"While The World Burns" by Svavar Knútur, 6th Mass Extinction, Anarchism, Climate Change Denial, Ernest Becker, Ferguson Missouri, Institutionalized Discrimination, Institutionalized Poverty, Methane Time Bomb, Michael Brown, Militarization of Society, Offshoring of Production, Police Shootings, Privatization of Education, Privatization of Science, Racism, Social Injustice, Social Unrest, Techno-Utopians, The Credit Crash, The Denial of Death, The Housing Bubble
“Mother nature is a brutal bitch, red in tooth and claw, who destroys what she creates.”
~ Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death
The root of the problem
Despite modern man’s unparalleled ability to gather and synthesize mountains of data on climate change and other growing dangers, he is helpless to stop the inevitable and well-worn trajectory that all previous complex societies have followed. This time, however, is different in that the scale of environmental overshoot is planet-wide – the world’s oceans are becoming too acidic to sustain life, the soil too eroded and degraded to grow food, and the atmosphere too polluted with heat-trapping gasses. As the green mantle of the Earth is swallowed up in the geologic blink of an eye, eon-long processes of plant and animal evolution are stopped dead in their tracks. Of all the horrors modern civilization has brought forth, the most damaging and longest-lasting legacy is the wholesale loss of genetic and species diversity. Global ecocide is certain suicide.
Faith in technology and “free market” capitalism to solve the planet’s ills has already proven to be a very dangerous and faulty belief. Politicians are always looking for easy solutions to complex problems, and they see technology as the mechanism by which to reconcile endless growth on a finite planet. Public Relations and greenwashing are all-pervasive. Science has been privatized to the highest bidder. Essentially, those who are anti-environmental and those who claim to be environmentalists are both proponents of the same omnicidal death machine. One recognizes that fossil fuels are indispensable to industrial civilization while discounting or refuting anthropogenic climate disruption(ACD). The other acknowledges the reality of ACD but falsely believes that “renewable energy technologies” can harmlessly supplant carbon-based energy sources. In both cases, neither can accept that the root of the problem is capitalist industrial civilization. Neither the anti-greens nor the faux environmentalists are willing to give up their globetrotting airline flights, sprawling suburbia and car culture, oversized McMansions, overprocessed fast food, virtual world of cyberspace and all the rest of their energy-intensive, unsustainable way of living:
…This “standard of living” is a product of an alienated society in which consumption for the sake of consumption is the new god. In a grow-or-die economy, production and consumption must keep increasing to prevent economic collapse. This need for growth leads to massive advertising campaigns to indoctrinate people with the capitalist theology that more and more must be consumed to find “happiness” (salvation), producing consumerist attitudes that feed into an already-present tendency to consume in order to compensate for doing boring, pointless work in a hierarchical workplace. Unless a transformation of values occurs that recognises the importance of living as opposed to consuming, the ecological crisis will get worse. It’s impossible to imagine such a radical transformation occurring under capitalism, whose lifeblood is consumption for the sake of consumption…
…As Murray Bookchin argues, “If we live in a ‘grow-or-die’ capitalistic society in which accumulation is literally a law of economic survival and competition is the motor of ‘progress,’ anything we have to say about population causing the ecological crisis is basically meaningless. Under such a society the biosphere will eventually be destroyed whether five billion or fifty million people live on the planet” [“The Population Myth” in Which Way for the Ecology Movement?, p. 34]… – link
Civilization is not in of itself evil; the problem lies in how it is organized and functions. Capitalism encourages the unregulated growth of gigantic corporations that exploit the environment and people, create economic disparity, promote hyper-consumerism, and usurp and corrupt governments. In addition to using military might for exploiting foreign resources and pools of labor, capitalism encourage war for the sole purpose of profit, i.e the military industrial complex. It also encourages overpopulation by the gross maldistribution of wealth:
…There is an inverse relationship between per capita income and the fertility rate — as poverty decreases, so do the population rates. When people are ground into the dirt by poverty, education falls, women’s rights decrease, and contraception is less available. Having children then becomes virtually the only creative outlet, with people resting their hopes for a better future in their offspring. Therefore social conditions have a major impact on population growth. In countries with higher economic and cultural levels, population growth soon starts to fall off. Today, for example, much of Europe has seen birth rates fall beyond the national replacement rate. This is the case even in Catholic countries, which one would imagine would have religious factors encouraging large families.
To be clear, we are not saying that overpopulation is not a very serious problem. Obviously, population growth cannot be ignored or solutions put off until capitalism is eliminated. We need to immediately provide better education and access to contraceptives across the planet as well as raising cultural levels and increasing women’s rights in order to combat overpopulation, which only benefits the elite by keeping the cost of labour low in addition to fighting for land reform, union organising and so on. However, the “population explosion” is not a neutral theory, and its invention and continual use is due to its utility to vested interests. We should not be fooled by them into thinking that overpopulation is the main cause of the ecological crisis, as this is a strategy for distracting people from the root-cause of both ecological destruction and population growth: namely, the capitalist economy and hierarchical social relationships it requires. – link
We also discussed this consumption and overpopulation issue in a previous post entitled Overpopulated by Homo Colossus.
Ferguson is only a small spark before the conflagration
Those communities that are the most discriminated against and disenfranchised will be the first to erupt in violence as the social fabric is stretched to the breaking point. The city of Ferguson, Missouri experienced ‘white flight’ since 1990 which changed its demographics, creating a majority of African-American residents but with whites still dominating the institutions governing the city. The racially charged social unrest in Ferguson has its roots in the rapacious system of capitalism. Several policies and effects of neoliberal capitalism worked to drain wealth and opportunity away from Ferguson: “outsourcing of American industry, the housing bubble and credit crunch, and education reform and privatization”. In addition, the militarization of local law enforcement and targeting of African-Americans with fines to fund the police department is another tactic of rogue capitalism preying upon the poor:
- Emerson Electric, the dominant employer in the area, offshored its production little by little over time to foreign factories with cheap labor.
- Many African-Americans bought homes in Ferguson during the housing bubble, only to become underwater in their mortgages in the credit crash and Great Recession that followed. As of 2013, 49% of homes in the Ferguson zip code were underwater.
Mortgage lenders targeted predominantly black and Hispanic areas for the highest-risk, highest-cost types of mortgage loans, such as adjustable-rate mortgages and loans with high prepayment penalties. This led to higher-than-average default rates, according to the Housing Commission established by the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C.
The mayor of Ferguson and its all-white city council then collaborated to keep property values low around the historic district for reinvestment and redevelopment.
- On the basis of its state test scores, the impoverished Normandy School District where Michael Brown attended was declared a failure and its accreditation was pulled by the state. Because of this, Normandy School District was obligated to pay for the transfer of its students to other wealthier schools. (This is one of the schemes of the privatization of education and “school shopping” that the state is using rather than funding and providing resources to these schools.) The costs of student transfer bankrupted Normandy School District, so the state then dissolved the district and created a new one which it exempted from accreditation so that students would no longer be allowed to transfer out to other better-funded schools. The pipeline from such poverty-stricken, failed educational systems to prisons–many of which are for profit–is direct.
- The militarization of the domestic police force in the U.S. has been occurring for several decades and is in line with the ever-increasing militarism of America’s foreign policy. With the entire globe now treated as a battlefield in the ‘War on Terror’, summary executions can be carried out by remote-controlled drone aircraft. Americans have now joined the ranks of those in South America, the Middle East and the rest of the Third World who have been exploited by the neo-coloniali exploitation of U.S. corporations over the last century. As the economy fails to ‘improve’ and global unrest becomes more frequent, the brutality of a fascist corporate state will reveal itself right here at home in more overt ways. The growing police state in America is the response by those planning to protect their elite positions at the top of the capitalist hierarchy in this corrupt state of ever-widening wealth disparity, resource depletion, and environmental collapse:
…Combat in large cities is central to the military doctrine that is being developed by the US armed forces. This is spelled out in a document entitled “Megacities and the United States Army: Preparing for a complex and uncertain future,” which was released in June by the Army’s Strategic Studies Group and endorsed by its chief of staff, Gen. Raymond Odierno.
Predicting that it is “highly likely that megacities [described as metropolitan areas with populations of more than 10 million] will be the strategic key terrain in any future crisis that requires U.S. military intervention,” the report reveals that the Pentagon has conducted “case studies” and “field work” in preparation for such interventions in: Dhaka, Bangladesh; Lagos, Nigeria; Bangkok, Thailand; Mexico City, Mexico, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Brazil … and New York City.
Describing the conditions that it anticipates will require US military intervention, the report warns, “As inequality between rich and poor increases … Stagnation will coexist with unprecedented development, as slums and shanty towns rapidly expand alongside modern high-rises. This is the urban future.”
“Radical income disparity,” is further described as the foremost “driver of instability” in these far-flung urban areas.
In other words, the Pentagon brass is seeking to prepare the US military for directly counterrevolutionary interventions aimed at quelling popular revolts that it sees as the inevitable consequence of the unprecedented social inequality created by world capitalism in crisis… – link
As reported by Cyrano’s Journal Today, the Obama administration’s call to review U.S. government funding of military equipment for local/state police departments is simply a PR ploy to calm the nerves of uneasy Americans. In reality, the U.S. government will work to normalize and standardize the militarization of domestic law enforcement:
…The aim of the Obama administration’s review—beyond being a public relations exercise—will be to cut down on such unprofessional displays and make the use of domestic military police more systematic, widespread and regular. In this it will be similar to the administration’s reviews of its domestic spying programs, each of which has only resulted in the extension of illegal spying by the US intelligence agencies.
Far from acting as a restraining influence on local police departments, the federal government has been the most active facilitator of police militarization. In June, the American Civil Liberties Union released a report entitled “War comes home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing,” which concluded that “the federal government has justified and encouraged the militarization of local law enforcement.”…
- To add insult to injury, the Ferguson police made it a practice to feed off the poor by filling its coffers with millions of dollars in fines and court fees that it collected by specifically targeting and harassing African-Americans. I seldom quote ZeroHedge here because it is pro-capitalist and attributes all social and economic problems to Federal Reserve monetary policies rather that correctly placing the blame on the inherent workings of capitalism, but I did read an informative article from them on the scale of poverty that is affecting not only Ferguson, but all major metropolitan areas in the U.S.:
The biggest concern, however, is that Ferguson is merely the canary in the coalmine. According to Brookings, within the nation’s 100 largest metro areas, the number of suburban neighborhoods where more than 20 percent of residents live below the federal poverty line more than doubled between 2000 and 2008-2012. Almost every major metro area saw suburban poverty not only grow during the 2000s but also become more concentrated in high-poverty neighborhoods. By 2008-2012, 38 percent of poor residents in the suburbs lived in neighborhoods with poverty rates of 20 percent or higher. For poor black residents in those communities, the figure was 53 percent.
A long history of colonialism, slavery, and racism underlies the economic, political, and social disenfranchisement of African-Americans today in communities like Ferguson. Their exploitation has been institutionalized, and thus deemed acceptable.
We’re just an extra in this global reality freak show
The world certainly appears to becoming much more unstable with Russia and the Ukraine flirting with nuclear war, barbaric decapitations at an all time high in the perpetually destabilized Middle East, the failure of Japan’s ice wall to stop its radioactive clusterfuck fallout, redneck commando wannabes of America’s local police departments running roughshod over those they are sworn to “protect”, the Wall Street Casino Royale reaching all-time highs as average Americans get new lone shark PayDay loans to pay their previous lone shark PayDay loans, and our corporate overlords celebrating even higher profits while paying even less taxes. And while this circus of humanity plays out, both poles continue their meltdown with new outgassings of methane promising to wipe us out with one monstrous belch.
The techno-utopians will continue their crusade to save mankind from himself. The free market fundamentalists will seek comfort in the fantasy that Adam’s Smith’s invisible hand will fix everything. The climate change deniers will continue to rationalize the increasingly destabilized biosphere as a new normal that has happened before. The things we know that should be done to save ourselves are only philosophical narratives running in our head, never to see the light of day. All you can do is watch it all unfold because this reality freak show is global and you’re just an extra in it, whether you want to be or not. After all, I don’t think any of us are completely free from some sort of delusion. If we were, we wouldn’t be human.