Thursday, April 23, 2009


tiger logo, originally uploaded by babajiwotan.

For the most part, the mainstream media and federal government still treat the economic collapse as something that can be fixed, so that economic growth can resume in a few years. But some commentators are beginning to realize that our meltdown represents a deeper and more permanent paradigm shift. The physical environment can no longer withstand the assaults of our industrial culture. We are experiencing a termination of capitalism as we have known it, a shutdown recently dubbed "The Great Disruption" by Thomas Friedman, in The New York Times. Until recently a leading cheerleader for Neoliberal globalization, Friedman has come to the late realization "that the whole growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically and that 2008 was when we hit the wall." The longer the general population is allowed to remain in denial about what is happening, the more dire the probable consequences, such as widespread famine, civil unrest and a disintegration of basic services.
The truth is that we need to make a deep and rapid change in our current social systems and in the underlying models and ideals of our society. It is highly unlikely that those who have been part of the power structure, whether within government or the mainstream media, possess the necessary will, vision or inspiration to make this happen. Also, when we consider their self-serving support for a delusional model of infinite growth on a finite planet, ignoring all evidence to the contrary, our mainstream pundits and politicos have clearly forfeited any claim to authority, and should never be trusted again.

daniel pinchbeck


c-dog said...

Daniel Pinchbeck has my vote.

wolfBoy said...

"The truth is that we need to make a deep and rapid change in our current social systems and in the underlying models and ideals of our society."

Sure, but what does that mean, in real terms? I think that, these days, this is a very popular sentiment, but no one (or not many people) seem to have real answers beyond "it has to change".

Daniel Quinn has written about these ideas for a long time. One quote I really like by him is: "Recycling programs won't change the world. Only a new vision will do that."

He compares recycling and other "green" initiatives to trying to stop a flooding river by putting a couple of sticks in the riverbank.

What you really need to do, he says, is entirely re-direct the river.

I guess this is what Pinchbeck is saying... but still, for me, this still seems pretty vague-- sort of a "politicians and big business are bad" without any real plan for action.

It also seems to defer blame to others-- it's "them" who's bad, not us.

Anyone who participates in the capitalist system is a "them"-- if you've eaten meat, avocados from Chile (guilty), bought shoes from China, drank a cup of coffee (guilty), or used disposable products (guilty), then you're eveyr bit as much a part of the problem as the big, bad politicans and evil businesses.

So... what do we do?

wolfBoy said...

My first answer for this question is this: stop assigning the blame to some vague evil "other", as Pinchbeck seems to do here, and examine our own spending, habits, etc.

c-dog said...

Well than wolfBoy, let's hear your plan for global restructuring.

And asking for change through a new vision is just as vague to me.

wolfBoy said...

then, not than. but my "plan" for global re-structuring, if i have one, involves looking at the ways i personally can make changes, small though they may be.

i haven't read anything of pinchbeck beyond this quote, but this little snippet is pretty self-righteous and involves a subtle logic of finger-pointing and blame that lets the writer and reader entirely off the hook.

the underlying message of this quote is that, if you're reading these words, you're not part of the problem, and that you're somehow "better" than the politicians and business leaders and can stand in judgement of them.

while i still agree with his central idea--that we need change--the idea that it's somehow "their self-serving support for a delusional model of infinite growth on a finite planet" is in itself delusional. it's not "their" model. it's "our" model, because we all endorse it, participate in it, and support it in almost every facet of our daily lives.

i repeat: anyone who drinks coffee, eats anything with sugar in it, uses plastic, uses and then eventually disposes of a computer, eats bananas, or buys sweat-shop goods (and again, i'm guilty on most counts) is one of the "them" that pinchbeck writes about, and has actively and willfully participated in the "self-serving delusion of infinite growth".

so i'm not proposing some sort of final answer for global restructuring, c-dog. i don't claim to have one. but i guess my issue with this quote is that it involves standing back and pointing the finger at others while utterly absolving the reader/writer of any blame.

c-dog said...

Sorry about my spelling/grammar professor.

I don't agree with Pinchbeck's last statement, which is pretty righteous, but the rest is bang on.

What is happening now is madness, as you know, and to think that our models of economic organization can actually somehow be maintained is ludicrous.

But this does fundamentally extend beyond what you can do every day as an individual, regardless of how all of us pathetically fail through computers, ipods, sneakers, etc. Our problem, to a significant extent, situates in the dealings of our leaders' problems, which is a 'them.'

And he is also right that the current state of affairs has so much inertia, that there is no will or vision. This to me is a statement of fact, and not one of arrogance.

And I just don't see this being finger pointing, I just don't see it.

wolfBoy said...

spelling error forgiven. :)

i don't so much object to his basic premise, as i said. Clearly the planet and economy are in trouble.

what i do object to is the notion that this is someone else's fault, and the subsequent absolving of the reader and writer from blame.

go on his blog and read the whole post. he talks about how facebook and myspace have failed, and then says "under the guise of a for-profit company, we have started our own social networking site that will change and save the world". (i'm paraphrasing)

and every second line on his blog is something along the lines of "buy my books (credit cards accepted), attend my New Age retreats in the Utah wilderness, and attend my expensive lectures that I regularly jet from city to city to give." All, of course, so that he can continue to deliver his message about how the economy and environment are collapsing.

so again, maybe his basic premise is right, but Pinchbeck himself seems pretty happy to be up to his eyeballs in the capitalist system in any number of ways, and availing himself of any number of things that he claims to loathe, so it's kind of an empty claim that it's some mythical "them" who is to blame.

c-dog said...

F's Pinchbeck. Pff.

c-dog said...

So then, what to do?

wolfBoy said...

heh heh.

let me re-state that i'm certainly in agreement with his basic premise. he's right that it's all broken and in need of change.

Daniel Quinn wrote about a lot of this same stuff in "Beyond Civilization" which, though more boring (i.e. less narrative) than his other books, was probably a much more complete work of social philosophy.

His basic idea was that clearly we can't return to the Stone Age and live in caves. In some regard, we're stuck here in that, if nothing else, there are 6 billion peeps with food and shelter needs.

His idea, which he called neo-tribalism, was a return to the tribe or "community"-based social and economic units, rather than the global capitalist one.

He used the example of a circus, in which the guy who shovels elephant poo, the contortionist girl, the ticket-seller, and the ring-master, are all 100% interdependent on each other--the survival of the tribe, or circus, depends on them, and vice versa.

Take away the ring master and what do you have? Ditto for the guy shovelling elephant poo. Without each, it all collapses and they all lose.

And, as Quinn argued, an individualistic economic system will inevitably have starvation, environmental collapse, and economic meltdown as its inevitable result.

A neo-tribal approach, though, recognizes that the well-being of the elephant-poo-shoveller is every bit as important as the well-being of the star ringmaster, and each will quite literally die (along with their community or tribe) without the contribution of the other.

To me, this is a start--going back to this kind of model rather than the one we're now in which is every man for herself.

c-dog said...

I'm not so sure.

I agree that turning things micro is important. I should be eating food grown close to me, no bananas, suck it up, and should be working close to where I live. And I should receives services from people that live close to me too. That one's a tough one actually.

But I also believe that there should be an Executive, or a leadership core that lead, but that have to redistribute resources fully and ipso facto, kind of like a potlatch thing.

I also think that we should move from a framework of rights and responsibilities, to one of justice and obligations.

And if we can, all the while understanding that we are all food for each other, egad.

Word verification: joissi

How joissi is this, no? :)

micro said...

I still think we should just dump tons of money into nano technology (where "matter doesn't matter"). It would give us godlike powers to create anything out of anything else, and then we could keep the structure we have except for the gradual material improvements we made. It's kind of out there, but I think far more more likely than stopping North America from eating bananas (especially Carlos). And just for the record neo-tribal-circus sounds amazing (I imagine cyborg bears riding segways to techno)!

Daniel said...

Didn't they ban the segway recently? I guess that just lends to the neo-tribalism though. ;P

donmaximo said...

Oh no! My secret identity REVEALED!

D. Sky Onosson said...

Hmmmm... the situation in Canada is pretty far removed from the day-to-day life in much more poverty-stricken and/or overcrowded parts of the planet. Do you (plural you) think it's possible for poor families in cities with populations numbering in the tens of millions to choose to live a "neo-tribalist", self-sustaining lifestyle?

The hard truth is that all of us, rich or poor, are in general very loath to make any significant changes in our lives (unless those changes directly and immediately benefit us) until circumstances force our hand, don't you think? While being wealthy (as it is safe to say, all of us on this blog are, in global terms) affords us a greater number of choices that we can make, I'm not sure it gives us any greater motivation or will to change.


BabajiWotan said...

apocalypse isnt a choice.

Anonymous said...

That's right, it's not a choice. Actually it's:

Apocalypse (Greek: Ἀποκάλυψις Apokálypsis; "lifting of the veil" or "revelation") is a term applied to the disclosure to certain privileged persons of something hidden from the majority of humankind (scientists currently studying nanotech) . Today the term is often used to refer to the end of the world (as you know it, the one without nanotech), which may be a shortening of the phrase apokalupsis eschaton which literally means "revelation at the end of the æon, or age" (the end of the troublesome non-nano age).

In the Bible, the term apocalypse refers to a revelation of God's will (for humans to Shepard the universe). Thus, in Revelation, we see a clear pattern of future events: the various periods of the church, shown through the letters to the seven churches; the throne of God in Heaven and His Glory; the judgments that will occur on the earth; the final form of gentile power (!); God' re-dealing with the nation Israel (everything for everyone for free, courtesy of nanomagic)[1] based upon covenants mentioned in the Old Testament; the second coming proper; the one-thousand year reign of Messiah (metaphor for goodness); the last test of Mankind's sinful nature under ideal conditions (brought about by nanotech)by the loosing of Satan (desire), with the judgment of fire coming down from Heaven that follows; the Great White Throne Judgment, and the destruction of the current heavens and the earth (basically our understanding of everything reworked), to be recreated as a "New Heaven and New Earth"[2], (New Nano-Earth)[3][4] ushering in (eventually)the beginning of Eternity (immortal humans wielding the power of god)..

micro said...

Do you (plural you) think it's possible for poor families in cities with populations numbering in the tens of millions to choose to live a "neo-tribalist", self-sustaining lifestyle?

Yes (see above)

D. Sky Onosson said...

Anonymous: thanks for being nanonymous.

Micro: put the emphasis in my question on the word "choose".

D.Macri said...

Well if my science fiction world came true (and somehow it became moral soon enough not to destroy everything in existence), then absolutely they could choose how they live. WOULD they is another question.

Nanonymous, haha! I <3 it.

anita said...

We all need optimism, even if we're all gonna die in the apocalypse.

I don't care if the good old end comes tomorrow, I'm just gonna keep plugging on in hopes that in my time of death I know that I have contributed a miniscule amount of good to the human race. Dat's it dat's all (as the quebecois say).

And at least I hope that someone will play a nice song at my funeral (like Come all Angel Band).

wolfBoy said...

The smallest good deed, someone once said, is worth more than the grandest good intentions.

I hope that at my funeral (assuming the world hasn't been burned to cinders and there's still people left to mourn me) they play "As One Who Has Slept" by John Tavener, and then maybe "War Pigs" by Black Sabbath, just because it's so cool, and then everyone gets drunk and makes bad art/poems about me.

At least that's what I say now.