The Main Event

(2 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Americans are, generally, averse to “big” issues and thinking in the long-term. History is bunk (as Henry Ford famously said) to most Americans which is why exactly the same patterns in policy and execution of that policy are manifest in Afghanistan and Iraq as were shown in Vietnam. We, collectively, have learned nothing. At a time when people distrust government when it comes to the military or military actions believe absolutely everything the government says. 9/11 was a case and point. The government offered no evidence and, in fact, destroyed or seized any evidence that there was for the events with the excuse that we were “at war” though no war was declared and there was no country that we were at war with–rather, Americans swallowed whole that we were at war with “terror” which is completely impossible and irrational. This “War on Terror” which was to last, essentially, forever was swallowed by most of the left despite abundant evidence that the U.S. government has consistently deceived the public particularly since the national security state was established during the Truman administration. Some people on the left did object to this war on terror nonsense but no great figures on the left were the least bit skeptical of the government accounts of 9/11! Chomsky accepted that the government tended to lie about everything concerning war and foreign policy but not about 9/11! Somehow they found their hidden ability to tell the truth during that fateful date. Regardless of how any of us feel about the mechanics and cause of 9/11 I think we can agree that the government was hiding something.

The reaction to the events of 9/11 is why I have no faith in the American left–but I believe a real left can emerge but it must emerge out of what I call the Main Event. I don’t mean 9/11 either–it is just a milestone something that was, I believe, inevitable one way or the other. The Main Event is not actually an event but the ongoing horror of climate change. All the issues we talk about are important but they are candles in the sun of what is happening to our environment.

I want to talk about an article I read on the Counterpunch site. The article was written by the brilliant thinker Morris Berman and is entitled: Time to Abolish the American Dream: The Waning of the Modern Ages. He was musing about the issues we face when he came across something Naomi Klein wrote:

….she chastises the Left for not understanding what the Right does correctly perceive: that the whole climate change debate is a serious threat to capitalism. The Left, she says, wants to soft-pedal the implications; it wants to say that environmental protection is compatible with economic growth, that it is not a threat to capital or labor. It wants to get everyone to buy a hybrid car, for example (which I have personally compared to diet cheesecake), or use more efficient light bulbs, or recycle, as if these things were adequate to the crisis at hand. But the Right is not fooled: it sees Green as a Trojan horse for Red, the attempt “to abolish capitalism and replace it with some kind of eco-socialism.” It believes-correctly-that the politics of global warming is inevitably an attack on the American Dream, on the whole capitalist structure.


Ultimately, Klein points out, modern environmentalism is a fraud if it does not attack modern capitalism for the cancer it is. I believe capitalism is a great system that brought us to where we are now. Let’s say we are travelling over land on a highway–we are in a car. Being in a car is a comfortable and fast way to travel–much better than walking or riding a horse–at least over long distances. Mind you, there are things you lose–walking is a pleasure for me just in itself–the world goes by in a very leisurely way that has its benefits as does horse riding–but a car gets me to visit my family or whatever. Now I face the ocean–the usefulness of the car has suddenly disappeared–it cannot negotiate the ocean–so it’s time to take a boat or to turn the car into a boat–this requires a good deal of rethinking. Capitalism was useful and now, if we want to get across the ocean it is no longer useful. We are at the end of the capitalist age–not because capitalism is morally wrong (in some way it is and in other ways it is not) but because it is foolish and sure to lead to disaster if it continues to be pursued. Fortunately for us capitalism has left, in its wake, a multitude of riches–technology, tools, knowledge and so on that provides us with everything we need to build our boat to the future–but we have to say goodbye to capitalism. We might be able to use parts from capitalism but as a system it is useless.

Berman further quotes Klein:

The expansionist, extractive mindset, which has so long governed our relationship to nature, is what the climate crisis calls into question so fundamentally. The abundance of scientific research showing we have pushed nature beyond its limits does not just demand green products and market-based solutions; it demands a new civilizational paradigm, one grounded not in dominance over nature but in respect for natural cycles of renewal-and acutely sensitive to natural limits…. These are profoundly challenging revelations for all of us raised on Enlightenment ideals of progress.

….the powers that be have reason to be afraid, and to deny the data on global warming, because what is really required at this point is the end of the free-market ideology.

If we claim to be on the left we have to understand that there is no separation between “environmentalism” and progressive politics. You can’t have one without the other with environmentalism as the key issue. Both will get you to the same place. A more egalitarian, communitarian culture will bring us environmental values because it is our sense of separation from nature that fuels our sense of separation from each other and also between part of ourselves.

How do we change this? Berman puts it into perspective:

It’s going to be (is) a colossal fight, not only because the powers that be want to hang on to their power, but because the arc and all its ramifications have given their class Meaning with a capital M for 500+ years. This is what the Occupy Wall Street protesters-if there are any left at this point; I’m not sure-need to tell the 1%: Your lives are a mistake. This is what “a new civilizational paradigm” finally means. It also has to be said that almost everyone in the United States, not just the upper 1%, buys into this. John Steinbeck pointed this out many years ago when he wrote that in the U.S., the poor regard themselves as “temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” The Occupy movement, as far as I could make out, wanted to restore the American Dream, when in fact the Dream needs to be abolished once and for all.

So first thing we have to understand–we can’t all live in luxury and waste our resources on toys–because that is what we are all doing. We don’t really “need” most of what we buy and the work we do really isn’t doing that much to help people or improve their lives.

Everything is related to everything else. Psychology, the economy, the environmental crisis, our daily mode of living, the dumbing down of America, the pathetic fetish over cell phones and electronic gadgets, the crushing debt of student loans, the farce of electoral politics, Mr. Obama’s rather rapid conversion from liberal hero to war criminal and shredder of the Bill of Rights, the huge popularity of violent movies, the attempt of the rich to impose austerity measures on the poor, the well-documented epidemics of mental illness and obesity-these are ultimately not separate spheres of human activity. They are interconnected, and this means that things will not get fixed piecemeal. “New civilizational paradigm” means it’s all or nothing; there really is no in-between, no diet cheesecake to be had. As Ms. Klein says, it’s not about single “issues” anymore.

Quoting Klein again:

The only wild card is whether some countervailing popular movement will step up to provide a viable alternative to this grim future. That means not just an alternative set of policy proposals but an alternative worldview to rival the one at the heart of the ecological crisis-this time, embedded in interdependence rather than hyper-individualism, reciprocity rather than dominance, and cooperation rather than hierarchy.”

There is much else in the article so I urge all of you to read it.

But I will leave you with a couple of things I believe.

#1: The environmental crisis should shape our thinking. We need to view public and personal issues in light of this matter.

#2: If we are serious about reviving the left we have to stop supporting the old left and accept the reality that we are in deep shit and we have to give up our wasteful spending. Yes, it will not appeal to the masses but the masses are asleep and aren’t listening to you anyway–stop catering to their worst instincts–tell them the ugly truth.

#3: Start supporting each other–create alternate and/or unofficial economies. Politics can no longer be a matter of attending a demonstration or voting or calling Congress. Those things are almost useless. More important is to make your private life, your economic life, your political life, your family life all one. This takes time and consistency. Communities can’t be built instantly on the basis of a few weeks or a weekend of interaction. They can’t be built on the internet because virtual communities can disappear in five seconds–I can just drop out of this one if I don’t like what people are saying about me and never return and who will care? Only face-to-face communities mean anything (I say this for a variety of reasons) and only face-to-face communities can be enhanced by virtual community.

Finally, we have to remember the usefulness of the right in our work. The right, as Klein says, understands the real issues far better than the left. We are usually confused when the right attacks the Obama and the Dems for being “collectivist”, “socialist” and so on when there is no truth at all in those accusations. They know, instinctively, that the real struggle is between the ideology of communitarianism (collectivism) and individualism. The right is irrational because they cling to individualism as an ideology that says, essentially, that there is no such thing as morality. The right believes that we should be able to do anything we like (except things they don’t approve of) as long as we have the money to do it. They believe that we have no responsibility for each other or for posterity which is why they opposed, in a thoroughly hysterical manner, any kind of environmental law. The climate-change crisis is ultimately a moral crisis. I believe the right has embraced evil itself. I love the definition of evil made by C.S. Lewis in his great little book The Great Divorce. Evil, according to Lewis, is separation. The furthest reaches of Hell are the parts where the inhabitants are most separated from each other.  


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  1. banger

    I think there are several people on the left who are coming to Klein’s and Berman’s position and I believe that, regardless of this election, we will see a revival of the left, just in time. I think the more we can express a cohesive and inclusive world-view the more people will listen even if they are fundamentally hostile to our message.

  2. tahoebasha3

    But this comment, from C.S. Lewis, expresses it best, I think>

    Evil, according to Lewis, is separation. The furthest reaches of Hell are the parts where the inhabitants are most separated from each other.  

    If you were to reflect backwards, say, just the past 11 years, I think you can see the psychological efforts “to separate us” from each other.  Actually, and in reality, “they’ve” been using these very same tactics in our so-called “wars on terra.”  (There has never, ever been a “war on terra!”  This was a clever “ad” used to promote wars of aggression.) In Iraq, Afghanistan, and most everywhere we’ve been, we’ve paid real money to each faction (i.e., such as the Taliban against the Afghans, the Shiia vs. the Sunnis, etc.), meaning we’ve paid both in each scenario, in order to incite continuing warring against each other.

    The same thing has been done in subtle and not so subtle ways right here in the good ole’ US of A, using every vehicle possible, racial divide, women’s bodies, educational divide, immigrational divide, you just name it and it’s been thrown at us.


    I know we need to ALL get on that boat and use our best oars to get to shore — that’s the answer.  Oars concern me!  

    After having read your diary, banger, I read this terrible disturbing article:

    The Pebble Partnership in Southwest Alaska is proposing to build the largest facility on the planet to hold toxic acid-mining wastes – forever. It is to be built on a seismically unstable site adjacent to a pristine region that contains one of the few remaining sustainable salmon sources in the world.

    History is replete with incidents of accidents in mining-waste storage sites. The position taken by Pebble was recently summarized on television by their CEO John Shively: “It’s our job to convince people we can monitor in perpetuity, or we won’t get a permit.” The claim pervades the literature and remains unchallenged.

    Some of the world’s greatest disasters have resulted from failed and inadequate monitoring systems.

    I think the “elite” truly believe that they will suffer NO consequences from global warming.  I believe they truly believe they are exampt.  After all, they have the means ( and are using them) to build “underground” homes, building seed banks of REAL seeds, not GMO’s, etc. and probably, feel that they will be able to survive “global warming” because . . . . after all, THEY ARE the elitists!

  3. Compound F

    the techno-virtues/capabilities of excess energy?  What has “capitalism” got to do with oil-fueled human brains?  Were the Soviets not techno-advanced?  They were broken by oil prices, not advanced reasoning.

    I also do not believe “the struggle” was between collectivism and individualism.  The struggle was for power.  Full stop.  The rest, the framing of ideology and morals, is propaganda.

    If the “free market” is true, it will continue working under any condition; it will act as Dennett’s “universal acid,” eating away at all faulty explanations.

  4. banger

    indicate to me that they actually don’t think much about big issues–they’re very focused on what they want and don’t appear to think of consequences or morality except in a very narrow sense that involves their own circles. The way Romney talked to his audience of donors on that smuggled video is very typical to how the rich talk to each other.  

  5. tahoebasha3

    Romney is the epitome of how “rich” minds think, and, as George Carlin said, “you ain’t included . . . . !”

    But, as I pointed out, there are those, conversely, who, although they don’t think any differently, also seek a means to insure that their hides will always be covered and invulnerable, at least to the best of their insights!

  6. banger

    It’s utterly impossible. There has to be a political framework of rules for a market to be set up at all. Structure is required otherwise anyone could go up to a stall in the market and just steal the goods. One way or the other order has to be imposed for markets to thrive. Markets thrive best when the market is secure from theft, when there is a trusted money supply, and when there are standard weights and measures etc. Any other market, i.e., illegal markets are always extremely dangerous for the participants and people are always ready to take over the market by force as can be seen in the conflicts in Mexico. A lot of the profits have to be spent on just securing your position in the market.

    The Soviet system could not have done much technologically without the work of technologies developed in the capitalist world–the whole concept of modern manufacturing had to exist. Once it was invented anyone, who had the means could set up a factory and train a technological work force–so I don’t see your point.

    As for the struggle for power–there your argument is more interesting. The struggle for power is never out of context. Thus we stuggle for power in the days of the Roman Republic, we struggle for power at the court of the Emperor of China, we struggle for power in the court of the Corlione family, and we struggle within the court of the imperial city of Washington DC. We also struggle for power within our families, within our workplace and everywhere we are. Status is essential. My point is that there is a healthy way to struggle for power–in that it needn’t be a “struggle.”  Most human communities have very fixed ways of handling power-relations such that no one needs to really struggle and a natural balance is created. I’ve seen it in traditional and tribal cultures. Everybody knows who he or she is and is usually initiated into a role in early adolescence and relative social stability is insured. When these traditional societies which often had lasted continually for thousands of years (China, India) met the restless, insecure, power-hungry and often drunken Europeans (I’m exaggerating for effect, it was the adventuring class of Europeans that did this, most people lived very traditional lives) whose entire efforts were focused on struggling for power usually through perpetual warfare these traditional societies (including Native American nations) just did not have the resources to resist such focused energy (later transmuted towards capitalism).

    The U.S. represents the ideology of conflict and war. We were at war with the native people of this continent, we seek to conquer nature and conquer markets and conquer and struggle to benefit primarily ourselves and our family and friends and even cultural tribe. We are united in the American Dream and make common cause. I suggest that we are reaching the law of diminshing returns in the area of radical selfishness–it worked to create a humming world with amazing marvels but now it’s over–it’s clearly not working anymore if you analyze the situation using the cream of Western Civilization which is science. Science tells us, in so many words, that we are, in fact, a social species that is happiest and most satisfied being part of something and that the fact we all want to stuggle for power and more stuff will destroy human culture and the Earth as we know it. There is no ambiguity here–there is no “maybe” here.

    We see this in the obvious breakdown of law and order at the top of the pyramid. We see this in the utter destruction of the Constitutional Republic most people still think they are living in. Some form of collectivism will emerge and is emerging. Even on the right, there is a strong pull towards collectivism–people accept ideologies that clearly cut into their incomes and their power. But this sense of glory in being part of a movement to liberate this country from the jaws collectivism is sheer joy–that high cannot be denied. They don’t have to make any sense–they are a collective they believe not what they have discovered on their own but what they are told to think by Limbaugh and others who all speak, pretty much, with one voice as if a Central Committee was, each day, handing out a line, for faithful Communists to follow. The similarity to the Communist mind-set is stunning. At the same time, on the left, those of us who favor policies that unite us and bring us together and understand that we are happier and healthier when all people are given an opportunity to thrive. That it is better, for example, to heal someone who suffered sexual abuse as a child rather than put that person in jail because he or she must self-medicate with illegal drugs to just go through a day. Collectivism is, essentially, a manifestation of compassion–and you don’t have to call it that–you can call it “communitarianism” which means that the individual lives within the context of a community (this is a fact anyway) and that fact is central to individual expression, i.e., my self-satisfaction is maximized through serving my community–which is, frankly, objectively true according to my study of social- and neuro-science and my experience in life.

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