Addiction to Fossil Fuels, ALEC – American Legislative Exchange Council, Capitalism, Climate Change, Climate Tipping Points, Collapse of Industrial Civilization, Consumer Culture, Corporate State, Corporatocracy, Eco-Apocalypse, Environmental Collapse, Extinction of Man, Financial Elite, Gross Inequality, Henry Bemis, Inverted Totalitarianism, Mass Die Off, Noam Chomsky, The Elite 1%, The Twilight Zone, unwashed public, Wall Street Fraud
In his latest essay, Chomsky asks the simple question, “Can Civilization Survive Capitalism?” And when he says “capitalism”, he means the true capitalism we have today here in America in which capital has corrupted and usurped government regulation and legislation to the (N)th degree. Crony capitalism is the same as unfettered capitalism which is the end result of all types of capitalism if they are left to play out to their inevitable conclusion, something Chomsky calls “really existing capitalist democracy” or RECD for short.
First, Chomsky proclaims the obvious fact that RECD is incompatible with true democracy and that civilization cannot survive under RECD with its corporate-run government passing as faux democracy. He then asks whether a functioning democracy under a capitalist system would make a difference.
For the litmus test, Chomsky confronts the most apparent and grave danger facing mankind – environmental catastrophe, an unfolding crisis we here at this site are very familiar with. As is often the case in an RECD, what the public wants and what the corporate forces ruling the country demand are two very different things. To illustrate this divergent reality, Chomsky quotes from recent studies by Kelly Sims Gallagher in the current issue of Daedalus, the journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In contrast to well over a hundred countries which have enacted renewable energy policies and targets, the U.S. “has not adopted any consistent and stable set of policies at the national level to foster the use of renewable energy.”
And it’s not by lack of public desire that such renewable energies have not been enacted. On the contrary, the vast majority of Americans have favored such action in order to avert the very environmental catastrophe currently threatening life as we know it. But as Chomsky wryly comments:
The fact that the public is influenced by science is deeply troubling to those who dominate the economy and state policy.
Now to combat this influence of science on the minds of the common people, our corporate overlords have used one of their lapdog lobbyist groups, ALEC, to enact legislation with the Orwellian title “Environmental Literacy Improvement Act” which would actually cast a cloud of doubt over the science of climate change by forcing schools to allow alternative interpretations, i.e. climate change denial:
The ALEC Act mandates “balanced teaching” of climate science in K-12 classrooms. “Balanced teaching” is a code phrase that refers to teaching climate-change denial, to “balance” mainstream climate science. It is analogous to the “balanced teaching” advocated by creationists to enable the teaching of “creation science” in public schools. Legislation based on ALEC models has already been introduced in several states.
Of course this “balanced teaching” won’t include the views of those much more astute scientists who have accurately said that the IPCC’s climate models and forecasts have been and continue to be much too conservative and optimistic. The corporate intrusion into America’s classrooms will undoubtedly include viewpoints from people who say that CO2 is good for the planet and that God would not allow man to destroy himself.
Again, Chomsky explains that such dumbing down of the populace is done intentionally to serve the short-term profit motives of our corporatocracy. Keeping the masses ill-informed and living within a cloud of propaganda and infotainment is the primary objective of the ALEC legislation. Creating a country full of Al Bundys and Homer Simpsons has been an ongoing process since the inception of a post-World War II Consumer Culture. When the primary tool for constructing a nation’s identity – “The Media” – is motivated by money, society is destined for a meltdown. We are following the doctrine of ‘preordained destiny’ right into the annals of extinction alongside the dinosaurs and the Dodo bird.
…Within the RECD system it is of extreme importance that we become the stupid nation, not misled by science and rationality, in the interests of the short-term gains of the masters of the economy and political system, and damn the consequences.
These commitments are deeply rooted in the fundamentalist market doctrines that are preached within RECD, though observed in a highly selective manner, so as to sustain a powerful state that serves wealth and power.
Chomsky compares the corporatocracy’s willful ignorance on human-induced climate change to that of the ongoing banking crisis and the financial sector’s criminal behavior in disregarding “systemic risk”, i.e. the risk of collapsing an entire financial system or entire market. The systemic risk of continuing to exploit fossil fuels is more blatantly obvious every week, month, and year that passes. Enjoying 20/20 hindsight and taxpayer-funded bailouts won’t be an option for a crash of the global biosphere.
Environmental catastrophe is far more serious: The externality that is being ignored is the fate of the species. And there is nowhere to run, cap in hand, for a bailout.
In future, historians (if there are any) will look back on this curious spectacle taking shape in the early 21st century. For the first time in human history, humans are facing the significant prospect of severe calamity as a result of their actions – actions that are battering our prospects of decent survival.
Those historians will observe that the richest and most powerful country in history, which enjoys incomparable advantages, is leading the effort to intensify the likely disaster. Leading the effort to preserve conditions in which our immediate descendants might have a decent life are the so-called “primitive” societies: First Nations, tribal, indigenous, aboriginal.
The countries with large and influential indigenous populations are well in the lead in seeking to preserve the planet. The countries that have driven indigenous populations to extinction or extreme marginalization are racing toward destruction.
Over four centuries of commodifying the planet and two centuries of wallowing in a fossil fuel high have turned the industrialized world into crazed drug addicts marching towards their own destruction. It is only the planet’s unindustrialized “primitive people’ who remain clear-minded enough to act rationally and wisely. By all estimations, having even a semi-functioning democracy under a capitalist system would exponentially improve our odds of survival; but under the current regime, no living thing will get out alive when glorified apes dressed in suits are flinging shit and wielding weapons of mass destruction.
This observation generalizes: Throughout the world, indigenous societies are struggling to protect what they sometimes call “the rights of nature,” while the civilized and sophisticated scoff at this silliness.
This is all exactly the opposite of what rationality would predict – unless it is the skewed form of reason that passes through the filter of RECD.
Our present predicament is best described by a commenter in regards to the short film ‘Time Enough at Last‘: