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February 25, 2018

“Malthusian”

Filed under: Globalization, GMOs Cannot "Feed the World", Land Reform, Peak Oil — Tags: , — Russell Bangs @ 3:56 am

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The problem with Malthus isn’t that he was wrong but that he gave wrong and pernicious explanations for the things he described, and ever since he’s given aid and comfort to anyone who wants to blame the poor and hungry for their own predicament.
 
In modern reality there’s no such thing as “natural” hunger and famine, driven by some inertial depravity of people recklessly reproducing themselves. On the contrary, hunger and famine invariably are caused artificially, by depraved systems of agricultural production and distribution which turn food into commodities, which require money in order to access food, which dispossess and impoverish vast numbers of people by driving them off their land, rendering them unable either to grow their own food or to get the money to buy it, and which concentrates these masses in slums and shantytowns where they’re then dubbed “overpopulated”.
 
But they never were naturally overpopulated in the first place, they only artificially became so when they were driven off their land and concentrated. And they never were naturally hungry, they only artificially became so when they were rendered unable to produce their own food.
 
That’s one main artificial reason for modern hunger and famine. The other is the ecological onslaught of modern productionism which, through climate change and related environmental assaults renders much of the subsistence farmland still in the hands of the people increasingly vulnerable to drought, desertification, and flooding. Of course agribusiness locks up all the best land, driving subsistence farmers onto ever more marginal land which is less productive and more vulnerable.
 
Those are the reasons Malthus was a liar when he blamed the poor for their own hunger. He fails where it comes to why people become overpopulated and hungry. This doesn’t mean he’s ultimately wrong about what the end results will be. Industrial agriculture is unsustainable in multiple ways: Dependency on finite fossil fuels; dependency on finite aquifer water; dependency on finite mined phosphorus; dependency on increasingly denuded soil; dependency on increasingly weak crops and depleted crop gene pools; dependency on a pesticide arms race which inevitably will be won by the weeds, insect pests, and disease. Any of these or more likely a combination of some or all guarantees the collapse of industrial agriculture and subsequent mass famine. The Earth will restore the balance. But this too is an artificially chosen outcome which has nothing to do with Malthus’s explanations.
 
The point here is that if you identify the symptoms but make a completely wrong diagnosis, your prescription also will be wrong and probably make things worse. Just look at an idiot like Bono, or his hero Bill Gates who’s a combination of conscious willful predator and true-believer fanatic. That’s why I’ve always scorned Malthus.
 
 
No discussion of this subject is complete without one more point. There is one group which is grossly overpopulated and grossly gobbling up its resources, is doing so voluntarily, and is doing so out of nothing but sheer depravity. But this group isn’t from among the poor. On the contrary, this is the group of those living the extreme-footprint Western middle class lifestyle. (You know, the group which spawns the overwhelming majority of “Malthusians”.) This group, indeed, already has vastly overshot any capacity of the Earth to sustain it and will be reduced with extreme prejudice (if their corporate masters don’t liquidate them first). So if you want to engage in Malthusian moralizing, there’s the right place to look.
 
 
 
 

February 23, 2018

Today’s Inversion of Yeats

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The consummation of civilization

 
 
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
 
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of
Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
 
 
– William Butler Yeats, “The Second Coming”
 
 
This poem was written in the context of the turmoil and radicalism of the interwar era in Europe. Yeats saw rational, humanitarian values in full retreat while the will to violence and destruction surged.
 
Today’s good moderates solemnly read this as cry of anguish against the extremes of fascism and communism. I don’t know enough about Yeats to know if that’s exactly what he meant by it, but given the context of the times it’s an obvious reading.
 
The problem is that today the matching of action to the perceived “moderation” or “radicalism” of political positions has flipped completely from that of Yeats’s time.
 
For years I’ve written from the perspective of speaking to those who have some level of anti-corporate consciousness and commitment and sought to heighten, enhance, intensify these. Most specifically I’ve spoken to the anti-GMO/pesticide movement and sought to help it evolve from reformism within a pro-corporate context (a position doomed to failure, as I’ve argued in countless posts) to the agronomically and ecologically necessary position of total abolitionism, a position which would require a broader anti-corporate consciousness.
 
You could say I’m trying to do the same thing King was doing when he realized that the civil rights movement never could win unless it broadened its consciousness and action to a comprehensive position against capitalism and war, and spoke to his people exhorting them to this evolution.
 
Well, my call to build an abolitionist organization, let alone a broader anti-system movement, has met with crickets. The most direct reason for this is that no one who talks radical wants to do any work, while those willing to work are willing to do so only within the system’s officially allowed reform frameworks. It’s a depressing paradox.
 
And when we look at where the real fury is in this society, that’s where it occurred to me that today we have an inversion of Yeats wrote.
 
“The best lack all conviction”: Today there are no MLKs who want to move from particular struggles to the commitment to build a movement to break corporate power and overthrow corporate rule. And there’s no one who would follow them if they did exist.
 
“The worst are full of passionate intensity”: Where’s the only place one finds fire, fury, radical feeling? Only among the Dembots and Trumpbots, only among the most pro-status quo conformists and cheerleaders of kleptocracy who nevertheless really ready to tear one another to shreds over whose team is better. Never in history, not even in Gibbon’s depiction of the Council of Nicaea, has the narcissism of microscopic differences generated such strife. And in this case, the identical twins locked in a mutual death grip are fighting over who gets to be the most mainstream, the most conformist supporters of entrenched power, the most ardent corporate bootlicks, the biggest warmongers, the most loyal (vicarious) followers of warlords and crime bosses.
 
Since civilization has become completely engulfed in the Extreme Energy Civilization, and since this civilization is doomed because by its nature it must violate the limits of resources and ecology until these force its destruction, it follows that for the adherents of civilization there’s nothing left but desperation, insanity, and the final rampage of destruction which will strive to drag down all of humanity and the Earth to extinction with it.
 
It follows that there’s no place left for any kind of “alternative”. No cultural, political movement is going to be built. The proof of this is that no one who in theory wants alternatives is doing anything toward this movement-building work. Politics is Dead. “Leftists”, “radicals”, just as much as your standard glad-handing Republican, care first and foremost about their work life. And just as much, they desperately support the Extreme Energy Civilization and yearn for its permanent continuation with all the ardent faith of the most primitive idolator. What’s the difference between someone who says we need total drilling and fracking to power the hi-tech economy, and someone who says we can power the hi-tech economy with renewable energy? Nothing. It’s the same religion and the same delusion. And in the end even the greenest renewables-touting, Prius-driving Sierra Club member will support drilling the last drop of oil and fracking the last cubic foot of gas in order to keep the city lights on for one more minute. It’s a fundamentalist religious commitment.
 
 
For whatever few of us hate what civilization has done to destroy humanity and the Earth, who can’t wait to see the lights go out and who can only hope there’s something left to rebuild upon, we’re simply the primal mammals hiding in the tree-tops and burrowing under the shrubbery, waiting for the end of the dinosaurs. We know the time will come, and just have to hang on till it does.
 
So it follows that any way we mammals can come together, any kind of actions we can take and groups we can form, must be dedicated to preserving our humanity, our ability to live as human beings, and the feeling of what it is to be human. Certainly this is a hard task amid such a hostile civilization.
 
As for the civilization itself, the masses of furious conformists and inert skeptics, there’s nothing to be done since they’re all committed to the terminal ride, and the only actions they’ll ever take are homicide and suicide.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

February 22, 2018

What’s Really Indicted by the Indictment

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On its face the indictment of some Russians for internet trolling sounds just like all the previous “evidence” for Russian perfidy: A big nothing. Certainly all the attempted manipulations of every country on Earth add up to nothing compared to the daily manipulations all over the world engaged in by the US corporate system. It’s the field against Tiger Woods in his prime. But the real goal of this indictment is the subsequent criminalization of anti-corporate dissent as such. The key part isn’t the allegations about “foreigners”, but about what kind of speech they engaged in which allegedly is criminal: Regular, run-of-the-mill political speech.
 
The mainstream media is sounding the toy bugle of judgement day for Russia’s day that will live in infamy, while our earnest “progressives” are engaged in microscopic parsing of the statues invoked in the indictment, trying to discover whether this is “real” evidence that Putin is the Antichrist. Reading them, a visitor from another planet would think there’s such a thing as a “rule of law” here. But in reality there’s nothing but Might Makes Right with the law being nothing but a weapon to be deployed however power wants to deploy it.
 
All one needs to know about US concepts of “citizenry”, “foreignness”, who is and isn’t “alien” etc., is that in the US/globalization system corporations are considered legal persons as well as given priority over all nominal “law” at globalization tribunals, and that in principle and practice big money is the only real right. The most direct legal application of this to elections is Buckley v. Valeo and its appendix Citizens United. These are just logical extensions of the Mammon ideology as such, which believes money is a real thing and that all human-to-human and human-to-Earth relations should be reduced to money relations. All forms of liberalism (and conservatism) and the mainstream media agree with this and are components of it.
 
So it’s easy to see that the “rule of law” exists nowhere but in the minds of regressive progressives. Money also doesn’t really exist, but unlike with rule of law, the rule of money is enforced aggressively enough that it has become the real power.
 
So all one needs to know about these Russian allegations is what a piddling amount of money is involved, even according to the indictment. That says it all about the real effect of Russian trolling if it ever existed, how much attention anyone should pay to it, and how the real purpose of the indictment lies elsewhere: Part of the ongoing campaign, supported across the mainstream political spectrum and by all mainstream institutions, to criminalize any real dissent on the part of Americans themselves. From the corporate mainstream’s point of view, including the Democrat and Republican Parties, we are the true foreign criminals.
 
 
 
 
 

February 8, 2018

One Thing the Scientism Cultists and Dembots Have in Common

Filed under: Civil Disobedience, Mainstream Media, Scientism/Technocracy — Tags: , , — Russell Bangs @ 6:10 am

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The future of obsolete, malign structures. Their cultists feel it coming and react accordingly.

 
 
One of the most bizarre phenomena of the US electoral system is the way the Democrat Party and its more cultish adherents choose to revile anyone who is skeptical about voting for the Party instead of trying to persuade them. Of course, part of this is that they know they could never persuade anyone who isn’t already part of their cult, since they have nothing to offer anyone but the big corporations and the rich. Their 2016 campaign was even explicit about this.
 
But it goes deeper than this. The Dembots believe that the votes of certain groups – blacks, other minorities, anyone who identifies as “progressive” – are the private property of the Party, to be redeemed on demand of the Party. So their hysterical anger at anyone from these groups who rejects the Party is the anger of someone who thinks his rightful property is being stolen from him.*
 
In the same way, the scientism/technocracy cult is becoming increasingly unhinged as they sense how more and more people are becoming skeptical of them and rejecting their authority. Seeing themselves as great religious saviors, they regard the unquestioning submission and genuflection of the people, and the people’s unquestioning purchase of the products of the corporate-technocratic system, as their private property, or at least the property of the corporations who dominate the technocratic system and control the products of technology.**
 
Therefore they respond to even the most modest questions or criticism, not with rational argument, but with hysterical denunciations and insults. What’s at stake has nothing to do with “science” and everything to do with the religious authority of the cult and the power of the corporations who control it. (Of course just as with the Dembots, here too the cultists sense that they would lose any rational argument. That’s why they invariably resort to canned lies anytime they do deign to “argue” on behalf of the corporate technologies they fetishize.)
 
In both cases, we have a malign structure whose foundation is crumbling, which feels the ground shaking under its feet, and which has no rational or moral basis to justify its existence. In both cases humanity and the Earth will benefit tremendously when this structure ceases to exist. Therefore these two structures are reacting with all the desperation and rage of cosseted authoritarians whose authority is now being rejected on a mass scale, where all the signs point toward the eventual complete collapse of this authority. (We can add the mainstream media as another such dying structure lashing out at its rivals and at the people who are rejecting its legitimacy.)
 
That’s why they’re so deranged.
 
 
*In a similar way, cultists of the electoral religion in itself believe everyone’s vote is the property of the government, to be redeemed on the government’s demand, i.e. whenever it holds an election. Their outrage at non-voters is outrage on behalf of a government that, they believe, is the victim of theft. This also explains their frequent advocacy of mandatory voting, which from any conventional democracy point of view would seem to be an authoritarian contradiction of democracy. But then electoralism is only formally connected with just one form of democracy, the “representative” form, and doesn’t necessarily have any substantive connection even with this form. On the contrary, we know that today’s elections are nothing but a sham, the pseudo-democratic facade of neoliberalism.
 
**Another way of conceiving the cultist mindset is that voters owe a debt to the Democrat Party or the government itself, and that those who abstain are some kind of deadbeat. The scientism cultists are most explicit about this: One of their most hysterical talking points is that the rising number of people who are skeptical of technocracy and many of its products are “ungrateful”.
 
 
 
 
 
 

February 6, 2018

Technocracy’s Pro-Cancer Campaign: IARC Example

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The poison cartel, led by Monsanto, is stepping up its assault on the World Health Organization’s cancer research agency IARC.* The assault on IARC is symbolic of the corporate technocracy’s ideological view of cancer. On the most mundane level corporate profits depend heavily on disseminating poisons which cause cancer. This is the main cause of the modern cancer epidemic. And then corporate technocracy itself depends on the economic system dedicated to infinite “growth”, which means it directly replicates biological cancer. These people are cancer.
 
Going beyond the most proximate goals of profit, the technocrats and scientism cultists want to maximize cancer as part of their experimental program and their eugenics program. All their actions prove this. Do they do it out of sheer evil greed? Certainly there’s plenty of this, but few even among the most sociopathic can thrive on such cynical nihilism. People need to believe in what they’re doing. That’s one point where the scientism religion comes to the aid of the experimentalists. Scientism still implies its 19th century tenet that there’s no such thing as the “normal” (healthy) and “abnormal” (unhealthy) state of an organism, only the sheer processes it goes through.** From there it becomes easy to justify science as the handmaiden of engineering manipulation and control, for their own sakes and for the sake of developing technologies to enhance the wealth and power of status quo elites. From there the full ramification of the corporate science paradigm follows. The Gates Foundation, like the Rockefeller Foundation and others before it, is dedicated to coordinating the most mundane toxic greed with the most exalted religious fantasies.
 
 
*Although the WHO as a whole has been consistently pro-poison, the IARC is out of step with the dominant corporate/reductionist ideological framework. Instead it emphasizes environmental factors in cancer causation:
 
“Emphasis is placed on elucidating the role of environmental and lifestyle risk factors and studying their interplay with genetic background in population-based studies and appropriate experimental models. This emphasis reflects the understanding that most cancers are, directly or indirectly, linked to environmental factors and thus are preventable.”
 
The proposition that cancer is preventable runs directly counter to the dominant science ideology which views cancer as arising from genetic determinism and/or “bad luck”, with the only acceptable response to be massively expensive and interventionist “cures” supervised by Big Drug and other corporate sectors. This is why the corporate scientific establishment, regulators like the EPA and EFSA, and the corporate media all despise the IARC. And this is why Reuters has embarked on a vendetta against the agency.
 
I often ponder the irony that even among “decent” people the great heroic metaphor is “curing cancer”, while someone like me who has dedicated my life to preventing cancer is beyond the pale. That’s because even the good people do demand their worthless expensive destructive junk, and the basic template applies not just to corporate-controlled institutions but to everyone. Even cancer must be dealt with only within the framework which exalts productionism, consumerism, technocracy, corporate rule as normal and normative. Even efforts against cancer must never hinder this imperative. Among the people of the system, its supporters and its tacit followers, there is consensus on this.
 
 
**As an ideological proposition, the notion that laboratory-generated artifices are not qualitatively different from the products of evolution goes back to 19th century German physiology. Among such physiologists as Carl Ludwig and Hermann Helmholtz there was a general neglect of Darwinism and a consensus that evolution is irrelevant. They tended to take the organism as given and focus on its current state. At first physiologists posited a binary state of normality/health vs. pathology. Where a condition was seen as pathological, the goal was to learn how to manipulate in order to restore the organism to its “normal”, healthy condition. So physiologists would naturally tend toward seeking control since they undertook their work within the framework of this normal-pathological binary, with the focus being on pathology and the goal being to change this to the opposite state. This laid the groundwork for subsequent ideological development.
 
The lust for control above all other things loomed ever larger. Starting in the 1870s such practitioners as plant physiologist Julius Sachs, his student Jacques Loeb, and Justus Gaule rejected the normality/pathology binary and increasingly focused on physiological manipulation as such, without regard to whether it was in the direction of the organism’s better or worse health. Bolstered by the instrumental science philosophy of Ernst Mach and the techno-evangelism of Mach’s close associate Josef Popper-Lynkeus, researchers within this framework relinquished any concern for whether or not scientific research or technological development produced humanly beneficial results. Technological control and manipulation as such was religiously assumed to be its own self-caused primary value, with all other values subordinate to it. These researchers added to their contempt for evolution the attitude that since health vs. sickness, comfort vs. pain, normality vs. pathology were meaningless distinctions, so it followed that natural evolution vs. technologically accomplished laboratory manipulation was also a meaningless distinction.
 
Although today few practitioners openly phrase it this way, this rejection of evolution and any kind of concern for the well-being of living things remains the ideological bedrock of technocracy. The establishment ideology of cancer, epitomized in its current drive to eradicate the IARC, is a clear example of this.
 
Technocracy and the modern science paradigm do not regard cancer as an undesirable or abnormal condition in the first place. This system wishes to cause cancer in order to study it toward using it for purposes of control. For the scientism cult this is an ideological commitment prior even to corporate profit.
 
 
Propagate the necessary new ideas.
 
 
 
 
 

February 3, 2018

Give My Regards to Billy

Filed under: GMO Corporate State, Scientism/Technocracy — Tags: , — Russell Bangs @ 1:17 pm

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(Cornell’s official fight song is “Give My Regards to Davy”, though these days they might want to change it to honor their great hero Bill Gates.)
 
 
A friend posted at Facebook about an introductory level college botany text which according to her is quite GM-centric. She asks:
 
“In this book, you can find the typical test questions for a B. Sc examination. It has questions about biotechnology. Seems to me that the biotech examination questions should be more in depth. Should biotechnology be part of a botany degree? Or should it be totally separate? You can know about botany without genetic engineering, but you can’t have genetic engineering without knowing about botany.[*] Makes me wonder how many other science books include biotech. (My sentiment is that education about biotech should have been a totally separate program with very strict protocols. It is almost as if students had no choice.)”
 
The choice largely existed only at the outset, to embark upon the corporate-technocratic college debt path or not. The whole concept of universal education was designed for capitalist requirements in the first place. It was the banks, railroads, and factory owners who lobbied for universal free public education. Capitalism was faced with an influx of rural men and women newly driven off the land and into the cities, and the factories needed this labor. But this new proletariat was largely illiterate and not especially docile. The employers wanted the state to provide schooling designed to instill basic literacy and the necessary obedience.
 
To this day, these are the two basic goals of system schooling: Instilling the requisite levels of literacy and docility for the workplace. And “science” has long been dominated by the corporate science paradigm. So it’s no surprise that basic textbooks are written from a pro-corporate perspective. By now it would seldom cross the indoctrinated mind of an author to do anything but that. And even if it did, who would write a textbook which omitted key corporate requirements, which then wouldn’t widely be bought? After all, the universities are under corporate control as well, while the professors are dependent on corporate funding and/or revolve with the revolving door. So there’s an overwhelming impetus to purchase only corporate-centric class materials.
 
That’s one of several things to consider when you ponder the value of going into debt servitude to go to college. And when you ponder the value of college as such. That is, assuming you have any higher aspiration in life than to be a corporate grinder. (More and more often, not even that; rather a grinder wanna-be who can’t find a job which doesn’t exist.)
 
 
[*Actually, few genetic engineers know anything about botany, agriculture, or for that matter the science of genetics. They know only laboratory manipulations and despise the underlying physical materials as mere clay. They take pride in their know-nothingism and believe that if they don’t know the biological facts, they can’t be constrained by biological limits. They’re wrong.]