Hark - The End is Nigh
"What a hell of a way to begin the New Year'," I can hear you exclaim. "Why speak of the end? This is the start of a new year, a new beginning, with new resolves, new energies." To which I reply, "No, New Year's Day is an arbitrary, artificial point in time, and what we have is a continuous unfolding, and we individually and collectively are carrying on, will carry on, as we have been doing - unless, of course, we wake up and face with sober senses our real conditions of life." What prompts this month's sermon to the choir is my recollection of the "World Scientists' Warning To Humanity." This manifesto, signed by 1670 scientists from 71 countries, including 104 Nobel Laureates, was sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists (Check it out: Two Brattle Square, Cambridge, MA 02238-9105; 617-547-5552. In Berkeley, CA: 510-843-1872.) To get you all on board for the next train to "Nigh," let me quote from the Introduction:
NOTE: This empirically well-founded alert, sounded by cautious and conservative scientists, was published in April,1993. The concerned scientists hoped that the people of the world and their political leaders would respond quickly and affirmatively and at least begin the discussion of what was at stake and what should be and had to be done to avert the impending collision. But the report itself has been dropped down the Orwellian memory hole and the response has been - a deafening silence.
I ask you: did either Clinton or Dole even once mention during the last campaign that we humans may be doing something 1 wrong economically/ecologically on a global scale and that maybe, just maybe, we will have to reconsider our political economy, our values, our relations with nature, and our social relationships with each other? For those of you who understandably slept tbrough the whole boring campaign or simply dropped out of the farce beforehand, the answer is NO.
Basically, both candidates argued over how best to get the steerage passeners - the majority - of Americans-to do the laundry, to serve the drinks, and to rearrange the deck. chairs on our earthship Titanic as it steams under forced draft toward. its collision with the iceberg called ecological disaster. Upon his re-election, we discover, e.g., (l) "Clinton retreats from fight to halt global warming." . (Oregonian, December 7, 1996, another day that will libe in infamy and ecological stupidity.) and (2) "Lawrence Lab Gets Laser Deal." (S. F. Chronicle, Dec. 20) at a cost of $UBILLION to "assure the long-term viability of the nuclear stockpile." So, we will continue to produce the most toxic and ecologically destructive material on earth, for weapons that even the gener als in charge say are militarily worthless and morally indefensible. Are we insane?
Question: How is it that in this blissful dawn of the so-called "Information Age," it can happen that such a serious, scientific, disturbing, nay, frightening, message does not make it to the top of our political and social agenda for continuous and vigorous debate? Good question. The short answer is that the oligopoly that controls the mass media did not want the message to get out and therefore it was not broadcast. We no longer kill messengers bearing bad news: We simply deny them access to the mass media, where the message might bestir a critical rnass of citizens to action.
And because we are a free country, the messengers are indeed free to stand on the small circulation rnagazine equivalent of the street comer and whisper their tale to anyone who passes by. If by chance the conclusions in the scientists' warning somehow seep into the public consciousness, well, the media bosses and other corporatists have their own paid "Cientists" on call to rebut or to deny those conclusions and to offer up reassurance and solace to any perturbed citizens. As in: "Cigarettes and cancer? Not to worry. We have no real scientific proof of a connection."
But there is a longer and more relevant answer to the question of how this warning message is repressed, that is, kept out of the public's mind and off of the polltical agenda. That answer involves the fundamental existence and practices of the multnational corporate capitalism of our age. Now we are on to something. Let me explain.
Note in the scientists' warning the phrase, "stewardship of the earth and the life on it" Now a steward is a person or a guardian or a provider or an agent who takes care of property or finances for the sake of others. But a "stewardship" approach to property and finances is the antithesis of capitalism. What drives capitalism is the rational self-interest of the profit and utility maximizing individual (including the corporation, as ridiculous as that may seem and, in fact, is to common sense) without regard to any other human or natural consideration. Our corporate masters are not "stewards" of anything but their own self-interest. We plucky consumers making our fully informed, rational choices to increase our own utilities (pleasures) are similarly conditioned to think only of ourselves and our own interests.
The rationale for all this lack of stewardship is that, 1o and behold, by the selfish actions of each individual operating in a free, open, frictionless ("fully competitive") economy, we not only get what we deserve to get but society itself benefits by the action, as it were, of an invisible hand."The beauty of it, allegedly, is that there is no coercion involved here. All individuals, from General Motors right down to the poorest, uneducated, malnourished worker, approach the "market" to bargain on equal terms. It really is beautiful but have you ever heard anything so outrageously stupid?
Thus, the word "stewardship" is enough all by itself to send the free marketeers scurrying for cover. The very idea that economic activities should be carried on for the sake of others is grotesquely opposed to the capitalist ethos and is thus by itself sufficient reason to refuse to bandy that message about.
But there is more to the scientists' warning. For starters, "We must bring environmentally damaging [economic) activities under control to restore and protect the integrity of the earth's systems." Specifically, we must move away from fossil fuels (Exxon, Ford, et al, please note) and substitute benign energy sources (solar, biomass, e.g.,) to cut greenhouse gas emissions and the pollution of our air and water. Third World developing countries must be assisted in the adoption of benign small scale and appropriate energy technologies,
Further, "We must halt deforestation, injury to and loss of agricultural land, and the loss of terrestrial and marine plant and animal species. We must manage resources crucial to human welfare more effectively, emphasizing efficiency and conservation."
Please note the key phrases: "bring economic activities under control" and "manage resources crucial to human welfare." Horrors! The Fat Cats can hire PR flacks to put the proper spin on the "Stewardship" thing - As in, "We are. doing this all for you and consumers yet unborn! So what if we wreck the earth? There is always Mars, Jupiter, and Beyond!!" But democratic control and management is a holy terror because the Big Boys already know that most Americans would prefer. to save the environmen and share the work and:the basic necessary goods rather than destroy the planet.
Now the corporate elite cannot (yet) come out against democracy so they simply do their best to keep even the idea of democratic control and management of the economy off the agenda (1) by controlling the media, (2) by corrupting the political process, and (3) by incessant propaganda to the effect, "There is no altemative to the Market." And so, the grim warning of the - scientists and their earnest appeal to the world's citizens, poŽitical and business leaders, and religious groups necessarily had to be muted if not totally buried. And so it was.
So, we have a New Year, 1997. Will it be any different inessentials from what has gone on so far? I doubt it - unless We, the people, get into the action, while we still can.We should remember, or learn if we do not already know it, that all over the world .the globalizing corporatists are doing their damnedest to reduce workers - the vast majority of human beings - to peonage and subservience, all the while continuing the process of degrading earth's environment and of rendering extinct enormous numbers of animal species.
Today, anything made outside of western Europe is likely to have been produced by horrabliy exploited workers without any union or workplace or health protections. And everytbing produced today, anywhere in the world, adversely, negatively, ruinously affects the global ecology upon which we all ultimately depend.
And please note, this is not simply the maunderings of a civil libertarian, radical, social-communitarian democrat - namely, GJC. Listen to respected and successful BUSINESSMAN, Paul Hawken:
Well, we humans did it once before, we can do it again, but it must be done consciously and self-consciously, politically purposefully, with a full recognition that, if we fail to act, the end is nigher than we currently want to believe. We do, theoretically have the power to choose; whether we have that power in practice is an open question.
One thing is certain: the "Capitalism" that has brought us to this impasse will have to go. I close by quoting Max Weber, the non-Marxist critic of capitalism, writing presciently in 1906:
-GERALD J. CAVANAUGH, January 1997 (The Litiagraph, p. 11, Ashland, Oregon, USA)
This could have been written today. Except that the situation is far more serious. Not only do the elites still push for more of the same. Having discovered some of the environmental realities, they now preach protection against climate change with all their might, simultaneously using it to promote - again and still - economic growth and accumulation of wealth.
The most horrible thing, however, is that virtually everybody has fallen victim to a series of fake and counter-productive so-called "solutions" - the hailed Kyoto protocol and its so-called "Clean Development Mechanisms". As in the darkest Middle Ages, people now buy "CarbonNeutrality" Certificates, sold by people who are either scientifically deluded or simply ruthless profiteers.
People repress the notion that the situation is serious and will not only harm the far-away poor of this world. The media and the opinion leaders alike still treat the issues of economic and population growth as a taboo.
When will they wake up? How many floods and disruptions of traffic and black-outs will it take before our distinguished leaders understand that only a local and low speed and low-energy economy can let humanity survive? Will only the ral onset of drop in oil and gas extraction teach them that human numbers and per capita consumption has to decrease?
I fear that the implications of such an understanding are far too frightening for brains that have been conditioned to obedience rather than to taking responsibilities. Because, who would be there to take the lead, who has the courage to break out of the trodden path that is leading humankind to extinction?
Helmut Lubbers, 11 March 2007