Wednesday, June 16, 2010

No Wings, But A Prayer

I guess I have an odd, quirky sense of humor. It comes out on occasion during dark and stressful times (like visits to the dentist), or sometimes while writing posts for this blog. Yet we have terrible things to talk about. These days are dark and stressful times for anyone who's paying attention and who cares about the direction our world and our nation are taking. There's a lot of bad news out there.

I am at a crossroads regarding my emotional response to it all (as well as my objective response). Many of the posts I have written deal with adapting to a post-Peak world, an industrial society that is in decline due to the depletion of its resource base. It's easy to be cheered by thinking about various adaptation strategies, to think that while the next several years or decades may be a bit rough, we might come out better off in the end.

Then something like the Deepwater Horizon spill occurs, and we ordinary common folk get to see how incompetent and feckless our leaders in government are in dealing with things like this, and how they seem so unwilling to inconvenience the holders of concentrated wealth and power who make messes like this. The rich seem bent on making as many messes as they can get away with in their pursuit of ever more wealth. There seems to be very little the rest of us can do to stop them. And when I look around, I see too many of my working-class fellows who are sympathetic to the rich. After all, they themselves hope to be rich some day.

Things fall apart. Sometimes it happens all by itself, as systems self-simplify to a more stable configuration. If you're a part of such a system, you can have a hope that the final configuration will leave you in a good place, or at least a decent, survivable place. But what if you're a part of a system whose masters are working as hard as they can to ruin it? A fellow blogger recently wrote a very angry post regarding the things now being ruined in our world – things like the livelihoods, health and ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico. I have to say that I agree with her anger. What's especially galling is that there are unrepentant Republican politicians pushing for even more oil drilling off the coasts of the United States. In general, it seems that every Republican (or Fox News or Tea-bagger) position can be summed up in demanding the so-called “right” of the rich to maximize their short-term gains by destroying their fellow human beings.

But the Democrats are no better. 2008 was their chance to prove otherwise, and instead of doing so, they gave us Obama. He's a nice guy, genial, relatively young and well-spoken. He is also a Pavlovian symbol designed to fool people concerned about environmental, economic and social justice into believing that they've gotten a real change. The real mission of the Democrats seems to be to pretend to be concerned about the suffering of ordinary people and of the Earth because of the depredations of the rich, while doing absolutely nothing to stop these depredations. So as livelihoods, communities, waters and coastlines are destroyed by the ongoing Gulf oil spill, Obama will jet off to Gulf Coast communities so that TV cameras can capture images of the President stooping down on an oil-stained beach with a look of deep concern on his face. That's about as good as it gets. Here's another wager: I'll bet you that Obama does absolutely nothing about the stupid Arizona “immigration” law. Obama and the Democrats seem to find it more convenient to their cause to climb into the ring and pretend to be knocked out.

In this nation, narcissistic, greedy sociopathy has come out of the closet. This event was not announced as such, but the period from the start of George W. Bush's presidency until now has been one big coming-out party. While sociopaths can be found at every social stratum, I'd wager that they are most heavily concentrated among the very wealthy. Because they now control most of the mainstream media in this country, they have created a mass culture that almost perfectly reflects their values, and they seek to marinate all the rest of us in that culture until we all taste like them. “Greed is good!” “Helping poor people is socialism!” “Me first – regardless of the consequences to anyone else!” “I have a right to be racist!”

Against this backdrop, it gets a bit harder to write about strategies of adaptation to collapse. This week I lost my sense of humor. I hope it comes back. I'm trying to hang on to my optimism, but it's slippery and my hands are sweaty. We may all be as hapless as the passengers and crew of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961, which crash-landed in the ocean in 1996 after hijackers forced the plane to fly until it ran out of fuel. Nevertheless, some of those people lived to find out that the flight attendants were telling the truth when they said that seat cushions could be used as flotation devices. Maybe some of us will be so lucky. Therefore I will keep interviewing people who have something to say about our situation and how we can adapt to it. And I will continue to work on my own steps of adaptation as well.

Speaking of which, I wrote several weeks ago that I got another job. I have mixed feelings about this. For one thing, I actually have to do a fair amount of driving on this job, and I don't like it. The Deepwater Horizon accident makes driving feel like such a violation of everything I stand for. But I sometimes wonder about the whole idea of trying to hang on to a “job” in these times. For the most part, hunting for or hanging on to a “job” means clinging desperately to the official economy – even as that economy continues to disintegrate. For those who have “jobs”, times may be good right now – if the jobs pay reasonably well, it is possible to enjoy the present season of relatively low prices for many things and to forget about the root causes of those relatively low prices and the prospect that those root causes might vanish very soon. There are a lot of people who are hurting, to be sure, but there are still a lot of people who have “jobs” and who are driving large, shiny, new SUV's to and from large, shiny, new suburban homes – people who have been lured into huge debts by temporarily favorable conditions. To such people it is inconceivable that they might soon need to start extricating themselves from the official economy.

For me, it is not inconceivable. I can clearly see the writing on the wall, and I've already taken several steps in that direction. But fear keeps me from going further – fear of the unknown, fear that I might look like an idiot before my acquaintances and neighbors, the fear that comes from not exactly knowing what the next steps are or the shape of the thing that will replace the present official economy. “Promise or a dare? I would jump if I knew you'd catch me,” as one songwriter said. Or, as Captain Mancuso said in the Hunt for Red October, “The hard part of playing chicken is knowing when to flinch.”

1 comment:

Aimee said...

I feel you. I am about as disconnected from the official economy as I can be - I have money in the bank and in stocks but I try not to depend on it. You know what I am doing in regards to food security and energy self sufficiency. We own our home and property free and clear ( thanks grandpa!). Nonetheless, i know we will need a "real" job and cash for the forseeable future. I dont see a time when we won't be paying property taxes, for example. It's a very tough call. Good luck deciding what to do next.