Wednesday, October 11, 2017

350.org Again. I know.

I have spilled considerable digital ink criticizing 350 and its "leader" Bill Mc Kibben and this is just one more shot...but it occurs to me they have utterly failed at mobilizing any kind of climate movement and we see no sign that they have in any way re-considered their ideological underpinnings nor strategy. Today's email message is a call to "send thousands of comments within hours of Pruitt's announcement" to "send a strong message". Yeah right. They absolutely don't get it. The EPA, Pruitt, Trump, none of them give a rat's ass about "comments". But having boxed themselves into the regulatory corner, 350 now finds itself impotent and useless. And slowly taking the whole climate movement down with it.

But it is hardly alone. Look at the anti-war movement, Black Lives Matter, Fight for 15, Occupy, Indivisible, the Bernie folks, etc.., all the "progressive campaigns" that Rebecca Solnit finds inspiring, and tell me where they are hiding. Because I can't see them. Like 350, they chose to fight on the terrain of capitalist "democracy" and they are all sending useless "comments" to those who mock them. They litigate in courts whose judges mock them. They write letters to editors, they click online petitions, and send donations. They field candidates for the Democratic Party. But they pose absolutely no threat to anyone in a position of real power, have no idea where power really abides and have no desire to take power themselves.

350 will defend itself by pointing to "all the great thinks being done on the local level". Well I'm looking out my window and I see nothing changing. Maybe a few more hybrid vehicles, maybe a solar panel or two. The failure in messaging strategy is illustrated by this latest email as well. It proclaims: "The Clean Power Plan would prevent up to 6,600 premature deaths and 150,000 asthma attacks."

In the first place, the Plan was just a rule put in place by an agency, not legislation, so we knew that what the agency giveth, the agency taketh away. In other words, the big "change" they thought they had won was just an illusion. In the second place, not to minimize the seriousness of asthma attacks, but we are facing an existential crisis here, civilization collapse, a terrifying future on a global scale. But if you signal to people it is only about asthma and "premature deaths" (whatever that means), you both confuse them and pacify them. You make those telling the truth sound hyperbolic and you make people think a Presidential Agency Rule can save the earth. Which is bullshit.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Resentiment

There are volumes being written on the roots of Trumpism. This will just be a quick survey of what I have found valuable. Wendy Brown just published a speech she gave called: Apocalyptic populism in which she identifies Trump as an antidote for perceived white male castration. As a reaction to the discourse of privilege, these perceptions of persecution have attached themselves firmly to the sub-conscious of Joe Everyman left behind by de-industrialization, left feeling impotent by feminism, and left feeling racially embattled by rising numbers of black and brown people.

Annie Kelly has an article in the same periodical (Eurozine) looking at the rise of the so-called "alt-right". She too finds the challenge to white masculinity at the root of this phenomena and I think it is a large part of the cultural anxiety that animates the current populism seen throughout many of the western liberal democracies. Of course Muslim societies are going through their own radical reactions to modern feminism and challenges to cultural identity. I find both analyses compelling and would add here the notion of jouissance as described by Jodi Dean, that is, the obscene enjoyment many feel seeing a wrecking ball smashing up prohibitions and shouting the things no one would whisper.

And then we might add in the ties to a growing libertarianism which sees these same threats in economic terms, as threats to market "freedoms" and individual liberty by an ever-encroaching state. Into this mix I think we should further add Southern Anxiety, a particular resentment arising from the legacy of slave-holding, the Civil War and the modern civil rights movement.Here is where Pat Buchanan meets James Buchanan ( the Chicago School economist, not the idiot President) meets Dukes of Hazard. Southern culture on the skids and taking the whole planet with it.

All this begs the question: Is there a way the anti-capitalist left could tap into this resentment and re-direct it in a positive direction? How could feminism become less threatening to the wounded male ego? We know that the German leftist party Die Linke lost votes to the ethno-nationalist Right in the recent election, but is this a reversible trend? Could chauvinists be turned against their true oppressors, the very market forces they have been taught to worship?

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Pathological Proletariat

The American Worker believes he is a victim. All these immigrants flood his country, taking jobs, driving down wages, seducing women, polluting the race and bringing Sharia Law. But deeper, sublimated and repressed, lies the fear of contagion; fear that these strange people will bring with them the chaos which seems ( watching FOX News) to attach itself to their lives.

And even though the American Workers wages haven't kept up with inflation and he lives in a shithole trailer and his boss treats him like an insect, at least he doesn't live in one of those God-forsaken deserts he sees on TV, at least he hasn't had to put everything on his back and pack his whole family across some border or ocean in a rubber fucking boat.

But even deeper in his psyche is the horrible knowledge that he is complicit in that poor immigrant's plight, that the lifestyle he maintains, crappy as it is compared to the Big Bosses, comes at the expense of those poor bastards crossing the deserts and fleeing the droughts and militias and brutal sectarian violence of his homeland. "Sharia Law" is just the sad lie he tells himself as well as the Real symbol of the chaos he sees on "social media".

So he rallys around the idea of "economic nationalism" and "Making America First" and all the other bullshit they tell him to swallow, because international worker solidarity is not even a vague memory anymore, it's us versus them, and we'll just kill em all and let God sort em out. Keep a low profile, don't draw attention to yourself, hope the teacher doesn't call on you, collect a paycheck and drive back to the baking or flooded trailer house. Get up and do it again.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Bill Must Go

I should just call this blog : "What's Wrong With Mc Kibben" I spend so much time griping about his work, but here's the thing; somehow he got appointed leader/spokesperson of the most prominent climate change organization in the US of A and he is not cutting it. Now, I have no idea if he is given free reign to write whatever he wants or if the 350 board discusses and votes on it...but his/their incoherent theoretical underpinnings means the movement is spinning its wheels. Or worse, actually drifting backwards.

Now I have shown sympathy for "poor Bill" in the past but I am starting to think he may be a clever fossil fuel industry plant, the perfect tool with his goofy looks and mild demeanor. If not, he is simply a danger to us all. With his devotion to reformist policy, market solutions and the Great Promise of Green Capitalism, he is actually more effectively obstructionist than the worst Oklahoma oil whore, climate denier politician, including Trump. Because Bill is just..so...sincere.

In his latest piece calling for 100% renewables he shouts: "No more half measures." But in the paragraph preceding this radical demand, he says : "what the fight for $15 is to the battle against inequality, 100% renewables is to the struggle for the planets future." Exactly. A fucking half-measure at best! His next demand is even more militantly radical: let capitalism solve the problem in its own time and using its own impeccable logic. He writes:

"In the last few years, engineers have brought the price of renewables so low that, according to many experts, it would make economic sense to switch over even if fossil fuels weren’t wrecking the Earth. That’s why the appeal of 100% Renewable goes beyond the Left."

Cool.No struggle, no ideological antagonism, no right or left issue, just technocratic managers and engineers fixing the problem in the nick of time. Except of course they aren't. While we waited for the "price" of survival to make "economic sense" we have destroyed many lives, many more futures, and foreclosed many possibilities for any kind of real "just transition" for much of the developing world. But Bill is stoked the "price" is finally coming down, however slowly, through whatever magical mechanism. "According to many experts",that is.

So the fossil fuel companies will just realize they have been out-competed in the Sacred Market and concede gracefully, giving up their reserves and profits and power. Sure Bill. How long have you been spouting this line? Decades?

Next we learn that the falling price was because production of solar panels was out-sourced to Chinese sweatshops. "...and the price of panels began to plummet, a freefall that continues to this day." The miracle of the Market, almost in time to save the wealthiest parts of the world. Thank you Chinese labor.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Nostalgic Yearnings

I continue to explore this deep yearning to return to a time that never was, to transform the myth into reality through lived experience. ISIS is the obvious case in point, as is the globally resurgent reactionary Right now making headlines. I would even include the Indigenous inspired yearning to return to a pre-modern Eden. In each case I perceive a desire to return to a more connected state- connected to nature, connected to the tribe, connected to the breast. In our atomized, alienated state of perpetual, accelerated motion, we think going back is a way to slow down or even be still.

Modernity is a paradox and I have argued the gap between technological progress and cultural meaning is a great stressor- no one wants to be adrift, alone, impotent, trying to make sense of the last decade's innovations as "everything solid turns into air". I include these neo/Nazi/Fascist/ Militia types as nostalgic, powerless wanderers, grasping at explanations for their abandonment, their angst and terrible loneliness. It is easy to mock their rage at victimhood, but surely they are victims and slaves and the sad detritus of a system that has little use for them except as divisive tools. Useful idiots.

I also understand that this deep sense of estrangement wouldn't magically disappear with the replacement of capitalist social relations, that more universal psychological factors are in play. But losing capitalism would help immensely. Unfortunately that means taking a frightening leap forward, into the unknown, needing a strength and imagination few have had nurtured.

The South isn't going to rise again, guys, sorry. The Dukes of Hazard was the high point and now it's all downhill. And there isn't going to be a New Caliphate either. Ronald Reagan will not rise from the grave and I'm not waiting for Jesus or Woody Guthrie to help us out.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Top Down

Tomorrow at the Big Picture roundtable we will confront the question: should we ban gasoline powered cars? The real question however, is could we? Even if a huge majority were somehow convinced to support a ban, could capitalist democracy allow it to happen?

In the first place, even the liberal media which supports climate action would condemn the concept of "ban" as top-down and authoritarian. Think of the push-back if the government banned cigarettes. While it is true the government was able to ban CFC's in order to stop ozone deterioration, it was only because there was little economic disruption, effective coolant options already existed. So it would be difficult to build that majority. Even many in the climate movement would complain it is government over-reach, that we should work at the local level for local solutions blah blah. That the Market needs to decide, not "Big Brother".

But even in the unlikely chance you achieved a majority, there would be Constitutional challenges and international trade violations to deal with. And surviving those (years later as it wound through the courts), capitalists would then go on strike and purposely depress the economy, raising unemployment and eliminating services, so that your public support would vanish before your eyes.

The point being, in the current "democratic capitalist" system, the only measures to slow global warming that are allowed are the ones that don't slow economic growth. And those half-measures are sure to be ineffective (or at least not to scale). So yes, the climate movement should definitely support the policy knowing full well it can't be enacted. But it does so to point out the contradiction, to de-legitimize the system and struggle on that crucial terrain of ideology.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Yet More Harping

So now folks are gathered in Nebraska to fight the Keystone XL (again) and I heard the spokesperson for the Indigenous Environmental Network say on NPR that the major issue for them was "consultation". Really? That's the BIG ISSUE? No matter how much or how often these people get fucked over, there seems to be no limit to how much they believe in the arcane procedures of the regulatory/administrative state. Yeah, if only we can "consult" with them, we will feel so much better. Cause it's all about getting some respect- some consult!

So wouldn't the big issue be saving what's left of the ecosystem from capitalist depredation? Why are these people in charge of messaging anyway? It's no wonder that the masses remain paralyzed on this existential issue- they can't tell if it's real or not because "The Movement" keeps talking about Water and Consultation and Sovereignty. No one's going to get excited over consultation, even if it's the poor fucked over Indians. Only Amy Goodman will care.

We are in the middle of a mass extinction and you want to be CONSULTED?
One last thought: Why not just surrender to North Korea? Just send a tweet to Kim Jong that he won and he can take possession next Tuesday. Balls in his court. Good night.