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.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Waiting For 2018 and Godot

Yo, Climate Movement, where is everybody? Summer's here and the time is right for fighting in the streets. But no fighting. It is almost as if Standing Rock signaled The End, as if the post-Trump Climate March on DC sucked all the energy into a small plastic bag along with a half-eaten tuna sandwich. All eyes are on Poor Bill and 350.org but they are obviously lost in space, unable to mobilize anything resembling an adequate response- turned into another cog in the non-profit industrial complex- locked into an obviously failed strategy around an obviously flawed analysis- flailing as ice shelves calve and species vanish.

But wait, Native Americans were going to "lead the movement", right? Perhaps there are plans afoot, meetings being held, details being worked out. Somewhere. Our local climate folks have been swallowed by the regulatory state bureaucracy, stymied at every turn as they try to make the case for increased economic growth through an enlightened capitalism. Liberals remained glued to the Trump Saga, desperate to make him pay, to bring him down, to set the world right again. To avenge Hillary.

Capitalism reproduces itself partly through the production of amazingly compliant "subjects". So used to being mugged, they can be told almost anything; for instance, "you are a citizen, and can participate in deciding your own future come the next election". Like a battered spouse they can accept that a neurotic, demented salesman is now the leader of the USA because of "politics" and "democracy" and yeah.

But it's not politics or democracy. It's not even decent theatre anymore. Not even soap opera. It is vaudeville, burlesque. The plot is about as interesting as your average porn film ( not that I'd know). I had vague, slim hopes that the whole election farce would awaken many people to the terrible illusion. This hasn't happened. Any opposition has been channeled back into "winning the next election". It's all people can imagine.

Meanwhile we are told to celebrate the good economic news, the index showing sustained growth, the record gains in the stock market, people out spending again. Happy days are here.

.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Yes to What?

Having just finished Naomi Klein's newest "No Is Not Enough", I am left wondering. The book is mainly a promotion of the Leap Manifesto, a document produced by Canadian activists, academics and politicos to be a model platform for political parties of the left. As such it is optimistic and rousing, mixing abstract principles and values (such as "caring") with concrete policy proposals (democratic control of energy production).

When I say optimistic I mean the vision is one of continued prosperity and minor disruption. Workers are transitioned out of dirty dirty jobs into good paying clean ones, migrants are welcomed into communities, people become more satisfied seeking "quality of life" and are less consumptive. All through a peaceful leap of consciousness.

But I'm pretty sure we are facing some major disruption. Since the first Earth Day, since the first showing of Inconvenient Truth, since Silent Spring first hit the stands, Westerners, especially Americans, have only increased their per capita consumption of every and anything. I could break out the stats of the trajectory (Hansen et al just published a call for goal of .5 C warming) and the impossible time-line for meeting that goal unless their is a major economic contraction leading to major re-distribution. The "Haves" are not going to give up peacefully,right? When have they ever gone silently into the night when all their toys have been taken away?

And all those "stranded assets" will be disruptive to the financial system. And without investment those new "green jobs" will be a mere drop in a very leaky bucket. Naomi seems to think if you and I run for office we can vote in socialism ( or some expanded welfare state) but I'm pretty sure that "create innovative ownership structures, democratically run..." are fighting words to lots of Montanans. I'm not saying don't try it; just don't try to make it sound like a walk in the park.