Volatility

July 11, 2009

“War Socialism”?

Filed under: Peak Oil — Tags: , , — Russ @ 5:54 am
In an earlier post I laid out the basics of “resource fascism”, the blueprint according to which the power elites of the First World will attempt to maintain their privilege and high-consumption lifestyles under conditions of increasing resource scarcity. I’m not the only one thinking along these lines. In this post I want to discuss two similar visions/nightmares.
 Alexis Zeigler describes the same prospect, with the same foreboding, with what he calls nationalistic environmentalism. Environmentalism here means not real solicitude for ecosystems, but the forced compliance with resource limits, which will then be dressed up as “green”. Zeigler rightly sees biofuels as “emblematic of the dark side of green capitalism”. Few things are so intrinsically or symbolically evil as taking food from the mouths of the global hungry so a fat Westerner can fill his gas tank to continue his frivolous enslavement to the car (a luxury by any real-world measure).
  
This predatory global stance will necessitate a “very aggressive foreign policy on the part of the industrial powers”. Everyone from hard-right neocons (who want to seize the oil) to mainstream environmental organizations (who want “greener” high-consumption, powered by aggrofuels and “clean coal”, but high-consumption nonetheless) will get on board. “We will see the rise of a passionate, chest-thumping environmentalism, built on the foundation of green capitalism, that dwarfs the current movement”. There are historical analogues for this, in Russia in the 1990s and in Britain right now with the BNP. So far we have more and more of the policies in place – biofuels, importing tar sands bitumen and syncrude, the SPP. We don’t quite have the “chest-thumping” yet, primarily because the Republicans have made environmentalism into a culture war issue, and it’ll take some time to reshape that political template.
  
“There is no way the US and the global consumer class can maintain its dominion without powerful military pressure, and that martial stance will favor authoritarian political development”. We are all too familiar with a political space defined by the Global War on Terror and the Patriot Act. But this will be and can be only for the benefit of the power elite. “The global elite have more in common with each other than with their fellow national citizens. Civil liberty has always been largely defined by class”. This class elite will try to establish a permanent two-tiered world, elite consumers riding the backs of a mass of slaves. “It is possible for a limited number of people to transition to a highly efficient consumer society, but only if a couple billion of our fellow humans suffer deprivation, or perhaps even outright destruction, along the way”.
 
One big gated community. That’ll be the fortress world.
  
This brings us to Jay Hanson’s war socialism.The terminological similarity to the Bolsheviks’ War Communism probably isn’t accidental. There’s an affinity between the two programs, for both involve a beleaguered elite attempting to maintain its power while at least claiming to seek the weal of all. Hanson doesn’t seem to regard war socialism as optimal, but rather as the best America can do if it insists on trying to prop up its high-impact energy-intensive hedonism.
  
America as it is today has no discernable end or goal or purpose at all other than feudal wealth accumulation. Therefore the existing system cannot solve any problems, since its inertia is completely along the status quo vector. So it will have to meet the Peak Oil challenge in the familiar way – the “green” scam, outsourcing and offsetting environmental destruction, economic colonization, generate energy at any cost however wasteful, boost luxury consumption at all costs. The main difference in Hanson’s vision is that unlike resource fascism (or environmental nationalism), which will seek to internally colonize and indenture every bit as much as it externally colonizes and indentures, war socialism would really seek to lift all (first world) boats.
  
So we have the war socialist platform:
 

“Once a new form of government is in place, the following nine strategies would provide a start towards mitigating the net energy shortfall:

1)       Increase our fraction of global net energy (divert energy from competitors) directly by military action.

2)       Increase our fraction of global net energy economically by increasing asset values (e.g., pumping-up the stock market and real estate prices).

3)       Reduce energy demand by eliminating unnecessary economic activity.

4)       Reduce energy demand by reducing human population levels (e.g., closing our borders, deporting as many as possible and discouraging births).

5)       Plant “Victory Gardens” throughout the country.

6)       Heavy funding for basic energy research.

7)       Pollution control rollback, streamline permitting (no EIS, etc.) for alternate energy. No more permits for fossil fuel power plants. No more funding for roads. No more building permits except in special cases.

8)       Full-on conservation, local energy production to minimize grid vulnerabilities, and a crash alternate energy production program. (Conservation will help under a government that limits economic activity).

9)       Free mass transit.”

This program would be “enlightened” for the predator society as a whole, however wicked from the point of view of the global South. It can never happen, since there is no such thing as “America” to be socialistic in such a way.

Rather, we shall have the continuation of planks (1) and (2), the core of the program. Meanwhile the austerity of (3) and (4) shall be increasingly imposed on the masses while the elite continues to party. None of the others has any attraction for the corporatist elite, therefore they shall not be enacted.

Rather, we can rewrite them as:

(5) Further concentration of industrial agriculture and CAFOs. Outlaw (i.e. render impossible through regulatory and economic barriers) small farms and even individual gardens. Various laws to this effect (for example here, here, and here) are already working their way through Congress.

(6) Funding for energy research, yes, but in order to prop up continued high consumption. Especially whatever will maximize fossil fuel extraction, without reference to economic cost-effectiveness.

(7) Remove all regulation for fossil fuel. For alternative energy as the elite deems desirable. Same for infrastructure work.

(8) and (9) will continue to be the subject of policy assault as they are today.

Resource fascism is a horrible prospect. But there seems to be little will to fight it. The great majority are still committed to the consumer growth economy and are desperate to believe any lie which can prop up their faith. This is what the oligarchs are counting on.

Can this be prevented? I don’t know, but I imagine it would require coordination among activists of all sorts to first put together the one big picture which brings it all together, to clearly see how all battlefields are part of one war. This would help us decide once and for all which are the extinct principles now become lies, which are the true principles now springing up, offering to replace them, what strategy and tactics stem from these, and how to live from there.

22 Comments

  1. […] the original here: “War Socialism”? « Volatility No Comments Leave […]

    Pingback by EnjoyLivingWealthy.Com - Discover How To Create A Truly Wealthy LifeStyle — July 11, 2009 @ 8:20 pm

  2. The strong will survive and the weak will fall.It is still valid in the real world until now.Difficult for us to change the paradigm is.

    Comment by antony — July 12, 2009 @ 4:24 am

  3. Hi Anthony,
    Yes, that’s the way it is. The question is who is getting stronger and who is getting weaker.

    TPTB are certainly trying to prop up the system which has been strong in recent history. The fundamentals – Peak Oil and the end of exponential debt and growth – signify that this system is in fact waek, disease-ridden, tottering, and must fall.

    But that will still likely take some years, and in the meantime we who have to live here have to deal with the short-term (i.e. the next 20-30 years) political convulsions.

    So that’s where the most immediately important might-makes-right struggle will be fought out.

    Therefore, while the strength of the corporatist system can no longer historically scale, in the short time frame it can still do tremendous damage.

    Too many people interested in sustainability and relocalization seem unwilling in acknowledge this, or at least unwilling to organize and prepare based upon this.

    Comment by Russ — July 12, 2009 @ 6:03 am

  4. ““It is possible for a limited number of people to transition to a highly efficient consumer society, but only if a couple billion of our fellow humans suffer deprivation, or perhaps even outright destruction, along the way”.

    One big gated community. That’ll be the fortress world.”

    How horrible. Sounds like hell. I’m not sure if Zeigler (quoted here I assume) detailed his defense of the position stated, but I want to disagree. Where is the evidence that a couple of billion must die before the rest can live in prosperity? Aren’t a couple of billion or more already living in abject poverty anyway?

    I am unfamiliar with war socialism, so feel ill equipped to offer anything of substance. Zeigler’s (?) list is kind of strange. Starts off apocalyptic and ends up quite positive. But anyway, information is sparse and I am in new territory.

    Your comments underneath are helpful. I too (for what it’s worth) see 4 as 3a. I don’t see 3 as a realistic goal unless 4 is pursued to achieve 3 by proxy.

    Otherwise I agree with the thrust of what you write here — we need a narrative to unite the currently divided. I differ though in that I feel the system cannot continue to be healthy enough to maintain sufficient power to push through that list up there — I don’t feel as threatened by it as you SEEM to be. The balloon is deflating and people are waking up. I’m one of them. I have no university degree (ok I’m not American and given to introspection and philosophizing), am a middle class, middle-aged father of two on a middling income. A year of study has led me to recognise a completely broken and corrupt system that has to go. I want to make its removal as smooth as possible. This does not mean I believe I will succeed in this, but that I want to try, find people who’ll join battle with me, and fight.

    As you say, education is key. Where we differ is on approach. I believe a common objective which smacks of hope, not weakness, is indeed possible and even essential to rally sufficient numbers to the cause, in as undivisive (spellcheck don’t like that word! I wonder why…) a way as possible.

    Keep up the good work. You’re a talented so-and-so!

    Comment by Toby — November 4, 2009 @ 2:08 pm

  5. Zeigler wasn’t approving of that kind of outcome, on the contrary he deplored it with great passion. But he thinks it’s the logical outcome of the path Western civilization is now upon, and I agree with him.

    If you want to read more of his stuff here’s his site:

    http://conev.org/

    The term War Socialism and the platform are from Jay Hansen. He does seem to somewhat agree with those goals, though he’s been cryptic about whether he really advocates it or just thinks it a likely outcome. Zeigler definitely hates these ideas, as do I.

    I applaud your educational and activist will. I don’t know if things are much better in Europe on this score, but here in America very few people are interested in educating themselves about what the system is doing to us.

    I did go to college but back then I never really thought about things much. My real education has been self-assigned over the last several years.

    So, we certainly have a similar experience and intent even if some of the details are different.

    Comment by Russ — November 4, 2009 @ 6:28 pm

  6. I have a direct question for you: Do you think technologies like cold fusion and the hydrino-based energy of Black Light Power are irrelevant?

    And another one actually: Do you think the transition from fossil fuels to X necessarily mean less energy available for the powering of civilization?

    I believe the random scattering of the planet’s resources across all nations is a necessary irritant that CAN (not must) lead to cooperative global solutions. I agree that local community and “humans need humans” are essential parts of living in a sustainable way, but equally I believe strongly that we need global, not local solutions regarding resource management and distribution. We need to grow beyond the tribalism of nation states while celebrating and encouraging cultural diversity (where it is valid and environmentally sensible to do so).

    Science is nothing more than a methodology for arriving at the next most probable. Technology is nothing more than human ingenuity made real. I detect, after a very cursory scanning of Zeigler’s book, a sort of antipathy to these twin human strengths. Isn’t farming as much a technology as rocket science? Isn’t language itself a technology?

    Zeigler mentions the myths cultures believe about themselves, but seems to have fallen for the myth that science and tech are somehow “cold” and “heartless.” If he does, I disagree. It is our cultural relationship with science and technology, combined with how we treat the ecosystem, that leads us to apply our strengths in the wrong ways. It comes down to the legacies of our ignorance, the received wisdoms that prop up our philosophies and justify our attitudes. All in all, education is key here, and freedom of information.

    In Europe (I live in Germany) there is plenty of recycling, a far higher awareness of the environment as something to protect, but also a hard to shake conservatism. One only has to study the German language to feel this. The news here in Germany is superior to the major US outlets (that’s not saying much though), but there are trashy newspapers and a tedious obsession with searching for the next superstar or supermodel, what Johnny Depp wore to the party etc. That shit seems to be everywhere. Most humans need mindless frivolity because slave-waged labour is so oppressively boring and demoralizing.

    On a separate note, the other thing I believe is crushing “the system” is technological unemployment. Very uncool and ridiculed I know, and yet it seems to me inescapable that we are replicating technically more and more of what the human body/brain can do. The proportion of the ever changing amount of work to be done in the economy is less and less only doable by humans. This trend is accelerating. Purchasing power is therefore as much a problem for the system as energy, especially since the tech for solving the energy problem is there. We just need to want to take the necessary infrastructure redesign measures.

    Self-education is superior in many ways. You have more freedom to question everything and follow the trail where it leads, cross disciplines and define your view. I wish I were rich enough to do this full time!

    Comment by Toby — November 5, 2009 @ 3:24 am

    • Hi Toby,
      Thanks for the questions and thoughts, even if my answers might disappoint you.

      I think miracle energy fixes, technological breakthroughs, are always right around the corner, but never quite make it to fruition. Joe Romm of Climate Progress has often said that breakthroughs just don’t happen in the energy sector; that innovation always takes place over long RDD&D and cost curves.

      And I do think that post-fossil fuels there will be far less energy available to power civilization and grow crops. That’s why some of us expect a brutal power struggle as the rich try to monopolize an ever-shrinking resource base to prop up their lifestyle and power even to the point of enslavement and starvation for the rest of the world.

      It’s that outcome I want to try to warn and organize against.

      That’s also Zeigler’s project. You’re right that Zeigler and I share a basic pessimism regarding technological civilization. I think its results have been mostly destructive, environmentally, socially, psychologically, culturally.

      While I admire the great intellectual and artistic achievements of humanity, I don’t think technological development beyond the basics of agriculture (which freed up some people to become intellectual and cultural workers) has been a necessary factor in that, and has often harmed it.

      Ancient Athens already achieved the pinnacle of artistic and philosophical attainment. When you look at the other great efflorescences, the Renaissance and down through to Romanticism and Modernity, even with the Moderns technology plays a role ambivalent at best, while the Romantics were already skeptical regarding it.

      As for where “the line” is for technology, why is farming as such good but industrial farming bad, after much thought I found the line with fossil fuels and the Industrial Revolution they enabled. IR level technology and its ensuing social development are not physically sustainable once fossil fuels hit the steep downward curve of net energy, and I think these were not morally sustainable either, as we see the socioeconomic and spiritual bottleneck into which we’ve driven ourselves.

      Part of my protest is against the technological unemployment you mention. I don’t know why you call that a separate note. I think it goes to the core of the benevolence/malevolence calculus of technology. As early as the mid-19th century Marx was analyzing this process (and the Luddites furiously protesting it years before that). It’s part of why I’m a skeptic and pessimist regarding technology.

      If you feel passionate about such energy hopes, by all means fight for it. Like you say, a positive vision is of great importance for a protest movement. As part of mine (which I’m still putting together in my mind) I do still call for renewable energy, wind and solar, but as part of the call for an organized winding down of industrial civilization.

      If the wind-down has to occur anyway, and I think it does, then the choice is between organized retreat and total rout.

      Self-education is great. Like you say, following where the trail leads. After years of that I fianlly started zeroing in on my own true path a few years ago.

      The path isn’t completely clear yet, but more and more my steps are necessary rather than “chosen”.

      Comment by Russ — November 5, 2009 @ 4:04 pm

  7. Disappointment is the wrong word. Such discussions are a necessary and important part of the process. I welcome and enjoy them.

    A few points. Technology is human ingenuity applied. That’s it. There is no point in our genus-history where technology has not been developing. Farms are technology, pencils are, the internet is, poetry is etc. It’s one of the things we do. Arresting it is arresting a part of us and doomed to fail. We tinker, we are restless, we envision better ways of doing things etc. What matters more than the tech we bring into existence is our relationship with and understanding of the ecosystem that supports us.

    The Greeks had slaves. We have machine slaves. I know which I prefer.

    We need clean, renewable fuel. The universe is made of energy. We have enough energy, only the technology to cleanly and efficiently harness it is not being developed due to vested interests preventing freedom in this domain. Because we haven’t fully solved this today, does not mean AT ALL that we cannot solve it tomorrow, or that we will not solve it. We will, or we will self-destruct.

    On these points regarding tech and energy I strongly disagree with you and Zeigler. As to waged labour, what’s so good about it? Why should we derive a sense of self-worth and value from it? Why is it bad that we, e.g., no longer have to fetch water from a well, or heat that water with fire wood, or operate lifts, or have some guy operate a giant leaf for cool air? That’s a slight conflation but you get my point (I hope ;-)).

    And I don’t think there is any perfection to go back to. Change is the only constant and is unstoppable. Without change nothing can happen, no movement, no action etc. Why seek out some point, or seek to define some as-good-as-possible scenario/system, establish it, then cling to it tooth and nail? Isn’t that more or less how we got into this mess? Don’t we always get into these messes by clinging to something we think “the best possible?” Society is an emergent process, always changing, never perfect.

    Some Saudi Sheik said dryly that the stone age didn’t end for want of stones. Same thing will happen with oil. The system and status quo are so defunct and sick that they have to fail. That cold fusion has been confirmed by a classical physicist says, to me, that great change is upon is. Cold fusion breaks the one of the laws of physics. They have recorded 1:25 ratio of energy in to out. This is big stuff. Black Light Power are getting 1:6.

    Tech unemployment is for me a huge plus. I embrace it. It gives humanity generally the chance to live like the ancient Greeks, but instead of human slaves, we have machine slaves. What’s not to like IF the energy powering them is clean and renewable? I seek no end to work per se, just an end to paid slave labour. We are most of us debt slaves doing bullshit work that goes nowhere and teaches us nothing.

    I could go on and on but feel burned out this evening. Check out my work at http://www.thdrussell.com/BetterWorld.html if you are interested in what lies behind my ranting here. I hope it all makes some sense to you. There are a lot of complex arguments behind all this…

    Comment by Toby — November 5, 2009 @ 3:35 pm

  8. Well, it sounds like you’re saying you need some kind of slave, man or machine. I’d happily do without either if I could have freedom and meaningful work.

    I don’t recall referring to “perfection” anywhere, nor to a state of non-change, which is of ocurse impossible and undesirable. I was referring to the cultural and intellectual achievements of the Greeks, for which they didn’t need slaves. They, like modern man and almost everyone in between, preferred the added luxury afforded by slaves. That’s all anybody needs technology for today.

    And since I’m not expecting everyone to magically become different tomorrow is why I forecast that the power structure will continue the already advancing process of re-enslaving men as it becomes less and less economical to leverage their labor through technology, as the oil depletes.

    Of course, if you end up being right and there is some miracle breakthrough, that could change things. (Of course, all the evidence is that we will never have lives of leisure, having to work only a few hours a week if at all, no matter what level of energy or technology is achieved. This is because the elites will always monopolize that surplus. How could they remain elites if they didn’t?)

    But like I said, everything I’ve studied says that won’t happen, so I’m committed to the scenario of energy descent and combatting resource fascism.

    Comment by Russ — November 6, 2009 @ 9:18 am

  9. “Well, it sounds like you’re saying you need some kind of slave, man or machine. I’d happily do without either if I could have freedom and meaningful work.”

    A washing machine replaces the slave that would otherwise have to fulfill that function. The typewriter the scribe, the internet the messenger boy, etc. A machine does not care that it has replaced a slave, or that it is performing as an slave, so we don’t have to worry about that. And the Greek greats of antiquity could do what they did in terms of literature and science because they were afforded sufficient time by slaves. Maybe there were some ancient Greeks (I am no expert) who tilled their land, tended their crops and live stock, cleaned their houses etc., AND wrote plays or poetry or philosophy of genius, but I doubt it. That sort of stuff takes study and plenty of time. Slaves afford you that time. I don’t think you can have freedom and meaningful work without the drudge being done by someone or something else.

    No, I know you didn’t point to perfection in the past, which is why I said “some as-good-as-possible scenario/system” deeper in. And yes, we need technology to free us up from drudgery so that we can pursue that which we choose to pursue, and not that which we must — although of course there are always musts, and that’s a good thing.

    Neither am I expecting everyone to magically switch over to the “light side” and start hugging each other, hence our common ground of education via activism. As for miracle breakthroughs, what about cold fusion? That’s breaking the laws of physics. Ditto Black Light Power, peer reviewed and everything. If you don’t want to look at that, and insist on believing oil is the best source of fuel that can ever be for all time, that’s your choice. But whether you look at it or not, it’s happening. Only vested interests are slowing down its acceptance (that and “neural lag,” whereby people have a hard time accepting the “earth-shatteringly new” — like it took the MSM of the day about 5 years to accept manned flight).

    History repeats, but not parrot fashion. Hence the change stuff I prattled on about. What I don’t understand is whether you are calling for a return to some previous time when things were better, or whether your goal is to convince people that living with less energy and “luxury” is ok. Either way, don’t you have to somehow prevent “miracles” from happening, or disallow in the debate things like cold fusion? It seems to me like that what’s happening here. Forgive me if I’m misreading you.

    Comment by Toby — November 6, 2009 @ 11:11 am

  10. It is good to live with less luxury. So if anybody asked me I would try to convince him of it.

    I’m not trying to prevent miracles from happening or disallow debate.

    I said the evidence is that there will be no miracles, and I’m sure it’s not possible to break the laws of physics.

    I do agree that if any such thing were possible, the entrenched interests would constitute a barrier against it.

    If they would have embarked upon a solar buildout starting in the 60s, the first time the idea was seriously broached, or in the 70s when the oil shocks gave the idea new currency, perhaps everything might’ve been different.

    Comment by Russ — November 6, 2009 @ 5:39 pm

  11. I think it depends on our definition of luxury. When I mentioned it in my post, I meant those things above the bare minimum of food, water and warmth needed to survive. Therefore things like fridges; entertainment such as music, film, literature, plays, poetry; washing machines; ovens; hell, even farming, are luxuries: they are not essential for survival. Words like “luxury” are incredibly subjective, but for what it’s worth, that was my meaning. If it is not essential, it is a luxury.

    In terms of miracles, they are happening all the time. Pluck a man from 1809 and bring him here to 2009, he would barely understand a thing. Even someone from 1909 would be astounded. An iPhone would strike the me of 1989 dumb! Technological development has proceeded unbroken since we harnessed fire, and has been steadily increasing in pace ever since. The rate of change now is so fast it is impossible to keep up. Neural lag is a real problem.

    It is not technology itself that’s the problem, but our application of it. Technological development cannot be stopped. We can only strive for a new paradigm, a new socioeconomic model for harnessing our restless ingenuity as wisely and compassionately as we are able. That is what I believe a resource-based economy would do, because, simply put, it encourages cooperation, not competition. Without going into massive detail, Peter Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid, published 1902, is very interesting on the relative evolutionary merits of competition and cooperation. He convinced me that homo sapiens sapiens is primarily a cooperative animal, as evidenced by language and society generally. Both would be impossible were we predominantly competitive. It is therefore, in this thesis, the continued sustaining of scarcity via the price mechanism, aka money, that excites competition to the forefront of our behaviours. Designing our infrastructure to provide an abundance would, probably counter-intuitively, encourage cooperation and other environmentally sustainable behaviours. Scarcity encourages us to fight over things, and the winners secure their advantages, leading over time to wealth and other societal gaps. Keeping things scarce, notionally and practically, maintains this competitive, differential advantage dynamic.

    Scarcity is the enemy. Marshall Sahlins is very interesting on it. The economic definition, infinite wants versus finite resources, is fallacious, because there can never be infinite wants. That’s impossible. Scarcity is not enough for everyone. And finite resources can be abundant, like air, or sand.

    Anyway, I’m prattling on again too much, and repeating myself too. All this stuff is in my other writings.

    Please check this out:

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/04/17/60minutes/main4952167.shtml

    Not all laws of physics, just one of them. Unless of course my understanding is wrong, something I can’t rule out 😉

    Comment by Toby — November 7, 2009 @ 3:30 am

  12. Any mass society is predicated on artificially generated scarcity, since the “abundance” is confiscated by the elites as the surplus which enables theor concentration of wealth and power.

    There’s never been an exception to this, and technology has always been used toward that end by the elites.

    So even if you’re right about the tech development, that’ll only prop up mass society and thus the same elites, and thus the continued expropriation onslaught.

    The only way toward greater cooperation and community is the path of deconcentration and decentralization.

    Comment by Russ — November 8, 2009 @ 10:12 am

  13. I agree, but believe this is possible while also “coming together,” ending things like dehumanization, jingoism, patriotism, the nation state etc. I know the term globalization is somewhat of a hot potato, but in the sense of us in some overarching and loose sense “becoming one,” I am in favor of it. The more we experience other cultures, and in doing so recognise our similarities and learn to celebrate our diversity, the lower the chance for war and deadly conflict going forward.

    Your first sentence is really interesting. I had thought of it like that before. Thanks for that.

    Comment by Toby — November 8, 2009 @ 10:19 am

  14. Caveat:

    Technological unemployment cannot be stopped, only slowed down a little. This means the elite’s system cannot be sustained indefinitely, for without sufficient labour, no monetary system can function. True monetary value comes from human labour, nowhere else. This further means that the elite cannot cream off the lion’s share of the benefits of technology (which is a dubious idea anyway, seeing as things like the printing press and electricity have benefited the bulk of humanity generally) indefinitely. Your anti-technology stance only makes sense to the degree that you can reasonably argue an elite is continuously able to manipulate the arc of this development to their own ends. That this might be the case is impossible to prove. Here I am writing to you on an iMac, me in Germany, you in America (?), the Mac OS is based on BSD, which is open source, my other computer runs Linux, the software enabling our communication is also open source, so, tech is not the exclusive play-toy of the elite. Farming is tech too, I might add. An elite can only arise where there is competition over scarce resources, enabling the victors to secure their positions over time and established their preferred status quo. Abundance, in theory, inhibits this. Marshal Sahlins (I think) is interesting here too, on the tactics deployed by hunter-gatherers to prevent “alpha males” from dominating their wee societies. Hunter-gathers perceive abundance, operate on the assumption of bounty, where we would see scarcity and want.

    I also just noticed that the word “before” is missing from my last sentence. Oops.

    Comment by Toby — November 8, 2009 @ 3:10 pm

  15. Make that the word “not”.

    Doh!

    Comment by Toby — November 8, 2009 @ 3:11 pm

  16. Hunter-gathers perceive abundance, operate on the assumption of bounty, where we would see scarcity and want.

    That’s what I say. Beyond the basic necessities, abundance vs. scarcity is a cultural construct. The great pathology and dehumanization of modern “civilization” is how it perceives even the most grotesque, decadent luxury as something just above scarcity.

    What we need is a spiritual renewal, not a way to prop up the rat race for “stuff”.

    Comment by Russ — November 9, 2009 @ 11:13 am

  17. “What we need is a spiritual renewal, not a way to prop up the rat race for “stuff”.”

    I agree, but still believe technological development is unstoppable and “natural” (I hate that word). First the spiritual renewal to re-establish a healthier relationship with the ecosystem, then we kind of “earn the right” to perceive and deal with abundance in a mature and wise way. I can’t imagine what havoc we would wreak if we were suddenly handed limitless energy. The planet could not cope with our demands. However, luxury, decadence, subsistence, etc. are side issues, in that they are, as you say, distracting cultural distortions that prevent us from progressing to what I like to think of as the next level.

    Comment by Toby — November 9, 2009 @ 11:52 am

  18. Well, that’ll depend upon whether or not the energy’s there for it.

    The evidence is it won’t be, and that if it were, it’ll be used malevolently.

    Mankind already had, with fossil fuels, one shot at building a good life for all, and chose to go the path of selfishness and aggression.

    I see zero evidence for it ever being any different if he had a second chance.

    Comment by Russ — November 10, 2009 @ 4:48 am

  19. That is the most negative thing I have heard from you so far. What are you advocating if mankind has no hope? What are you fighting for? You see no evidence of anything other than ever continuing malevolence? Well then lie back and enjoy the show as we self-destruct! We seem in your eyes to have evolved to do just that.

    And if you are are not prepared to look at the evidence that the energy IS there, then of course, for you, there is no evidence. Seriously Russ, I don’t understand your position at all. You talk of educating people, and yet your opinion of humanity is so low I don’t see how you can expect any positive outcome whatsoever, nor why you feel anyone deserves your assistance.

    Comment by Toby — November 10, 2009 @ 12:48 pm

  20. I’m sorry you find it so negaitve, but I’m just not a faith-based kinda guy.

    My opinion of power elites is extremely low, you’re right. For humanity’s potential I have higher hopes, if we can shake off this yoke. But I don’t think dreaming of technological salvation (which will also somehow not be hijacked by those same elites) is the answer.

    Do you think the economic system is sustainable? Exponential debt? That these will be preserved the way they think at the Treasury and Fed? If there really are miracle energy reservoirs, then perhaps those guys can keep the boom-bust cycle going indefinitely. That’s what they’re counting on.

    It seems that you and I started out agreeing on a basic tactic, smashing the banks, and now we’re getting sidetracked into a fundamental world-view debate. It’s probably too early in the movement for that. Whichever of us ends up being right about the future of energy, it’s a moot point for now.

    You said you wanted to use the green energy vision as an affirmative political message. That’s good. But if you’re also demanding that people “believe” in it, even privately, forget it. I told you I don’t, and I told you why. Most importaantly I don’t think it matters at the moment. So long as the rackets have a strnaglehold on everything, no resources will be used for anything but their aggrandizement. So if you want to liberate social resources for any new kind of energy project, then for you too smashing the banks is the first order of business.

    No matter what ends up being the truth of that in the end, fighting the banks would help the people and restore freedom. That’s what I’m concerned with now. That’s my position. That’s an action we can take to both purge the corruption and redeem our democracy, our dignity, our self-determination, our freedom.

    Comment by Russ — November 11, 2009 @ 9:57 am

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