Saturday, October 24, 2015

Culture of Disavowal

The state of Montana, backed by fossil fuel companies and the Crow Indian tribe, has joined a lawsuit challenging the Clean Power Plan rules. Along with 23 other states, our Attorney General and Governor ( a Democrat) make the case that it is "federal over-reach" and that the states can make their own plans, very similar to the latest decision over sage-grouse listing. This is made more pertinent as the US heads into the latest round of climate negotiations in Paris this December (COP 21) because this Plan is the only emission cutting proposal the US has come up with. The Crow Indians have a great deal of coal under their land, they are very poor, and they see the export of this coal to China and south Asia as their only economic opportunity, or to use an economic term, their only "comparative advantage". It is symbolic of the whole global economy under capitalism whereby scarcity, in this case atmospheric space in which to dump CO2, becomes a valuable commodity, incentivizing a rush to destroy the ecosystem. As author Naomi Klein puts it : "Ours is a culture of disavowal, of knowing and not-knowing." In this psychological sense, we are dealing with a sub-conscious ability to repress what we "know". I'm sure the Indians know how horrifically tragic their position is, given the history, but they can repress it and use terms like "self-sufficiency" or "economic development" because like all of us, they are locked into a Market ideology and discourse that limits not only options but imagination. The word "tragic" cannot be applied to the Governor in the same way. The word coward would be better because, in his privilege, he has far more opportunity/power to break the Knows/Not-Knows deadlock and act with agency. This is the counter-vailing movement of history, the one of courage and refusal.It is in short supply at the moment.

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