness" and "mitigation" and "addressing the underlying causes" starts to unravel, you will see a frantic exodus of rats jumping ship.

At the UN recently, Jeremy Corbyn of the British Labour Party said it is time to "factor the cost of environmental degradation into financial forecasting." That should be interesting.